Harvesting Justice - Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Systems in the Americas


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“We are the food we eat, the water
we drink, the air we breathe. And
reclaiming democratic control
over our food and water and our
ecological survival is the neces-
sary project for our freedom.” 3
— Vandana Shiva, physicist and activist

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Harvesting Justice - Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Systems in the Americas

  1. 1. More  Praise  for  Harvesting    Justice “If our people want to eat twenty years from now, we will need food justice. We will need to transform a dependent, fossil fuels based industrial food system into one which reaffirms and restores our collec- tive relationship to the land, the plants, and each other. The stories and the vision shared in Harvesting Justice inspire and inform that work. I’m grateful for the storytellers and those whose hands are on the earth.” — Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe activist and environmentalist, author of Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming and The Militarization of Indian Country “Field and Bell’s transformative work gets to the cultural and political heart of food politics and pro- duction. Harvesting Justice more than captures a deep, intelligent explanation of the state of food sovereignty in the Americas – it gives us an empowering, community-based framework for meaningful action. If you believe that food has power to change lives, read on.” — Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want “Ben and Jerry’s has always promoted local agriculture. Harvesting Justice uses a wide-angle lens to show why that is so important, and how the sum of local efforts everywhere can contribute to a global shift in food and agricultural systems. We can reclaim power from agricultural corporations, for our future and the earth’s. This important book gives many insights and tools on how to do so.” — Jerry Greenfield, Co-founder, Ben and Jerry’s “From my standpoint as a farmer, food sovereignty is a God-given right. Everyone should have the right to clean water, clean air, and wholesome food. As long as people are hungry there will be no justice. We should all consider where, how, and whom we share our food with. Harvesting Justice will help educate all people who interact with food about their role in creating a humane food system and a healthy earth. It’s all about the blessings we have from Mother Earth – Protect Her.” — Ben F. Burkett, Farmer, President of the National Family Farm Coalition “Anyone interested in understanding more about justice in the food system should take a good look at this book. But don’t just look… use it as a resource to connect with others and take action, so you can be part of the creation of the food movement’s next chapter.” — Gerardo Reyes Chávez, Staff member, Coalition of Immokalee Workers “Many people are familiar with the quest for healthy, organic food. But the food movement also includes the need for food justice, land reform, and other faces of food sovereignty. If you want to see nutritious and wholesome food produced with respect for the earth available to all, you’ll love Harvesting Justice.” — John Robbins, author of Diet For A New America and The Food Revolution, Co-founder of The Food Revolution Network
  2. 2. Harvesting    Justice Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Systems in the Americas
  3. 3. Other Worlds Ph: 504.684.4895 PO Box 791127, New Orleans, LA 70179 info.otherworlds@gmail.com www.otherworldsarepossible.org 2013 Other Worlds, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Unported license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0 Front Cover: Corn leaf. ©David Lauer Back cover: Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers at a demonstration, illustrating that they must pick enough tomatoes to fill 153 buckets in a day to earn the minimum wage. ©Jacques-Jean Tiziou, www.jjtiziou.net. Design: Micah Bazant, www.micahbazant.com US Food Sovereignty Alliance c/o WhyHunger, 505 Eighth Ave., Suite 2100 New York, NY 10018 info@usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org www. usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org
  4. 4. Dedication Harvesting Justice is dedicated to peasant, indigenous, landless, and small farmers around the world, with respect and appreciation for their work of growing food and growing justice. We also dedicate it to the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, with the hope that – as a result of the collective work of the Alliance and its members – food sovereignty will soon flourish in the U.S.
  5. 5. Table  of  Contents Introduction: Breaking Bread 2 Harvesting Justice: Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Systems in the Americas 1. Time to Make Salt: Food Sovereignty 5 2. A Level Planting Field: Challenging Corporate Rule 21 3. Good Growing Conditions: Changing Government Policies 36 4. Bringing it Home: Creating and Reviving Local Food Systems 47 5. Land of Plenty: Making Good Food Accessible to All 62 6. Honor the Hands: Food Worker Justice 74 7. Inherit the Earth: Land Reform 86 8. Homelands: Indigenous Territories and Sovereignty 99 Appendices Gratitude 117 Dig Deeper 119 Authors and Contributors 131 About Other Worlds and the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance 133
  6. 6. 1 Indigenous and other farmers marched on the Governor’s Palace in Chihuahua, Mexico to denounce Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Social movements have been trying to get the Sierra Tarahumara declared as a GMO-free region since 2004, when genetic contamination was first discovered in rural communities. ©David Lauer 1
  7. 7. 2 Breaking  Bread:  lntroduction “This isn’t just a romantic exercise. We don’t like the way the food system treats the earth and its negative health effects on the people, and we are working to actualize an alternative.” — Miguel Santistevan, New Mexican farmer and teacher In the fall of 2011, the Occupy movement was growing, as they say, like a weed – quickly and strongly. In groups as small as two and as large as 200,000, people gathered in public spaces around the world to challenge an economic system that has long abandoned the majority for the profit of a few, creating what writer Arun Gupta called “liberated territory” in the “great cathedral of global capitalism.”1 The first group of protestors on New York City’s Wall Street publically delivered 23 complaints, outlining the ways in which corporations control our daily lives. Number four asserted, “They have poisoned the food supply through negligence and undermined the farming system through monopolization.”2 The same season, on the other side of the earth, farmers in Lufeng, China were also in the streets. They were protesting the city government’s seizure and sale of 800 acres of farmland to an upscale property development ironically named Country Garden. In Bolivia, around the same time, the president was forced to suspend construction of a major highway after indigenous activists led a 41-day march in protest. The road would have cut through protected forests and indigenous ancestral lands in order to shuttle commerce between Brazil and ports in Chile and Peru. And simultaneously, back in the Northern hemisphere, in rural New Mexico, a winter farmers’ market was starting up on Taos Indian Pueblo land. The shelves held garlic, carrots, chokecherry 1. Arun Gupta, “The Revolution Begins at Home: A Clarion Call to Join the Wall Street Protests,” AlterNet, September 27, 2011, www.alternet. org/story/152557/the_revolution_begins_at_home%3A_a_clarion_call_to_join_the_wall_street_protests?page=entire. 2. Revg33k, “Forum Post: First Official Release from Occupy Wall Street,” Occupy Wall Street website, September 30, 2011, http:// occupywallst.org/forum/first-official-release-from-occupy-wall-street/.
  8. 8. 3 jam, blue corn flour, hot tamales, and giant heads of Napa cabbage harvested from the green- house. The market room and greenhouse were both heated by a furnace stoked with wood from the surrounding hills. A sign on the front door said “come back next week and we’ll have fresh buffalo.” A common thread links these stories happening around the globe: a vision of a society that values life and the earth over profit. One cornerstone on which this vision rests is the revival of community-led, sustainable food systems, and an end to the corporate control of food, land, and agriculture. How we feed ourselves and each other is the backbone of how, historically, we have organized our communities and societies. The ways in which we arrange our agricultural systems make evident our larger worldviews. Food literally and figuratively connects us to each other, to our ancestors, to our cultures, and to the earth. All food is soul food (with a low bow to true Southern cooking) because it is, in fact, that deep. From community gardens to just global policy, a movement is growing to reclaim and transform our food systems. The movement addresses: • The well-being of the land, air, and waters; • The ability of all to eat adequate and healthy food; • The rights, health, and fair wages of those who plant, harvest, produce and prepare food; • The need to restore and protect small farms and local food systems; • The preservation and reclamation of local culture; • The right of every nation to control its own food and agriculture; and • An end to corporate control of food and agriculture, including an end to trade rules and international agreements that prioritize profit over the well-being of people and the earth. We created this book in order to share stories about some of the countless heartening changes that are happening in this movement. We also hope it will illuminate the connections and interdependence between different initiatives. Understanding the ways our visions overlap and strengthen each other is, we think, vital. A few notes about our language choices. We refer to ‘agriculture’, ‘farming’, and ‘farmers’, often. Really, we wish we had better words that encompassed the full array of farmers, fish- ermen and women, hunters, gatherers, shepherds, ranchers, and all those involved in food provision. We apologize for the many places where we fall short of capturing the whole picture.
  9. 9. 4 Also, we at times refer to ‘peasant farmers’ when talking about small farmers in Latin America because, though the term is uncommon and sometimes considered pejorative in the U.S., it is how most small and subsistence farmers identify themselves in other parts of the world. It describes a socio-economic position in a way that the descriptor ‘farmer’, which describes only a profession, does not. Additionally, we use the terms ‘movement’, ‘food movement’, and ‘sus- tainable agriculture movement’ loosely and interchangeably to refer to the huge spectrum of efforts to create food systems that are nourishing, just, and healthy for people, animals, the earth, and future generations. A note about organization: This booklet starts with a chapter on food sovereignty, which is the overarching framework for most of the discussions that follow. Of the remaining chapters, we have loosely divided them between the U.S. and Latin America, because people in the U.S. tend to think about issues along a domestic/international binary. Also, certain food and agricultural issues predominate more in one hemisphere than the other. Yet all of the issues discussed here are global. They crosscut North-South divides, reflecting the impacts of our globalized eco- nomic relationships. At the end of this book you’ll find an appendix of organizations that are engaged in exciting work, books that we appreciate, resources to feed your interest and enthusiasm, and ideas for turning dedication into action. And lastly, any quotes that are not otherwise attributed come from interviews with the authors. May we continue to break bread and make change together. Blessings on the meal.
