21.10.2020 |

Change the food system - reconnect humans and nature, report argues

Infographics from the new report (Photo: RtFNWatch Supplement)

Changing the dominant food system is indispensable in order to reset our relationship with nature and overcome today’s ecological crises, according to the new report “Right to Food and Nutrition Watch”. This year’s edition was published ahead of World Food Day on October 12th by “The Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition”, an initiative of 49 civil society organisations and social movements. The authors argue that past and current policies have treated humans and the rest of nature as two separate and independent spheres. This artificial separation has led to domination and exploitation of the natural world by humans with dire environmental and social consequences, such as the destruction of ecosystems, greenhouse gas emissions and the expulsion of communities from their lands. In order to tackle the ecological crises, it is therefore essential to reconnect nature and human rights. And the authors highlight that food, where our connection with the rest of the living world is most evident, is the perfect starting point for doing so. The articles in the 2020 edition of the Watch call for an overhaul of how we produce, distribute and eat food – if we are to regain control and radically transform our societies – but also, of how we collectively resist the exploitation of nature.

The first article by Philip Seufert from FIAN International, a human rights organisation, looks at the aforementioned separation of humans from the rest of nature. He argues that this separation is central to the deep ecological crises that the world is facing and which manifest most strongly in human-made global warming as well as the dramatic loss of biological diversity. He warns that both climate change and the current mass extinction will deeply affect human societies because we cannot escape from these massive consequences. The author says that the current COVID-19 pandemic is yet another development which forces us to reassess our relationship with the rest of nature. The separation of human societies from the rest of nature is also reflected in a largely disconnected development between international human rights law on the one hand, and environmental law on the other. Seufert focuses on how human rights instruments such as the “UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” and the “UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas” could better clarify the human-nature relationship and advance the protection of local communities as custodians of ecosystems.

In the second article, Hernando Salcedo Fidalgo from FIAN Colombia looks at the links between the coronavirus pandemic and corporate food patterns: “It is evident that today’s societies, and their current food practices, have contributed – through so-called ‘modern food systems’ – to the biodiversity crisis and to the increased risk of existing and new zoonotic diseases, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Ecosystem fragility has facilitated the transmission of infections across animal species, as well as of zoonoses from animal species to human beings and vice-versa.” The author says that beyond the mainstream scientific response that centers on medication and vaccines, other solutions are needed. The article puts forward an exit strategy to the crisis via six proposals that build on the notion of “food agency”. One of them is to leave behind the corporate food model. “This is only possible through peasant, Indigenous, family and community agriculture, and agroecology led by women, who have demonstrated their capacity to feed the world,” writes Salcedo Fidalgo. Another proposal is: “Defend our commons, such as ‘real’ food, water, space, and biota, to ensure they are exchanged and shared, outside market interests.”

The Watch also includes an interview with Marta Guadalupe Rivera Ferre, director of the Chair in Agroecology and Food Systems of the University of Vic. She participated in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and was one of the lead authors of the chapter on food security in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Special Report on Climate Change and Land” (see also the link to her chapter in the book “Transformation of our food systems” at the end of this text). Her chapter in the IPCC Special Report which was published in 2019 addresses agroecology, but only in the context of food security. “We looked at food security, in all its dimensions, and how they are impacted by climate change, as well as how food systems impact climate change in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Then, we had discussions on synergies and trade-offs, where we talked about agroecology,” she told interviewer Katie Sandwell. “We wanted to show how some agricultural and agroecological practices, like capturing organic matter in the soil, intercropping, crop rotation, etc. can contribute to both mitigation and adaptation.” The authors' aim was to demonstrate that if the focus is put on agroecology, a more integrated response to climate change can be achieved. (ab)

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Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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