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International workshop explores food sovereignty issues for World Food Day
16 October, 2010 (Quezon City)
Food is a subject very near and dear to most Filipinos. On 14 and 15 October, it was the focus of a lively and thought-provoking international workshop entitled “Southeast Asian Perspectives on Food Sovereignty,” hosted by the Third World Studies Centre (TWSC) at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Food sovereignty is a critical economic, cultural, biological and political issue, at both the national and international levels. It is, as defined in the landmark 2007 Declaration of Nyeleni, “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers.”
Thirty participants from the academe, civil society, social and farmers’ movements and local governments examined and debated pressing issues spanning agrarian reform policies, the right to food, land grabbing, biofuels and land conversion, public-private partnership, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and biotechnology, nutrition, farmer’s rights, seed savings and intellectual property rights (IPR), organic production and marketing, global food crisis and economic policies, gender and food sovereignty, and the effects of climate change on food production.
The participants explained the complex and sometimes difficult relationship of government and non-government actors in ensuring a country’s food sovereignty. They also emphasized the need for Southeast Asian countries to be self-sufficient in food production. Organic food production was also pushed for, as such will benefit farmers’ ability to independently produce and will result in healthful food. Violence against farmers and cultures by landlords and transnational companies was also highlighted. International trends and regional initiatives for food sovereignty were critiqued.
The workshop was TWSC’s contribution to the celebration of World Food Day. Each year on 16 October, people around the world observe World Food Day to highlight issues behind poverty and hunger. This year’s theme – United against hunger – recognizes the efforts made in the fight against world hunger at the national, regional and international levels. World hunger is a growing phenomenon; soaring food prices and the global financial crisis contributed to record numbers of hungry people in 2009, when the number surpassed one billion hungry people for the first time.
The event was co-organized by the TWSC, Southeast Asian Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) and Transnational Dynamics and Collective Action Research Network (REDTAC) of the University of Montreal, and funded by the University of Montreal and the International Development Research Center Canada.
The full workshop proceedings will be published as part of a special issue of Kasarinlan, the official journal of the TWSC.
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SEARICE is a regional NGO working on community-based conservation development and sustainable utilization of plant genetic resources and upholding of farmers’ rights.
The Third World Studies Center (TWSC) of the University of the Philippines is an academic research institute based at the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP), committed to analyze and develop alternative perspectives on Philippine, regional and global issues. TWSC focuses on globalization, social movements, democratic governance, peace and human security, and culture and identity.
REDTAC is a research network based at the University of Montreal (Canada) that brings together scholars and civil society advocates interested in analyzing cross-border flows and dynamics (such as food sovereignty, migration, extractive industries, etc.) and how collective action is increasingly organized transnationally. For those of you who read French and are interested in the food crisis, food sovereignty in Quebec (and elsewhere), and related issues I recommend reading the summer 2010 edition of Possibles (REDTAC's blog).