  10. 10. 5 1.  Time  to  Make  Salt:  Food  Sovereignty “We are the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe. And reclaiming democratic control over our food and water and our ecological survival is the neces- sary project for our freedom.”3 — Vandana Shiva, physicist and activist “Over a half-century ago, Mahatma Gandhi led a multitude of Indians to the sea to make salt – in defiance of the British Empire’s monopoly on this resource critical to people’s diet. The action catalyzed the fragmented movement for Indian indepen- dence and was the beginning of the end for Britain’s rule over India. The act of ‘making salt’ has since been repeated many times in many forms by people’s movements seek- ing liberation, justice and sovereignty: César Chávez, Nelson Mandela, and the Zapatistas are just a few of the most prominent exam- ples. Our food movement – one that spans the globe – seeks food sovereignty from the monopolies that dominate our food systems, with the complicity of our governments. 3. Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace (Massachusetts: South End Press, 2005), 5. We are powerful, creative, committed and diverse. It is our time to make salt.”4 So begins a statement by the People’s Movement Assembly on Food Sovereignty from the 2010 U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. Today, you can find similar declarations on food sovereignty crafted by communi- ties around the world, from small rural towns and villages to high-profile global gatherings. Food sovereignty is not a one-size-fits-all approach but an expansive set of principles, policies, and practices. It is grounded in the belief that everyone has the right to healthy, sustainably produced food, and that people and nations must have democratic control over their food and agricultural systems. In 2007, in the West African country of Mali, more than 500 small farmers, food produc- ers, and activists from around the world came together for the Nyéléni Forum for Food Sovereignty, named after a legendary woman farmer from the region. The final statement articulated six key attributes of 4. Statement from the People’s Movement Assembly on Food Sovereignty, U.S. Social Forum, Detroit, 2010. 5
  11. 11. 6 The impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement has been devastating to Mexican farmers. In 2008, farmers’ organizations drove their tractors on the route Pancho Villa took during the 1910 revolution, traveling from the U.S. border to Mexico City as part of the “Without corn there is no country” and “The land can’t take anymore” campaigns, demanding support for sustainable food production. ©DavidLauer food sovereignty.5 Below are excerpts from that declaration. 1. Focuses on Food for People: Food sov- ereignty stresses the right to sufficient, healthy and culturally appropriate food for all individuals, peoples and 5. “Nyéléni 2007: Forum for Food Sovereignty: Definition of Food Sovereignty” (from the Declaration of Nyéléni), Sélingué, Mali, February 27, 2007, www.ienearth.org/docs/nyeleni-food-sov-en.pdf. communities. Food sovereignty rejects the proposition that food is just another commodity for international agribusiness. 2. Values Food Providers: Food sovereignty values and supports the contributions, and respects the rights, of women and men, peasants and small-scale family farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fishers, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples, and agricultural and fisheries workers,
  12. 12. 7 including migrants, who cultivate, grow, harvest and process food. 3. Localizes Food Systems: Food sover- eignty puts providers and consumers at the center of decision-making on food issues; protects food providers from the dumping of food and food aid in local markets; and resists governance struc- tures, agreements, and practices that… promote… inequitable international trade and give power to remote and unaccountable corporations. 4. Makes Decisions Locally: Food sover- eignty seeks control over and access to territory, land, grazing, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations for local food providers. These resources ought to be used and shared in socially and environmentally sustainable ways which conserve diversity. 5. Builds Knowledge and Skills: Food sovereignty builds on the skills and local knowledge of food providers and their local organizations that conserve, develop and manage localized food production and harvesting systems, and that pass on this wisdom to future generations. Food sovereignty rejects technologies that undermine, threaten or contaminate these, e.g., genetic engineering. 6. Works with Nature: Food sovereignty seeks to heal the planet so that the planet may heal us; and rejects methods that harm beneficial ecosystem func- tions, that depend on energy-intensive monocultures and livestock factories, destructive fishing practices and other industrialized production methods. Local to Global, and Everything in Between Food sovereignty recognizes that transform- ing our food systems necessitates working in our communities, changing international policies, and everything in between. The movement is rooted in the daily work of every small farmer, rancher, fisherperson, landless farm worker, and everyone else involved in local food production. Yet no matter what they produce, their ability to survive is affected by international mar- ket forces. The movement, therefore, also “This is not ultimately a battle about food and farming. It is about the survival of all of us.” — Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South
  13. 13. 8 includes community, national, and interna- tional activists working for just trade and economic systems. The principles of food sovereignty challenge the neoliberal economic model that governs food systems in much of the world. The neoliberal model promotes globalized trade, favoring the import and export of large quantities of food across borders. It assumes that a low- or middle-income nation’s best option is that of fitting into the economic position allotted to it by richer countries and financial institutions. If the American Midwest can grow massive amounts of corn, the rationale goes, then it should grow corn for the world, while Colombian farmers export coffee, Brazilian farmers bananas, and so on. This logic favors a food industry reliant on industrial-scale farming, monocropping, and massive inputs of fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides. The beneficiaries are the corporate middlepeople who consol- idate, arrange, package, and ship the food around the world. The proponents of this model are the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), govern- ments of industrialized countries, large landholders, and corporations. They insist that global South countries lower agri- cultural tariffs on food coming into their countries so as to open their markets to for- eign trade. They also pressure countries to eliminate agricultural subsidies, even though many high-income countries like the U.S. maintain large subsidies of their own. These measures undermine local production and the livelihoods of the world’s small-scale farmers who cannot compete on an uneven playing field with corporate giants. A food system that depends on import- ing and exporting goods around the globe leaves everyone more vulnerable to the whims of global market forces. When oil prices rise, for example, communities and countries who can’t afford the resulting price spikes in food, or who no longer have their own strong agricultural systems in place, are left hungry. Food sovereignty calls for the democratic participation of the population in shap- ing food and trade policies. It promotes tariffs on food imports to protect local markets and an end to international trade “For a poor person in Thailand, Brazil or Haiti, a marginally lower number on a computer screen in New York, London or Tokyo may be the difference between eating and going hungry.” — Helena Norberg-Hodge, founder, International Society for Ecology and Culture
  14. 14. 9 agreements and financial institutions that interfere with the sovereignty and sus- tainability of food systems. It promotes de-industrialized agriculture, where local farmers grow for domestic consumption under local control. Building the Food Sovereignty Movement The most powerful international coali- tion promoting food sovereignty is Via Campesina, an alliance of approximately 150 groups from 70 countries, representing around 200 million small- and medium-size farmers and food producers, landless people, indigenous peoples, and rural women. The coalition includes groups as wide-ranging as the Indonesian Peasant Association, the Confederation of Farmers’ Unions in Turkey, and the U.S National Family Farm Coalition. Via Campesina takes strong stands around trade and financial institutions and poli- cies, and opposes any intervention of the World Bank, IMF, and WTO on questions of food and land. For each critique, the coalition advocates specific alternatives. Via Campesina provides a network in which groups can work together on global campaigns, international days of action, country-specific mobilizations, public edu- cation, and demonstrations at prominent venues such as climate talks and WTO meetings. Another important grassroots force for food sovereignty is the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC by its Spanish acronym), whose members are both farmers and farmworkers. CLOC represents the Latin American branch of Via Campesina, but it also takes indepen- dent positions and actions. CLOC pursues its vision of a future without hunger through three primary campaigns: challenging free trade agreements, promoting agrarian reform, and creating food sovereignty. More recently, its focus has expanded to oppose biotechnology. CLOC members develop their political program through lobbying, popu- lar education, protests, mass mobilizations, international campaigns, and international tours. Another network that has spread through- out Latin America over the past 30 years is the Farmer to Farmer Movement (Movimiento Campesino a Campesino). In this network, small farmers are developing sustainable agricultural techniques and inno- vation, and passing this knowledge on via several hundred thousand ‘farmer-promot- ers’ or ‘farmer-technicians.’ The promoters travel to communities across various regions, sharing information, ideas, seeds, and tools. Opposite Page: John Kinsman is a dairy farmer, forester, and president of Family Farm Defenders which works to change U.S. food and farming policy and collaborates with Via Campesina and the international movement for food sovereignty. ©Nic Paget-Clarke, www.inmotionmagazine.com
  15. 15. 10
  16. 16. 11 The Launch of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance Early on a gray Saturday morning in November 2011, 75 people gathered around an altar of seeds, soil, and burning sage in the basement of a Chinese Methodist church in Oakland, California. The group was a mix of young organizers, Native community leaders, Washington policy analysts, immi- grants’ rights advocates, dairy and vegetable farmers, fishermen, farm workers, and oth- ers passionate about food sovereignty. For the preceding year and a half, starting with a small convening at the U.S. Social Forum that declared, “It is our time to make salt,” organizers had been nurturing the cre- ation of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance. Now the diverse assemblage from North, Central, and South America came together for the first official meeting and spent the day in intense political discussion, strategiz- ing, and celebration. The members of the assembly commit- ted themselves to spreading the concept of food sovereignty, already so prevalent in many parts of the world, within the U.S. They identified the power of agribusiness corporations as the key challenge at hand, and committed themselves to fighting it as well as land and resource grabs. They agreed to dedicate their energies toward land reform, immigrant rights, trade justice, the rights of Mother Earth, and defense of the global commons. They also committed to tackling power dynamics – including issues of race, nationality, class, and occupation – within the group itself, and to ensuring that the Alliance truly represents the joint vision of all those involved. Concluding with pro- test songs and chants from food and land movements around the world, the assembly left participants energized and inspired for the coming year of collaboration and collec- tive struggle. “Farmers everywhere in the world are at root the same farmers. Let us say that the key to peace lies close to the earth.” — Masanobu Fukuoka, farmer and philosopher
