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Perspective: Raj Patel on Food Sovereignty

By WorldLink Staff | September 26, 2011 | Leave a Comment

How do international food policies shape our food system at home and abroad? Food activist Raj Patel describes how organizing for local change can help improve the health of communities around the world.

Raj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist, and academic. He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the US House Financial Services Committee and is an Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. He is also the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.

Discover more perspectives on creating a more democratic and equitable food system in Mark Winne’s Food Policy Councils and Oran Hesterman’s Fair Food.

What is “food sovereignty”? How does it relate to “food security”?

Raj Patel: What does it mean to be free from hunger? Food security is the idea that governments use to talk about citizens not being hungry, and it means that you have access to enough food to live healthily. Sounds like a good definition, except for when you realize that it’s possible to be food secure, say, in prison. You’ve got access, after all, so you’re not going hungry. But food security never talks about power in the food system—just your access to food. Food sovereignty is like food security, except that under food sovereignty, communities actually get to shape their own food policy and shape the terms under which everyone gets to eat.

What’s the connection between food sovereignty and democracy?

Raj Patel: If we’re genuinely to have power over our food system we need to be able to decide the rules of the game, deliberatively and with respect for everyone’s rights. That’s what democracy means. Unfortunately, most of us are still waiting for real democracy and, instead, we’ve been fobbed off with its poor cousin—consumer choice.

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