By Dan Iles
World Development Movement
On day four of the European forum on food sovereignty, I met Christina from the US. I was very interested to find out about what sort of actions are happening over in the US as well the aftermath of the Wall Street Reform Act passed recently to limit financial speculation on food. In this interview she talks about the urban and rural movements for food sovereignty across the US, including dairy producers, supermarket workers and anti-food speculation protests.
What does food sovereignty mean to you?
To me it means the right of people to define their own agricultural policies, rather than those policies being defined by the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the IMF, or multinational corporations.
Can you give me some examples of local initiatives that involved with enacting food sovereignty in the US?
These are local manifestations of food sovereignty, because I really think that food sovereignty has to be about local transformation as well as broader policy change. But at the local level we actually have a lot of innovative work being done in urban areas around the US.
We have a huge problem in most of our cities, in the lack of healthy food. We also have rising rates of poverty right now that is only making it harder. And of course also major healthcare issues: situations in which people are actually dying from what are preventable diet related illnesses; diabetes, heart disease, etc. And at the same time some communities are completely out of the interest of politicians, mainly communities of colour, immigrant communities and low income communities.
So many of them have taken it upon themselves to reclaim land in their areas, to claim abandoned lots, clean them out and transform them into amazing community spaces which are actually quite productive in terms of food, but they are also a safe space for communities, there is space for the youth as well as intergenerational exchange.
And also there are urban farms and community markets where, increasingly, people are coming together to sell and buy their stuff from their neighbours, generally at solidarity prices. We also have an exchange of knowledge going on; so for instance in New York City, we have the New York farm school, where urban farmers can come teach each other and learn from one another; I see this as a really powerful initiative.
And then there are many others in rural areas as well. We have a movement for domestic fair trade. Especially right now in the midst of the dairy crisis we have in the US, where dairy farmers are getting paid below the cost of production and going out of business in droves. So people are trying to form cooperatives, to do value added products and to struggle to get fair prices for their products.
One other is in a rural community in Maine, where they managed to pass the first ever local food sovereignty ordinance. There is a group called Food for Maine’s Future which is doing excellent work.
One phenomenon we have in the US is a criminalisation of small farmers, for instance we have a lot of laws restricting or prohibiting the sale of raw milk, and farmers have actually been arrested and their supplies destroyed just for trying to sell milk in their communities.
Read more at World Development Movement