  17. 17. 12 “A Living Reality” Dawn Morrison6 Dawn Morrison is the coordinator of the British Columbia Food Systems Network’s Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. Secwepemc are the original people who come from the land where the water flows from high- est mountains through the rivers on its way to the ocean. And like many indigenous people around the world, our name tells who we are in relation to the land. We have agricultural techniques and cultivation techniques that have been a part of our culture for thousands of years, but it’s primarily hunting, fishing, and gathering. We are continuously broadening the discussion in the food security movement to include the hunting, the fishing, and the gathering. It brings [the movement] to a broader ecological perspective. Food sovereignty has been a living reality for our people for thousands of years. The concept may just have been newly introduced in the English language, but the living reality is very much alive and well in our communities. Really, there is no universal definition of food sovereignty because it’s up to each community to describe for themselves what it means, recognizing the diversity of many different nations of indigenous peoples. With respect to that, I think the most important principle is the sacredness, that food is a gift from the creator. In my language it’s Tqelt7kukpi. Food sovereignty is about our responsibility to maintain those relationships to the plants and the animals that provide us with our food. It’s not something that can be constrained by colonial laws or policies. It is up to us to be maintain- ing our responsibility. Food sovereignty is about self-determination, about being free from the control of the corporately owned globalized food system. It’s about being able to make those decisions for ourselves about where we get our food. 6. Dawn Morrison, excerpted from presentation at the Community Food Security Coalition conference, October 2010. 12
  18. 18. 13 Food sovereignty is also about our partici- pation and our responsibility. It’s based on day-to-day actions and being involved in traditional harvesting activities. On the indi- vidual, family, and community level, we must be participating in it or we become assimi- lated into the globalized food system. Food sovereignty is also about policy. We recognize colonial policies are impacting our ability to harvest our foods. We rec- ognize that food sovereignty is ultimately based on policy driven by practice from a community base. In Haiti, members of the Union of Peasant Groups of Bay map out the families and resources in their community as a step in planning and tracking their local development process. ©BenDepp 13
  19. 19. 14 Miami Rice, or Food Sovereignty, in Haiti? Somewhere between 60 to 80 percent of Haiti’s citizens are farmers.7 But despite this large population of food producers, more than half of what Haitians eat is imported.8 Up to half the nation is estimated to face food insecurity and one-third of children under five are chronically malnourished.9 This crisis is not a natural phenomenon. It is the result of policy choices. In the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. and IMF pressured Haiti to lower tariffs on food imports in order to open up the market to foreign companies. This led to a flood of underpriced food into the country with which Haitian farmers could not compete – notably rice, which is among the seven most heavily subsi- dized crops in the U.S.10 The subsidized and 7. U.S. Agency for International Development & Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, “Seed System Security Assessment, Haiti,” August 2010, 1. USAID estimates that approximately 60 percent of Haiti’s population are farmers; peasant groups such as the Peasant Movement of Papaye use the figure 80 percent. 8. World Bank and UN, “Development at Work in Haiti,” April 2009, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTHAITI/Resources/ HaitiBrochureEng.pdf. This 2009 report states that “local production accounts for only 45 percent of food consumption.” 9. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Humanitarian Bulletin: Haiti,” September 21-October 18, 2011, 3, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA%20 Haiti_Humanitarian%20Bulletin_11_ENG.pdf; and Lucy Basset, World Bank, “Nutrition Security in Haiti: Pre- and Post-Earthquake Conditions and the Way Forward,” En Breve, June 2010, No. 157, 2. 10. Environmental Working Group, “The United States Summary Information,” accessed February 24, 2012, http://farm.ewg.org/re gion?fips=00000&regname=UnitedStatesFarmSubsidySummary. industrial-scale U.S. production, on top of lowered import tariffs in Haiti, created a bizarre outcome: rice grown in such places as Arkansas and California and shipped in by boat could be sold cheaper than rice grown in a neighboring field in Haiti. Between 1992 and 2003, rice imports in Haiti increased by more than 150 percent,11 pushing hundreds of thousands of Haitian farmers out of their livelihoods and into the city to search for work in sweatshops. (An overcrowded capi- tal city is one reason why the toll from the 2010 earthquake was so high.) The import’s impact was so great that Haitians dubbed it Miami Rice, after the TV show popular at the time. Today, a full 90 percent of the rice eaten in Haiti comes from the U.S., while local rice farmers struggle to survive.12 What would it take to turn this around? What would it take to transform Haiti’s econ- omy such that its role in the global economy is no longer that of providing cheap labor for sweatshops? What would it take for the 400,000 people left homeless by the 2010 earthquake to have a secure life and income? According to Haitian small-farmer organi- zations, food sovereignty and support for peasant agriculture are big parts of the 11. Oxfam International, “Kicking Down the Door: How Upcoming WTO Talks Threaten Farmers in Poor Countries,” April 2005, 26, http://www.fao.org/righttofood/KC/downloads/vl/en/ details/214560.htm. 12. USA Rice Federation, “USA Rice Efforts Result in Rice Food- Aid for Haiti,” January 20, 2010, http://www.usarice.com/index. php?option=com_content&view=article&id=957.
  20. 20. 15 solution. “It’s not houses that are going to rebuild Haiti, it’s investing in the agriculture sector,” says Rosnel Jean-Baptiste of Heads Together Small Peasant Farmers of Haiti (Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen). “If the country doesn’t produce, farmers won’t be able to survive. And we’ll always have to depend on others.” Peasant groups and allies are developing long-term plans for reorienting Haiti’s political economy in favor of agricul- ture. Their vision includes technical-support programs for farmers, land reform, protec- tion of native and traditional seeds, access to credit, aid for seeds and equipment, govern- ment investment in food storage facilities and transportation systems, attention to deforestation and Haiti’s ecological health, and rural public services. Women’s Declaration on Food Sovereignty (excerpted), Nyéléni, February 27, 200713 “We, women from more than 40 countries, from different indigenous peoples of Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania and from different sectors and social movements, have gathered together in Sélingué [Mali] to participate in the creation of a new right: the right to food sovereignty. We reaffirm our will to act to change the capitalist and patriarchal world which puts the interests of the market before the rights of people. Under the watchful eye of Nyéléni, an African woman who defied discriminatory rules, who shone from her creativity and agricultural prowess, we will find the energy to establish our right to food sovereignty, carrier of hope in constructing another world. We will carry this message to women all over the world.” 13. Nyéléni 2007, “Women’s Declaration on Food Sovereignty,” February 27, 2007, http://www.nyeleni.org/spip.php?article310.
  21. 21. 16 Women’s Work: Gender and the Globalized Food System “The notion of food sovereignty fits well with a feminist agenda. Food sovereignty recognizes women as agents and actors and not merely consumers in the food system.” — Alexandra Spieldoch, director of the Trade and Global Governance Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)14 Women produce 60 to 80 percent of all food, both as subsistence farmers and as agricul- tural wage laborers.15 They are the primary providers for the majority of the world’s 925 million hungry people, obtaining food, col- lecting firewood and water, and cooking.16 And yet they have less access to land and the 14. Alexandra Spieldoch, “A Row to Hoe: The Gender Impact of Trade Liberalization on our Food System, Agricultural Markets and Women’s Human Rights,” Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, March 2007, 12. 15. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, quoted in: Alexandra Spieldoch, “A Row to Hoe: The Gender Impact of Trade Liberalization on our Food System, Agricultural Markets and Women’s Human Rights,” Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, March 2007, 5-10. 16. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, “925 Million in Chronic Hunger Worldwide: Though Improved, Global Hunger Level ‘Unacceptable,” September, 14, 2010, http://www.fao.org/news/ story/en/item/45210/icode/; and World Food Programme, “Women Shoulder Heaviest Burden in Global Food Crisis,” March 5, 2009, http://www.wfp.org/stories/women-shoulder-heaviest-burden- global-food-crisis. resources necessary to grow on it than their male counterparts. Inequitable distribution of land, labor, and resources leaves farm- ing women triply burdened by work: in the fields, in the home, and in society. How do the agricultural policies of interna- tional financial institutions (IFIs), such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, affect women? We have adapted the following from Gender Action’s 2011 report on gender and the food crisis:17 • When the collapse of agricultural mar- kets – often precipitated by IFI policies – forces men to leave home and travel to other countries in search of work, women are left behind to tend to family and work family farmland; • IFI pressure on governments to abolish taxes on food imports and repay debts reduces governments’ ability to pay for healthcare and education. Spending cuts in these sectors inevitably cause the most harm to women and girls; • Rising food prices put additional pres- sure on already strained household budgets. When women enter the formal work force to help support household consumption, girls are often forced to leave school to attend to household chores and care for younger siblings; 17. Excerpted from: Alana Fook, “Gender, IFIs and Food Insecurity,” Gender Action, April 2011, www.genderaction.org/ publications/fdsec/primer.pdf.
