Food and Nutrition crisis – between business as usual and resistance with Philipp Salzmann

Aug 16, 2017 by

by Laura Briggs & Wafa Kanzari

Every day, 2 billion people do not have enough food; causing malnutrition, disease and impaired cognitive growth, while at the same time, we also have an epidemic of obesity where individuals have too many calories, but lack the necessary nutrition.  This food nutrition crisis is part of a larger set of interdependent crises. For instance industrial farming is the cause of one third of global co2 emissions, and there are widespread uses of unfair labor practices that are affecting primarily women and poor nations. This hunger is not due to lack, rather it is because people are economically and politically marginalized.

The dominant discourse makes it appear that industrial agriculture is feeding the world.  However, the facts show that most of the world’s farms are small, 72 percent own less than 1 hectare and these farmers, are the ones who feed the world. The tendency toward monopoly has meant that these small farmers, who are perceived as pre-industrial, are being pressured to grow or die.  In 2007, the World Bank funded a report entitled “International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science + Technology for Development” that brought together over 100 scientists. It had three main findings: First there is destabilizing “Agriculture treadmill” created by the globalized competitive market. Second, large-scale farming is not better than small-scale farmers for the economic growth and finally that small farmers are key to preserving the diversity and guarantee social environmental sustainability.

This situation is in the face of countervailing activity.  Land grabs by multinational corporations are happening around the world, often in the name solving malnutrition or saving the environment. At the same time, there is work happening to protect “Food Sovereignty”, that is the right to healthy, culturally appropriate and sustainable food. In 1996 at the World Food Summit transnational groups introduced La via Campesina an international peasant movement, establishing the right to self determine food production, distribution and consumption.

Mr. Leitgeb focused his presentation on the value of small farmers.  He claimed that we are facing one of the biggest losses of biodiversity since millions of years and the example for that is the seed losses during the last hundreds of years. Variety of diversity is dramatically decreasing since several decades. Whereas when we go to the supermarkets we find huge diversity of products (many colors, different shapes, different flavor). But actually we find that these products in the supermarket are produced mainly by a small number of big companies. These companies are dominating and dictating what we should eat using mainly few resources of producing these products: sugar, wheat, and soya.  But we shouldn’t only blame big companies because it’s there business. They are created to make profit. We should look to ourselves before, to our behavior consumption, to our life style. How does it affect food production, how does it affect the market?  But what can be done? What we should do?

The solution may be shifting to another form of agriculture such as organic farming. Sustainable agriculture has many forms but organic farming is the most sustainable agriculture form. The main principles of organic farming are: Respecting nature, no chemicals fertilizers, no GMO, using on farm resources and crop rotation.  But what is shocking is that only 1,1% of the world land is certified organic. So how to increase agricultural sustainability?  There is growth of the organic food but it has its advantages and disadvantages. Among the advantages is that organic will be affordable for anyone and it will have a higher political importance.  For the disadvantages, it’s the industrialization of organic food that can cause a loss of credibility, especially in consumer and may weakens the ecological, social and cultural power for change.  Many initiatives have been taken on the consumer level: We can mention Alternative Food Networks (AFN) , Civic food networks. We have many examples of civic food networks: Collective bars, new groceries, retail cooperatives, peoples kitchen (VoKü), subsistence farming, self-sufficiency, and intentional communities.

To conclude, in order to improve agricultural sustainability, we have to oppose the power of food enterprises, to protect land rights, empower individuals, support local small farms. Then we can implement food sovereignty because the act of participation is a way to democratize and diversify. The situation is complex and informations can appear contradictory.  It is also daunting but encouraging to understand that peoples and societies across all parts of the world are organizing themselves.