Food sovereignty is a term coined by members of Via Campesina to refer to the right of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to market forces.
Via Campesina’s Seven Principles Of Food Sovereignty
1. Food: A Basic Human Right
Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
2. Agrarian Reform
A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people — especially women — ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
3. Protecting Natural Resources
Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
4. Reorganizing Food Trade
Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger
Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
6. Social Peace
Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
7. Democratic control
Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decisionmaking on food and rural issues.
Daniel Tucker of Farm Together Now recently teamed up with members of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) to explain Via Campesina’s seven principles of food sovereignty (March 4, 2011) You can watch the YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fYGCHoP-HY
For twenty ideas on how to make food sovereignty a reality in your own community, check out this What Is Food Sovereignty? factsheet.
You can also learn more about Food Sovereignty with this booklet from Grassroots International. (PDF, 5MB)
There is also now a Spanish version
and Portuguese version
and French version