  22. 22. 17 • IFI agriculture investments support big businesses, not women farmers. IFI investments tend to focus on agro- processing and commercial agriculture, which mainly utilize male laborers and focus on external markets. These invest- ments tend to overlook women, who are often restricted to subsistence farm- ing, and instead mainly benefit the transnational corporations that win IFI procurement contracts. Though facing difficult challenges, women around the world have been making strides both in national policy and in land move- ments themselves. In some places, they are gaining greater access to arable land, tech- nology, credit, markets, training, equipment, and control over agricultural knowledge. In certain countries, they have won the right for their name, not just their husband’s, to go on the land title, making them direct beneficiaries of land reform. More women In the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Rarámuri women choose corn to save for next year’s planting. They just finished participating in a farmer-to-farmer workshop on seed selection. ©DavidLauer 17
  23. 23. 18 are directly earning wages for their agri- cultural labor, instead of through their husbands or fathers. And some countries are articulating women-specific labor rights in their constitutions. Food sovereignty movements explicitly recognize the importance of women in agriculture. Via Campesina has made chal- lenging gender inequity a central goal of its work, both internally and globally. It has hosted three international women’s assemblies, led campaigns challenging gender-based violence, hosted trainings and exchanges for women, and commit- ted to integrating a gender analysis into each of its program areas. Internally, it now requires that one woman and one man from each region participate in the inter- national coordinating committee. It has set a goal of having 50 percent of delegates in all committees and conferences be women. It challenges its member organizations to ensure that women play an equally signifi- cant role in all leadership structures. Reclaiming Control of Food and Agriculture Peter Rosset Agricultural economist Peter Rosset is with the Center for the Study of Rural Change in Mexico and the Land Research Action Network. He is also a member of the technical support team of Via Campesina. There are several fundamental pillars that are necessary to take control over food and agricul- tural systems. One is to force even reluctant or reactionary governments to regain control over their national borders from the flow of imported food. That means canceling free trade agree- ments and not signing WTO agreements. It means stopping the import either of incredibly cheap, subsidized food from agro-export countries which drives local producers out of business, or of food made ridiculously expensive by food speculation. Governments also need to support peasant and small-farmer agriculture as the fundamen- tal source of food for national economies. Why not big farms or agribusiness? It’s more than proven in any country in the world that if agribusiness controls the majority of the land, there will not be enough food for people because agribusiness just doesn’t produce food for local 18
  24. 24. 19 people. What agribusiness does, be it the United States or Thailand, is produce exports. Sometimes those exports are not even food for people but soybeans for animals, or ethanol, or biodiesel for automobiles in other part of the world. On the other hand, the real voca- tion of the small farm, the family farm, the peasant farm, the indigenous farm, is producing food for the family, for the local economy, and for the national economy. All over the world, these farmers are underrepre- sented in control of land. So a second essential element to claim control over food and agricultural systems is for countries to place their bets on peasant and family agriculture. And that means land has to be taken away from agribusiness. That, in turn, means real agrarian reform, redistribution of land to people who are landless, who are poor, who want to earn a living with dignity by producing food for people. And that means rebuilding small and family agriculture by investing in it. That neces- sitates changing budget priorities so that, instead of government subsidies flowing to support the exports of agribusiness, they flow to small farms. Yet a third pillar in reclaiming control of agriculture means changing how we produce food. Via Campesina and other social movements say that we can no longer afford to keep food prices tied to the cost of petroleum. We can’t keep using indiscriminate amounts of chemical fertilizer, tractors, mechanical harvesters, and pesticides. We need to engage in ecological agriculture that preserves soil fertility for future generations. Fourthly, we need to defend the territories of indigenous peoples and peasant communi- ties who haven’t yet lost their land. Part of the strategy must also be to gain new territories through land reform or land occupations. A fifth element involves seeds. We can’t allow seeds to be patented and privatized by Monsanto and Syngenta and other corporations. We can’t allow them to be contaminated by A Via Campesina march in Hong Kong, 2005, demanding an end to WTO trade negotiations over agriculture. CourtesyofViaCampesina 19
  25. 25. 2020 GMOs. We need to support the free exchange of local, indigenous seeds, because those variet- ies are much more adapted to local environmental conditions and can form a much stronger basis for new national food systems. Sixth, we need to nationalize the food reserves that are in the hands of transnational corpora- tions. Part of the origin of the recent food crisis is that under neoliberal policies of the past 20 years, most countries sold off their food inventories that were in the hands of the public sec- tor. World food reserves are now largely in the hands of private corporations like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. This is a problem because when it comes to food reserves, the public sector and the private sector behave in exactly opposite ways. If there’s a food shortage, the public sector releases food from storage so that prices won’t rise so fast, or so people who can’t afford food can get it from public sources. But private traders and transnational corporations hoard and speculate. That is, they withhold food from the market in order to drive prices up even higher so that they can make a windfall profit, at the cost of some people not being able to eat. But we can’t just renationalize food reserves in the hands of governments because we can’t trust governments. There has to be some kind of a co-management scheme where farmers and consumers, through their social movements and grassroots organizations, participate in owning and managing food reserves so that those reserves exist in every country – but at the service of people, not of private profit. Via Campesina and allied social movements have all gathered together under the banner of food sovereignty. This is the collective banner of struggle to build counter-power to transna- tional corporations, to renationalize food systems, and to regain control over rural territories and the land. To make sure that land is used to support rural peoples. To support production, for local and national consumption, of healthier food, more affordable food, food that’s not speculated with, that’s not hoarded, that’s not contaminated with GMOs. To reclaim our food systems and protect our lands and territories.
  26. 26. 21 2.  A  Level  Planting  Field: Challenging  Corporate  Rule “The farmer is the one who feeds us all. Lives on credit ‘til the fall, Then they take him by the hand, And they lead him from the land, And the middleman’s the one who gets it all.” — “The Farmer is the One,” traditional from the 1800s (excerpted) Just outside of the small town of Maumelle, Arkansas sits your run-of-the-mill American strip mall. And as in so many other box store hubs, a Walmart dominates the landscape. But something is a shade different about this one: Its big, looming letters are not the standard blue. These letters, in a new, green hue, spell out “Walmart Neighborhood Market.” Focused primarily on groceries, Walmart’s “Neighborhood Markets” seem a valiant attempt at a makeover, an effort to woo the growing number of people who find themselves driving down Main Street, craving an actual, legitimate neighborhood market. A little further down the interstate, a giant billboard with a photo of a stoic-looking farmer watches over the speeding traffic. He’s staring into the distance against the backdrop of a glowing wheat field, with the caption “America’s Farmers Grow America.” It’s an image to melt all our pastoral hearts. Until we read the small print in the corner: “Monsanto.” It’s true, Monsanto and Walmart catch all the flack. But they are irresistible tar- gets for a reason. Walmart now sells more groceries than anyone else in the country, and Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company. Together, they profit off of a tre- mendous percentage of the food that will eventually make its way into our stomachs. It’s no secret that we are bombarded and manipulated by corporate name brands every day. A Coca-Cola annual report some years back stated, “All of us in the Coca-Cola family wake up each morning knowing that every single one of the world’s 5.6 billion people will get thirsty that day… If we make it impossible for these 5.6 billion people 21
  27. 27. 22 to escape Coca-Cola…, then we assure our future success for many years to come. Doing anything else is not an option.”18 ‘Impossible’ to ‘escape’ certainly sounds daunting. Creepy, even. Yet people are escaping by the droves, escaping a food sys- tem more obsessed with money than with sustenance. Around the globe people are declaring an end to the corporate takeover of food. In the small village of Hinche, Haiti on a hot June day in 2010, a circle of thousands of farmers stood around a small pile of smoul- dering seeds. Though seeds are sacred to farmers, this pile was not being offered up in reverence, but in resistance. A few months 18. Coca-Cola Corporation, 1993 Annual Report, quoted in E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful (Blond & Briggs, 1973), 8. earlier, the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture had given Monsanto permission to import and ‘donate’ 505 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds. “It’s a declaration of war,” peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste said. The importation of massive amounts of hybrid seed threatens Haiti’s traditional, regionally adapted seed stock. It also creates a cycle of dependence, with farmers buying seeds from Monsanto each year rather than relying on local markets or their own saved seed. In an open letter, Jean-Baptiste, the Executive Director of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds…, and on what is left of our environment in Haiti.”19 19. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, group email, May 14, 2010. ©TequilaMinsky Small farmers burn Monsanto seeds in Haiti, June 2010. The hats say, “Down with Monsanto.”
  28. 28. 23 The same day as the protest in Haiti, activ- ists in Seattle gathered in solidarity. They burned Monsanto seeds in front of the headquarters of the Gates Foundation, which is promoting genetically modified seeds in Africa. In Missoula, Montana, activists dressed in lab coats and Tyvek to protest. In Chicago, a Haiti support group didn’t have Monsanto seeds, so they burned Cheetos instead. The Organic Consumers Association’s network sent more than 10,000 emails protesting Monsanto to USAID and President Obama. Once the maker of Agent Orange, Monsanto is also a leading herbicide company and a primary force in the creation and marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Via Campesina, the international alliance of small farmers, peasants, landless people, and indigenous people, declared Monsanto and other transnational corporations the “principle enemies of peasant sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty.”20 The coalition keeps the spotlight on Monsanto at the majority of its protests, most recently at the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. In October 2009 and 2010, the coalition organized international days of action against the company and agri- business in general, with teach-ins, marches, 20. Via Campesina, “Peasants Worldwide Rise up Against Monsanto, GMOs,” October 16, 2009, viacampesina.org/en/ index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=797:peasan ts-worldwide-rise-up-against-monsanto-gmos&catid=49:stop- transnational-corporations&Itemid=76. JeremySeifert,www.gmofilm.com Protesting in Los Angeles.
