Accepted paper:

Food sovereignty, food security and democratic choice: critical contradictions, difficult conciliations

Authors:

Bina Agarwal

Paper short abstract:

This paper critiques some of the major tenets of the global food sovereignty movement, and outlines ways of better achieving its goals of food security and social equality through innovative institutional change, without sacrificing individual freedoms and democratic choice.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years, the concept of 'food sovereignty' has gained increasing ground among grassroots groups, taking the form of a global movement. But there is no uniform conceptualization of what food sovereignty constitutes. Indeed the definition has been expanding over time. It has moved from its initial focus on national self-sufficiency in food production ('the right of nations') to local self-sufficiency ('the rights of peoples'). There is also a growing emphasis on the rights of women and other disadvantaged groups, and on consensus building and democratic choice. This paper provides a critique of some of the major tenets of the food sovereignty movement. It recognizes that many developing countries may wish to pursue the goal of self-sufficiency in the context of the global food crises, and that it is important to promote social equality and democratic choice. Taken together, however, there can be serious contradictions between the key features of the food sovereignty vision, such as between the goals of national and local food self-sufficiency; between promoting food crops and a farmer's freedom to choose to what extent to farm, which crops to grow, and how to grow them; between strengthening family farming and achieving gender equality; and between collective and individual rights, especially over land ownership. The paper also reflects on ways in which some of the food sovereignty goals could be better achieved through innovative institutional change, without sacrificing an individual's freedom to choose.

panel P07
Reclaiming the political: reflections on the tactics and strategies of actors in the quest for just and sustainable food governance