‘Food Sovereignty’ is a concept introduced by La Via Campesina in 1996. The term asserts the right of people to define their own food systems.
Food sovereignty puts the individuals who produce, distribute and consume food at the centre of decisions on food systems and policies. It restores agency to communities and ordinary people, rather than acquiescing to the control over food systems by large agribusinesses and the market mechanisms overshadowing the global food system.
Most of the discourse around food sovereignty to date focuses on the rural poor and grew out of indigenous movements—particularly La Via Campesina. There is no universally agreed definition of the term, but one of the most commonly used definitions is provided by the People’s Food Sovereignty Network (2002):
“Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture; to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives; to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant; to restrict the dumping of products in their markets; and to provide local fisheries-based communities the priority in managing the use of and the rights to aquatic resources. Food Sovereignty does not negate trade, but rather it promotes the formulation of trade policies and practices that serve the rights of peoples to food and to safe, healthy and ecologically sustainable production.”
A core interest of Incredible Edible Bristol will be to think about the relationships between food sovereignty and modern urban food issues, extending the implications of the concept to embrace market-disenfranchised modern populations in cities, which in Britain are only ever three days away from a food crisis.