  29. 29. 24 hunger strikes, land occupations, and pro- tests of all types carried out in at least 20 countries.21 From Corn to Cheetos: Food as Big Business The nation’s move towards industrializa- tion in the 19th Century ushered in major changes in agriculture. The focus shifted to creating an abundance of affordable food for a growing population, while simulta- neously reducing the number of people laboring in the fields in order to free them up for work in the factories. The need for more food with less labor meant more mechanization and therefore bigger farms. The emergence of vast, spread-out farms required that food travel long distances, and went hand-in-hand with the creation of companies to transport, package, and pro- cess food. Over the years, our food has become increas- ingly commodified, that is, converted from nourishment to a mass-marketed consumer product. These days, an ever-shrinking number of mega-corporations controls an ever-expanding amount of food production, from seeds to equipment, from chemi- cal inputs to processing. Consider these statistics: 21. Food First, “La Via Campesina Carries out Global Day of Action against Monsanto,” Institute for Food and Development Policy, October 19, 2009, www.foodfirst.org/en/node/2595. • Just four companies own approximately 84 percent of the U.S. beef market;22 • Four firms control 66 percent of the pork-packing market and another four control 58 percent of poultry processing;23 • Four companies own 43 percent of the world’s commercial seed market;24 • Three companies (Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, and Bunge) control 90 percent of the global grain trade;25 and • Four companies own 48 percent of grocery retailers (Walmart being the largest).26 22. Food and Water Watch, “Horizontal Consolidation and Buyer Power in the Beef Industry,” July 2010, http://www. foodandwaterwatch.org/factsheet/beef-industry/. 23. Food and Water Watch, “Taking on Corporate Power in the Food Supply,” March 2011, http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/ factsheet/taking-on-corporate-power-in-the-food-supply/. 24. Kristina Hubbard, “Out of Hand: Farmers Face the Consequences of a Consolidated Seed Industry,” Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, National Family Farm Coalition, December 2009, 4, http://farmertofarmercampaign.com/Out%20 of%20Hand.FullReport.pdf. 25. Eric Holt-Giménez, “The World Food Crisis: What Is Behind it and What We Can Do,” Hunger Notes, October 2008, http://www. worldhunger.org/articles/09/editorials/holt-gimenez.htm. 26. Forty-eight percent statistic is from Food and Water Watch, “Taking on Corporate Power in the Food Supply,” March 2011, http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/factsheet/taking-on- corporate-power-in-the-food-supply/. Walmart’s position as the largest grocery retailer is recorded in Capital Reporting Company, “Workshop on Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in our 21st Century Economy,” Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues, December 8, 2010, 183, www.justice.gov/atr/public/ workshops/ag2010/dc-agworkshop-transcript.pdf.
  30. 30. 25 The True Price of a Banana: Hidden Costs of a Corporate- Controlled Food System The underlying objective of much of our industrial food system is to provide a profit to shareholders and CEOs. Coca-Cola’s advertising budget was over $2.9 billion dol- lars in 2010.27 It’s money well spent from a stockholder’s point of view; profits that year were $11.8 billion.28 The current system, however, was arguably not built only to amass wealth. Many policy- makers and supporters, historically and today, have been driven by the conviction that industrial-scale agriculture is the best way to produce massive amounts of afford- able food. And indeed, in some ways it has accomplished this. People in the U.S. spend relatively little on food – about 7 percent of their total spending, as compared to 13 per- cent in France, 23 percent in Mexico, and 38 percent in Vietnam.29 As individuals, most of 27. Jeremiah McWilliams, “Coca-Cola Spent More Than $2.9 Billion on Advertising in 2010,” Atlanta Journal Constitution online, February 28, 2011, accessed February 29, 2012, http://www.ajc. com/business/coca-cola-spent-more-856183.html. 28. CNN, “Fortune 500’s Top Companies: Most Profitable,” CNN Money online, May 23, 2011, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/ fortune/fortune500/2011/performers/companies/profits/. 29. U.S. Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, “Table 97 - Percent of household final consumption expenditures spent on food, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco that were consumed at home, by selected countries, 2010,” June 2011, www. ers.usda.gov/Briefing/CPIFoodAndExpenditures/Data/Table_97/ table97_2010.xls. us in the U.S. are devoting less time, energy, and money to feeding ourselves then we ever have historically. On the buying end, it seems an irresistibly good deal, our 99¢ soda or $1.50 loaf of bread. But these prices represent just a frac- tion of the true costs of getting that soda and bread into our shopping bags. There are hidden costs in our industrialized food system that don’t show up at the register, but which we pay for in multiple ways. Some, depending on class, race, nationality, and livelihood, pay more dearly than others. Some of these costs do show up financially. We subsidize food corporations through our taxes, which pay for public works like trans- portation infrastructure for long-distance shipping (highways, airports, and railroads), communication infrastructure (satellites, television, radio and internet), energy infra- structure (coal plants and nuclear power stations), and research and development (like government-funded crop research). Tax dollars also fund the government subsidies that keep certain crop prices low, allowing corporations to create their processed foods so cheaply. Small- and medium-sized farmers are pay- ing extremely high hidden costs. Their farms have been steadily disappearing as land is further consolidated into the hands of fewer people. The U.S. has lost 800,000 farmers
  31. 31. 26 and ranchers in the last 40 years.30 Between 1900 and 2002, the number of farms in the U.S. shrank by 63 percent, while the average farm size increased by 67 percent.31 The dairy industry has undergone an even starker decline: in just over 35 years, between 1970 and 2006, the country lost 88 percent of its dairy farms, while the average herd size per farm increased from 19 to 120 cows. 30. Capital Reporting Company, “Workshop on Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy,” Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues, December 8, 2010, 6, www.justice.gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/dc-agworkshop- transcript.pdf. 31. Carolyn Dimitri, Anne Effland, and Neilson Conklin, “The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy,” USDA Economic Research Service, Electronic Information Bulletin, No. 3, June 2005, www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib3/eib3.htm. An additional statistic from the EPA reports that the number of farms in the U.S. fell from 6.8 million in 1935 to about 2 million in 1997. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Demographics,” modified September 10, 2009, accessed February 29, 2012, www.epa.gov/ oecaagct/ag101/demographics.html. Farmworkers and other laborers all along the food supply chain also pay by receiving inadequate wages; they are twice as likely to be living below the poverty line. As consumers, we all pay with our health and well-being. Our country’s most popular cuisine is affectionately called ‘junk,’ after all. Eating the highly processed food made read- ily available to us has led to epidemic levels of diabetes and heart disease. Individuals get chastised for their own diet-related problems while ‘junk’ food is much easier and cheaper to access than healthy food. Recent outbreaks of Listeria and stomach acid-resistant E. coli are other manifesta- tions of the costs to our health. Food-safety experts blame the industrialized produc- tion of grain-fed cattle and poultry for the emergence of these dangerous bacteria “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying, This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not anyone have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, 1755.
  32. 32. 27 strains.32 Manure from overcrowded animal farms seeps into the groundwater and rivers. When vegetable crops are irrigated, bacteria in the water can contaminate the food sup- ply. If you’ve ever driven past a commercial livestock lot, the smell alone lets you know something has gone terribly wrong. The most profound hidden costs are enacted on our planet as a whole: polluted water, air, and soil; deforestation; acid rain; species extinction; and climate change. The corpo- rate food system wreaks countless ecological harms. Monocropping, a farming system where the same crop is grown on a piece of land year after year, is foundational to industrial-scale agriculture. It’s what makes farming such gigantic swaths of land physically possible. Yet monocropping depletes the soil, upends the ecological balance, and creates condi- tions highly susceptible to pests and disease, requiring more pesticides and fertilizers. Spraying toxic pesticides on our food has become the norm, so much so that we call 32. Nina Planck, “Leafy Green Sewage,” The New York Times online, September 9, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/ opinion/21planck.html?ex=1159675200&en=219a8917c1497 4f2&ei=5070. Made to digest grasses, the stomachs of these animals become unnaturally acidic on grain diets, creating perfect laboratories for bacteria that are harmful to humans. Farms try to counteract these bacteria by using vast amounts of antibiotics. In 2009, nearly 29 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for animal production. 2009 FDA report referenced by Helena Bottemiller, “FDA Releases First Estimate on Antibiotics in Ag,” December 13, 2010, Food Safety News, www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/12/fda- releases-first-estimate-on-antibiotic-in-ag/. it ‘conventional’ agriculture, though there’s nothing conventional about it. Introduced in large scale only after World War II, using surplus warfare chemicals,33 pesticides are now applied at a rate of 1.1 billion pounds per year in the U.S. That’s 22 percent of the world’s total use.34 These chemicals move throughout our ecosystem, making their way into groundwater and our drinking sup- ply, traveling down streams and rivers, and eventually reaching the ocean. In just one example, fertilizer running off fields and down the Mississippi River has created such an imbalance that there is a ‘dead zone’, where nothing can survive, the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico.35 Pesticides also wind up on our plates and in our bloodstreams. In 2005, the Environmental Working Group tested the umbilical cords of 10 babies from different U.S. hospitals and found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in their blood, including a number of pesticides.36 33. Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006). 34. Arthur Grube, et al., “Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage 2006 and 2007 Market Estimates,” US Environmental Protection Agency, February 2011, http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/ pestsales/07pestsales/usage2007.htm#3_1. 35. Elizabeth Weise, “Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Predicted to be the Size of New Jersey This Year,” USA Today online, June 29, 2010, http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/ post/2010/06/gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-predicted-to-be-the- size-of-new-jersey-this-year/1. 36. Environmental Working Group, “Body Burden - The Pollution in Newborns: A benchmark investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides in umbilical cord blood,” July 14, 2005, http://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/execsumm.php.
  33. 33. 28 If all of these costs showed up in the prices we pay at the store, things would be very different. If the prices reflected the oil that powers the jet to bring a banana thousands of miles, together with the air pollution that results, the workers’ healthcare costs after handling pesticides, and the future loss of soil health due to monocropping, this fruit would certainly be a luxury item in the North rather than part of an average American breakfast. “What single thing could change the U.S. food system, practically overnight? Widespread public awareness – of how this system operates and whom it benefits, how it harms consumers, how it mistreats animals and pollutes the land, how it corrupts public officials and intimidates the press, and most of all, how its power ultimately depends on a series of cheerful and ingenious lies.” — Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation37 37. Eric Schlosser in “One Thing to Do about Food: A Forum,” Alice Waters, ed., The Nation online, August 24, 2006, http://www. thenation.com/article/one-thing-do-about-food-forum.
  34. 34. 29 Who Put That Fish in My Tomato? GMOs are one frightening demonstration of how corporations are gaining more con- trol over our food supply. GMOs are formed when genetic material from one plant or animal is inserted into another, creating an organism with new genetic traits. Since their introduction in the U.S. in the mid- 1990s, GMOs have been met with heated protest for a myriad of ecological, health, and economic reasons. Though relatively new, GMO technology has spread quickly. Today, 90 percent of the country’s soybean acreage and 80 percent of corn acreage is planted with Monsanto’s GMO varieties.38 Eighty percent of gro- cery items in the U.S. now contain GMOs.39 Because corporations such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta own the patents on GMO seeds, GMOs establish further eco- nomic control of farmers by agribusiness. Farmers who buy GMO seeds are required to sign contracts prohibiting them from saving or replicating the seed. They also are prohib- ited from doing any research on the seeds (to determine under which conditions they 38. Kristina Hubbard, “Out of Hand. Farmers Face the Consequences of a Consolidated Seed Industry,” Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, National Family Farm Coalition, December 2009, 4, http://farmertofarmercampaign.com/Out%20 of%20Hand.FullReport.pdf. 39. Organic Consumers Association, Millions Against Monsanto website, accessed February 29, 2012, www.organicconsumers.org/ monsanto/action.cfm. thrive, to compare seeds from different com- panies, or to investigate environmental side effects, for example).40 Not only do farmers find themselves locked into a cycle of buying new seeds from a particular company each year, they also oftentimes become reliant on the same company’s pesticides, which are made to accompany many GMOs. GMOs also contaminate non-GMO crops. Because plants cross-pollinate via wind and insects, the pollen of GMO plants can travel to nearby fields and cross with other plants. This threatens farmers’ control over their seed supply and the unique crop traits that they, or their ancestors, may have devel- oped by saving seeds over the years. Organic growers can lose their organic certification if their crops are contaminated. Adding insult 40. The Editors, “Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research?,” Scientific American online, August 13, 2009, http:// www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies- control-gm-crop-research. Some 250 farmers, scientists, and activists destroying experimental GMO potatoes, Belgium, May 2011. CourtesyoftheBelgianFieldLiberationMovement, http://fieldliberation.wordpress.com/press/”
  35. 35. 30 to injury, Monsanto has sued more than 144 farmers since the mid-1990s for patent infringement when their crops have become contaminated. An additional 700 farmers have settled out of court.41 In response to this trend, in 2011 the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association – together with 82 other plaintiffs, including agricultural associations, seed companies, and farmers – brought a lawsuit against Monsanto in Manhattan federal district court to establish protections for organic farmers whose crops are contaminated by GMOs. The court ruled against them, and as of this writing the plaintiffs are considering an appeal. The Organic Consumers Association has spearheaded the “Millions Against Monsanto” campaign, demanding that the company stop intimidating small family farmers and forcing untested and unlabeled genetically engineered foods on consumers. In 2012 the Association gathered enough signatures for a ballot initiative in California to mandate labeling of products containing GMOs. They hope that forcing companies to label in California, the eighth-largest economy in the world, will prompt coun- trywide labeling. And that ultimately, this 41. Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, “Judge Sides with Monsanto: Ridicules Farmers’ Right to Grow Food Without Fear, Contamination and Economic Harm,” Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association website, February 27, 2012, www.osgata. org/judge-sides-with-monsanto-ridicules-farmers-right-to-grow- food-without-fear-contamination-and-economic-harm. transparency, coupled with consumer educa- tion, will make GMO products unmarketable. Labeling laws are also being considered by legislators in Vermont, Washington, Connecticut, and other states. Around the world, farmers and activists have long been taking it upon themselves to destroy Monsanto’s GMO crops. Groups have cut down or pulled up fields of corn, pota- toes, rapeseed, and other crops, sometimes laying them at the entryways of govern- ment buildings where they are demanding anti-GMO legislation. In 2003 in the state of Paraná in Brazil, activists uprooted plants at one of Monsanto’s experimental labs. They went on to file and win a land reform claim and then started their own agroecology cen- ter on the site. “The seeds of life are the seeds of all humanity, our common inheritance for more than 10,000 years, and they should remain as numerous and diverse as the stars above, shared by all, owned by none, and ever filling us with awe and wonder.” — Jeremy Seifert, maker of an upcoming film about GMOs
  36. 36. 31 From Growing Profit to Growing Food: Reclaiming Agriculture A mass movement of people is actively creat- ing and supporting smaller-scale, local food networks. But in order for these local sys- tems to truly thrive, we must simultaneously dismantle the policies and structures that have taken agriculture out of the hands of small farmers the world over. The following are a few recent campaigns and victories in the U.S., where farmers, food justice activ- ists, and consumers are uniting to challenge corporate rule. • In one strategy to reduce corporate con- trol of the milk industry, many states, including Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, are con- sidering bills that would allow more farmers to sell raw milk.42 Milk that is produced and sold locally in small batches doesn’t require the lengthy shelf life or, therefore, the pasteuriza- tion process that has become status quo for industrialized milk. Most often sold 42. Real Raw Milk Facts, “Raw Milk Facts State by State,” Real Raw Milk Facts website, accessed February 29, 2012, http://www. realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-regulations; Dan Flynn, “Indiana, Iowa Stir Raw Milk Debate,” Food Safety News, February 16, 2012, http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/02/indiana-iowa-stir-raw- milk-debate/; and Dan Flynn, “Raw Milk Debates Underway in Several States,” Food Safety News, February 6, 2012, http://www. foodsafetynews.com/2012/02/raw-milk-games-already-underway- in-3-statehouses. directly off the farm, raw milk creates a more direct link between farmers and consumers, cuts out corporate middle- people, and provides farmers with a larger percentage of the consumer dol- lar. And any raw-milk lover will swear it tastes better and is more nutritious. Vernon Hershberger, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who was recently charged with operating without a license and four criminal misdemeanors for supplying raw milk to a buyers’ club, says, “There is more at stake here than just a farmer and his few customers... [T]his is about the fundamental right of farmers and consumers to engage in peaceful, pri- vate, mutually consenting agreements for food, without additional oversight.”43 • Nine U.S. states have established some legal restraints to keep corpora- tions from buying and owning farms.44 In Pennsylvania, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has helped individual towns pass and defend local ordinances banning corporate farming in their communities. 43. County Sheriff Project, “Farmer Faces Possible 3-year Prison Term for Feeding Community,” February 24, 2012, http://www. countysheriffproject.org/17-health-freedom/38-declaration-of- food-independence-march-2-in-wisconsin. 44. New Rules Project, “Corporate Ownership Limitations,” The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, accessed February 29, 2012, www.newrules.org/agriculture/rules/corporate-ownership- limitations.
  37. 37. 32 • Organizations like the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD) have popularized the need to eliminate ‘corporate personhood,’ not just in agriculture but in society in general. Corporate personhood gives corporations the same constitutional rights as human beings under the 14th Amendment, which means they are entitled to due process, equal protec- tion, and free speech. POCLAD has been doing research, hosting workshops, and publishing books and articles to spark conversations about the effects of cor- porate power on our governance, lives and the planet. • Activists are challenging the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which prohibits government restrictions on political spending by corporations. Big agribusiness, as well as all other cor- porate industries, can now have even greater sway over the political process. Communities around the country, led by organizations like Move to Amend and United for the People, have introduced local resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment over- turning Citizens United. As of March 2012, 120 municipalities and two states had passed these resolutions. At the fed- eral level, 19 different resolutions have been proposed in Congress. • In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture held five workshops throughout the country to hear public opinion about corporate consolidation in agriculture. In prepara- tion, organizations formed the ‘Bust the Trust’ coalition to ensure that fam- ily farmers and consumers had a strong presence at the workshops. In May 2011, when the government had still not released its findings from the hearings, 160 groups sent a letter to the govern- ment asking that they announce an action plan for addressing the problem of corporate consolidation.45 45. Testimony from the hearings can be found at www.justice. gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/index.html. A rally in New York City, February 2012, following hearings in a lawsuit to protect farmers against legal action if their crops become contaminated with GMOs. ©TequilaMinsky
  38. 38. 33 The Consumer’s Got To Change The System Ben Burkett46 Ben Burkett is a family farmer, the coordinator of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives for the state of Mississippi, the president of the board of the National Family Farm Coalition, and a member of the food sovereignty commission of Via Campesina. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives grew out of the civil rights movement. We are prob- ably 90 percent African American, but we have white, Native American, and Hispanic farmers. Racism is still here in the marketplace and in credit, but we have learned to deal with it and not give up on changing the system. We struggle every day to bring about a change. We work with co-ops in 16 Southern states. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, though I don’t think that many farmers in Mississippi really know the term. It’s the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, clean air, clean land, and the self-deter- mination of a local community to their rights of intellectual property to grow and to do what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life; it’s just what we’ve always done. Like myself, I’m a fourth-generation farmer on a farm that my great-grandfather homesteaded in 1889. That wasn’t but about 20 years after the end of slavery. He got 164 acres from the United States gov- ernment. I still have the title – they called it a patent – signed by Grover Cleveland. And we’re still farming that same land. Our view is local production for local consumption. The crops we grow, we sell them mostly within a 300-mile radius of this [Indian Springs Farmers Association-owned] packing facility. We don’t want a change. We just want to go back to the way things were. It’s just supporting mankind as small farmers and family farmers. It’s not so much a matter of making money, it’s a matter of carrying on so your farm will continue on. But you have to make some profit off it in order to keep it going. Some say the system is working. It appears to be working fine, but corporate agriculture is not sustainable. Our system of growing food is heavy, heavy, heavy dependent on petro-chemicals, 46. Ben Burkett, interview with Beverly Bell, Indian Springs Farmers Association Co-op packing plant, Indian Springs, MS, June 22, 2010. 33
  39. 39. 34 Ben Burkett on his farm in Petaluma, Mississippi, with his great-nephew. courtesyofGrassrootsInternational on inorganic compounds, mostly petroleum-based. And then it takes too much control out of the local community. Now, it might last for several decades, but in the end it can’t last. You’ve got a few companies that want to control all the seedstock of the world, and they’ve just about got a handle on marketing three of the main commodities: corn, soybean, and cot- ton. It’s hard to find seeds that aren’t treated with the Monsanto-manufactured Roundup Ready. I’ve tried to find cotton that wasn’t treated, but I couldn’t. Now they’re working on con- trolling wheat and rice. 34
  40. 40. 35 And they make those seeds so most of them don’t regenerate the next year anyway. But if you do save any of the seeds, Monsanto and the other companies are going to prosecute you for saving their property. Those seeds are patented, the property of the seed company, so they reserve the right to keep them. They’ll take you to court and make you pay back their money. Basically you’re just sharecropping for them, you’re leasing their seeds. I don’t think that’s fair. Once you’ve bought the seeds and planted them on your own land, it looks to me like they ought to be your own seeds. That’s the essence of life. Where did Monsanto and the other companies get their first seed from? Someone gave them to them. Those seeds didn’t fall out of the sky. Through the National Family Farm Coalition, we signed onto the protest against the seeds Monsanto sent to Haiti. Developing countries such as Haiti have no need for Monsanto, for hybrid seeds or GMO seeds, no kind of way. Let them use their traditional seeds they’ve been saving for hundreds of years. Let them propagate and then continue to farm traditionally. Because if they get used to buying from America, they’ll lose the diversity of seed that they need in order to build new seed. Normally when those types of seeds and other products from America hit a country, local farmers lose. They get put out of business, they can’t compete. We’ve been – I don’t want to use the word co-opted – trained by the institutions of agriculture, the companies, the university system, and technology, to give our rights over to the company, which I think is absolutely wrong. We have to be more proactive than reactive as small farmers, family farmers. We can’t wait for the government and large corporations to dictate to us what we can do in our region. They got a unique way of buying you off to not fight here. The American consumer doesn’t care as long as it’s cheap. But no matter what us farmers plant, the consumer’s got to change the system. People buying the end product have to complain. As long as they don’t complain, there’s no need even talking about it. The marketplace dictates. 35
  41. 41. 36 “If I’m hoeing or cleaning out the chicken house, I have time to think. If I’m on the tractor, I have time to think.” Dena Hoff is explaining how she fits dream- ing up ways to challenge international trade policies into her days. At the moment, she has stepped away from her farm, close to 500 acres of everything you can imagine – vegetables, dry beans, corn, wheat, sheep, poultry, cows, and more – for eight precious days of summer in order to be a part of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) board meeting. “That’s way too long this time of year. I try not to be away from lambing through harvest.” But Dena shows up for these meetings each year anyway, motivated, she says, by “the audac- ity of multinational corporations to control government agencies and to write the rules that impact us.” NFFC is a network of 28 rural and family farm organizations from around the coun- try. Together with other national coalitions, they bring together farmers, organizers, and policy analysts towards the goal of changing government agricultural policy. “I grew up where Union Carbide mined ura- nium,” says Dena, “and I saw people all over my little community dying because Union Carbide left this big pit and then went away when it was no longer economically viable for them. Then I started learning all these other issues like corporate concentration and the lack of credit and farm bill issues, and realized how interconnected everything was, from the grassroots all the way to the global. You have to pay attention to the whole picture.” “Brought to you by…”: How Government Policies Underwrite Corporate Profit In tandem with the steady industrialization of our food systems, the last 50 years have witnessed the erosion of national agricul- tural policies that support farmers. The U.S. government, for example, used to set 3.  Good  Growing  Conditions: Changing  Government  Policies 36
  42. 42. 37 price floors for certain commodity crops (nonperishable staples like corn, wheat, rice, and cotton), which acted like a minimum wage for farmers, regulating the lowest amount they could be paid for their prod- ucts. Another government program, that of maintaining grain reserves, allowed farmers to store some grain crops in seasons when they overproduced; the reserves could then be released into the market in future, less abundant seasons. This regulation of extra grain helped prevent food shortages and price spikes. But agribusinesses wanted to buy com- modity crops, from which they make their products, as cheaply as possible. So they pressured legislators to end price-regulat- ing policies. In the 1970s, the government started chipping away at price floors and grain reserves, and in 1996 they were elimi- nated completely. Farmers lowered their prices in response, attempting to attract more customers, and at the same time had to boost production to compensate for lost income. Prices spiraled downward. Farmers were suffering and the government, to keep them from going under, ramped up the subsidy system. Subsidies, which began in the 1930s during the Great Depression, use taxpayer money to give commodity farm- ers direct payments, tax breaks, subsidized insurance, and other financial support. These government payments allow farms to continue selling their products cheaply with- out going out of business. Despite common misperceptions, the real winners of the subsidy system are not by and large the farmers receiving the payments. Instead, they are the corporations who buy, process, transport, and resell the commodi- ties. Commodity crops are generally not sold directly to consumers. They are sold to mid- dlepeople who package and resell them, or who turn the raw materials into other prod- ucts – corn to produce animal feed, corn syrup, or ethanol, for example. Subsidies allow corporations to buy these goods from farmers for such artificially low prices that they make an even higher profit, while tax- payers foot the bill. The meat industry is a perfect example. About half of all the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are used to feed livestock.47 The cheaper the cost of corn and soybeans, the less money factory farms pay out for animal feed, the less money pro- cessors pay out for meat, and the more both make in profit.48 The mix of subsidies, together with deregu- lated agricultural policies, creates such a skewed equation that some commodity crops are sold for even less money than it costs to grow them. This practice, called 47. Timothy Wise, “Identifying the Real Winners from U.S. Agricultural Policies,” (Global Development and Environment Institute Working Paper No. 05-07, December 2005), 3. 48. Meat raised in this way costs less on grocery store shelves, but only in exchange for mistreated animals, a degraded environment, and meat that is less healthy for consumers. Small farmers who don’t rely on grain but instead allow their animals to graze on pasture – a healthier practice for animals, consumers, and the planet – don’t reap the financial benefits of cheap industrial animal feed.
  43. 43. 38 stamps, can be positive for both farmers and consumers. Subsidies need to be restruc- tured while, even more fundamentally, new policies need to be implemented to promote a just and sustainable food system. “The only way we’re going to… change the most basic attitude of policy-makers… is for you and me to become the policy- makers, taking charge of every aspect of our food system – from farm to fork.”51 — Jim Hightower, former Agriculture Commissioner of Texas Seeds of Policy Change People across the nation are advocating for policies that better support small farmers, make healthy food accessible to all, respect the rights of farmworkers, and preserve farmland. They’re also promoting changes in international policies, like trade agree- ments and food aid programs, to stop harming farmers in other parts of the globe. Some recent policy victories and campaigns include: 51. “Jim Hightower” in “One Thing To Do about Food: A Forum,” Alice Waters, ed., The Nation, September 11, 2006, 21. ‘dumping,’ enables corporations to undercut farmers around the world. Between 2000 and 2003, for example, while the cost of pro- ducing rice was approximately $415 per ton, government subsidies allowed agribusiness companies to sell it overseas for just $275 per ton.49 In 2002, cotton was exported at 61 percent, and wheat at 43 percent, below the cost of production.50 This whole perplexing system is kept in place by close-knit relationships between corpora- tions and government. Members of Congress give out subsidies that keep costs low for agribusiness and pass legislation that opens markets in their favor. In return, corporations support legislators with campaign contribu- tions, votes, and investment in their districts. A revolving door spins government officials into corporate positions and then back again. Yet throwing out government subsidies alto- gether isn’t a workable solution. Eliminating this support system without changing the underlying conditions that make commod- ity farms dependent on it won’t benefit farmers. And some subsidies, like grants for sustainable agriculture, tax credits for renewable energy conversions, and food 49. Kate Raworth and Duncan Green, “Kicking down the Door: How Upcoming WTO Talks Threaten Farmers in Poor Countries”, (Oxfam Briefing Paper #72, Oxfam International, April 2005), 4, http://www.fao.org/righttofood/KC/downloads/vl/en/ details/214560.htm. 50. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, “United States Dumping on World Agricultural Markets: February 2004 Update,” (Cancun Series Paper #1, February 2004), 3, www.iatp.org/files/ US_Dumping_on_World_Agricultural_Markets_Febru.pdf.
  44. 44. 39 • The National Family Farm Coalition, farmer Dena Hoff’s group that we men- tioned above, is educating and lobbying for better loan and grant programs for farmers. They’re also working for the reinstatement of price floors which would set minimum prices farmers must receive for their goods, as well as grain reserves to regulate the dramatic swings of scarcity and surplus. They, together with other groups like Food and Water Watch, Food First, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, are engaged in research, education, and strategy to help turn farmers, consumers, and all of us into effective policy-change advocates. • People from all walks – rooftop garden- ers, PTA parents, ranchers, and chefs – are becoming more involved in the U.S. Farm Bill. Up for renewal every five to seven years, this hugely influential legisla- tion lays out the framework for national food and farming policy. It regulates agri- cultural subsidies, food stamps, school lunch programs, rural conservation, and everything in between. Given the heavy impact the set of laws has on our daily lives, more and more people are assert- ing that we cannot leave its shaping to policymakers alone. The Community Food Security Coalition, a coalition of nearly 300 organizations, drafted a platform of top priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill, and helped organizations learn about and lobby for those changes During the lead-up to the Farm Bill vote in 2008, the Farm and Food Policy Diversity Initiative brought together farmers and farmworkers of color to ensure that their perspectives were heard in the legislative process. They helped secure policies putting a morato- rium on land foreclosures in cases where there was a claim of discrimination, pri- oritizing socially disadvantaged farmers for federal loans and grants, and pro- moting locally grown produce in food stamp and school-lunch programs. • In 2009, the “Country of Origin Labeling” (COOL) law went into effect. This fed- eral law mandates that retailers label certain meats, produce, and nuts with their country of origin. In 2011, the WTO ruled against the COOL label- ing for meat products, claiming that it interfered with international trade law. (Other WTO decisions that year included a ruling against U.S. ‘dolphin-safe’ tuna labels and the overturning of a U.S. ban on candy- and cola-flavored cigarettes.) Activists and groups like Food and Water Watch are pressuring President Obama to appeal the ruling. Some states such as Vermont, Minnesota, Montana and Maine have their own state-labeling policies and programs to help residents choose foods produced closer to home. Regional efforts, like one run in Western Massachusetts by Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, also label local goods. Their ‘Local Hero’ logo adorns
  45. 45. 40 products in grocery stores, restau- rants, farms, garden centers, and public institutions. • U.S. meat- and dairy-eaters are becom- ing wise to the ways of industrial meat, dairy, and egg production, and demand- ing an end to animal abuse. Ninety percent of laying hens in the U.S., for example, spend their entire lives in cages smaller than the standard-sized piece of paper.52 In 2008, California residents organized a ballot initiative requiring that “calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their 52. The Humane Society of the United States, “Battery Cages,” July 14, 2010, www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/ facts/battery_cages.html. Occupy Wall Street march, New York, December 2011. The National Young Farmers Coalition connects new farmers to share skills and fight for national policies that will “keep them farming for a lifetime.” EdwardCrimmins
  46. 46. 41 Residents speak to the Springfield, Massachusetts city council in support of a local ordinance to protect and promote community gardens, March 2012. The youth organization Gardening the Community began crafting the ordinance after losing access to the garden lot they had been working on for more than 10 years. limbs and turn around freely.”53 More Californians voted for the law than for any other citizen initiative in state his- tory.54 Though the right to stand up or 53. California Office of the Secretary of State, “Prop 2: Standards for Confining Farm Animals,” California General Election Official Voter Information Guide, November 4, 2008, http:// voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/title-sum/prop2-title- sum.htm. 54. Tracie Cone, “Lawmakers Rally around Animal Welfare Issues,” Associated Press, May 29, 2009, http://www.nctimes. com/news/state-and-regional/article_71d7def6-5874-5c09-93c0- 7e0643eb904b.html. turn around is a small step, California’s legislation is part of an overall trend in addressing animals’ well-being. Michigan has since passed a similar bill, and Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Maine have passed laws to phase out gestation crates, in which pregnant pigs are kept in cages only slightly larger than the span of their bodies. Individual consumers are increasingly switching to cage-free eggs and pasture-raised meats, and corpora- tions are being forced to change their practices as a result. AaronDonovan
  47. 47. 42 Youth Food Bill of Rights: Rooted in Community Rooted In Community (RIC) is a national grassroots network that empowers young people to take leadership for food justice. Each year RIC organizes a gathering where youth from around the country come together to share knowledge and skills, build relationships, and strategize. At the 2011 leadership summit, youth began creating a Youth Food Bill of Rights. In RIC’s words: “It’s what youth believe our food system should be like! It’s a work in progress. It’s created by youth. It’s a Statement to All. It’s a tool for Change!!!” There are currently 19 demands that span from school-wide to global. Here are just a few: • We the youth demand more healthy food choices in our schools, and in schools all over the world. We want vending machines out of schools unless they have healthy choices. We need healthier school lunches that are implemented by schools with the ingredients decided on by the youth. We demand composting in schools and in our neighborhoods. • We the youth demand a ban on high fructose corn syrup and other additives, and preservatives that are a detriment to our and our communities’ health. This must be implemented by our govern- ment, and governments around the world. • We demand school assemblies to recruit more youth to promote food justice. The continuation of the movement for food justice, food sover- eignty and cultivation of future youth leaders is necessary for feeding our youth, our nation and our world. Youth from Rooted in Community sign the Youth Food Bill of Rights. courtesyofRootedinCommunity 42
  48. 48. 43 Declaring Local Control: Food and Community Self-Governance On a windy November day in Blue Hill, Maine, Heather Retberg is standing at the microphone on the steps of town hall sur- rounded by 200 people bundled in heavy coats. “We are farmers,” she tells the crowd, “who are supported by our friends and our neighbors who know us and trust us, and want to ensure that they maintain access to their chosen food supply.” Blue Hill is one of a handful of small Maine towns that have been taking bold steps to protect their local food systems. In 2011, they passed an ordinance exempting their local farmers and food producers from fed- eral and state licensure requirements when these farmers sell directly to customers. The federal government has stiffened national food-safety regulations in order to address the health risks associated with industrial-scale farming. Recent widespread recalls of contaminated ground turkey, can- taloupe, eggs, and a host of other foods illustrate the serious problems at hand. These outbreaks have been linked to indus- trial farms with overcrowded animals and unbalanced ecosystems. Furthermore, the significant distance between industrial farms and consumers creates a lack of accountabil- ity and difficulties tracing problems when they arise. Small-scale farming, however, doesn’t spark the same safety risks. Small farmers who sell their food locally will tell you that the nature of their business, based on face-to- face relationships with the people who eat their food, creates a built-in safety protec- tion. They don’t need inspectors to make sure they are following good practices; keep- ing their neighbors, families, and long-time customers in good health is an even better incentive. Customers are also more able to witness the farming practices firsthand. Still, small farmers are being pushed out of business because they are saddled with the financial and bureaucratic burdens of the same regulations as large industrial farms. Heather and her family’s Quill’s End Farm raise grass-fed beef and veal, lamb, pastured pork, chickens for eggs and meat, turkeys, dairy cows and goats, a diverse mix that is better both for the land and the economic viability of the farm. Given the scale of their business, building their own chicken process- ing unit is financially out of the question, however, so instead, they were butchering at a neighboring farm’s USDA-approved unit. When state inspectors told them that USDA regulations didn’t allow them to share this neighbor’s facility, Quill’s End Farm was forced to stop raising and selling chickens altogether. “I just remember the feeling that if that was happening to us, the same message was being given to all sorts of farmers of our scale and people were just going to give up
  49. 49. 44 Since then, says Heather, “We’ve heard from people in Tennessee, Texas, California, Virginia… someone in New Zealand. Last year, Vermont passed a food sovereignty resolution with similar language. Over in California they’re working in the direction of an ordinance in Mendocino County. In Arizona they’re beginning to circulate peti- tions. And this fall we heard that a town in Utah had passed the ordinance.” As of this writing, Maine’s State Department of Agriculture is challenging one of the local ordinances by suing a dairy farmer. Community members are reaching out to friends in surrounding counties and national Farmers and community members in Blue Hill, Maine rally to defend their recently enacted Local Food and Community Self- Governance Ordinance. and stop farming,” says Heather. “My sense, more than anything, was a really daunting realization that, ‘Oh, this is how farms get disappeared.’ And people are so supportive, but then when we disappear, everybody might just kind of shake their heads like, ‘Oh, it must just be really tough to make it farming.’ There’s sort of an expectation that farming will fail but not much under- standing about why that happens.” So Heather, together with a small group of other farmers and farm patrons in Maine, began crafting the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, the first of its kind in the country. The ordinance exempts direct sales between farmers and customers (at farms, farm- stands, and markets, for example) from state and federal licensing and inspec- tions. It allows Heather, for example, to sell chicken at her farmstore, and Bob St. Peter, a fellow farmer and organizer, to sell his homemade cookies at the farmers’ market. In March 2011, the ordinance passed unanimously in the town of Sedgwick, Maine. Three days later it was presented at Heather’s town meeting in Penobscot. “We spent a good while talking about whether to give $3,000 to our local library,” says Heather, “and I was sitting there thinking ‘Whoa, this is a tough crowd.’ But then when the ordinance came up, it was another unan- imous vote. It was tremendous.” Four other towns in Maine followed suit. PeterRobbins
  50. 50. 45 “Collective black self-recovery takes place when we begin to renew our relationship to the earth, when we remember the way of our ancestors… Living in modern society, without a sense of history, it has been easy for folks to forget that black people were first and foremost a people of the land, farmers.” — bell hooks food justice coalitions, asking them to call in and urge the state to drop the suit. Meanwhile, organizers from far and wide are watching closely, hoping to launch similar initiatives in their own communities. In addition to town efforts like those in Maine, farmers and activists are attempting to tackle the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to food safety at the federal level. When U.S. leg- islators voted to increase FDA inspections and reporting requirements for farms in 2010, over 150 food groups succeeded in winning an amendment that provides some exemptions for small farmers. “Foodborne illnesses don’t come from family agriculture,” says Senator Jon Tester from Montana, who co-sponsored the amendment.55 55. Helena Bottemiller, “Tester Offers Hope on S. 510, Help for Small Farms,” Food Safety News, September 27, 2010, accessed February 28, 2012, http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/09/tester-offers-positive-outlook-on-s510-amendment/.