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Recipe for Change: the food system - whose power to control?


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Food Seminar organised by Intermediate Technology (ITDG) and the UK Food Group/UKabc (Click Here for Details)


The G8 leaders are parading naked before their people, stitched up in 'Emperor's New Clothes' tailored by the food Transnational Corporations (TNCs) whose interests they are furthering. Why else, asked delegates to the People's Summit Food Seminar on Friday 15 May, do the G8 leaders pose nonchalantly in Birmingham in the face of massive and increasing monopoly control of the food system by TNCs - a food system that reduces choice, diversity, security and the ownership of life? Either G8 leaders have power, and should exercise it on behalf of their electorates to ensure food security for future generations, or they don't, in which case the charade should stop and Civil Society should take action to arrest the unbridled power of the food TNCs and return control of the food system to the people.

The rapid negative changes in the control of the food system, through trade liberalisation, BioPiracy, patenting, biotechnology (including the release of Terminator Technology, which sterilises farm-saved seed) and unsustainable industrial farming and fishing practices that erode the natural resources on which life depends, are not being challenged effectively. Delegates discussed the rapidly worsening situation of food insecurity in many countries around the world with less control and choice by farmers, fishers and consumers, accompanied by a horrendous increase in farm suicides, and resolved to campaign for increased local control of, improved access to, and a greater diversity of safe, affordable, nutritious food.

There are alternatives, as delegates discussed.

These local alternatives can only flourish, delegates concluded however, within an agreed global framework, perhaps a democratised World Trade Organisation subordinate to the Convention on Biological Diversity on matters concerned with the environment and biodiversity.

Delegates concluded that the globalisation agenda of unfettered freedoms for TNCs through liberalised trade and capital flows, and the illusion of increased choice, is not inevitable, if the people were to exercise their rights and take more responsibility. They recognised the central role of women in the food system, the need to strengthen local and national networks and that international alliances, especially the Global Forum on Food and Nutritional Security set up after the World Food Summit, could be a unifying force for Civil Society.

Delegates resolved to work to:

The seminar ended with an impassioned plea for all of us, our friends, our organisations and our networks, to exercise our rights and responsibilities to ensure equity and justice in the food system. "We must educate, agitate and organise". Universal food security depends on this.

 Patrick Mulvany, Intermediate Technology (ITDG), 15 May 1998



The Food Seminar, chaired by Prof. Tim Lang, Food Policy Thames Valley University, and co-facilitated by Helen Wedgwood, ITDG Food Production Senior Specialist, was attended by more than 40 people from NGOs, academia, campaigners and industry. It was organised as part of the Friends of the Earth's Sustainable Consumption Conference, a contribution to the People's Summit, organised by the New Economics Foundation. It was held in Birmingham at the time of the G8 Summit 1998. Speakers included Kudakwashe Murwira - Food Security Programme Manager ITDG Zimbabwe, Amitava Mukherjee - Director of ActionAid India, Geoff Tansey - Food Policy Writer, Jeannette Longfield - Coordinator of the National Food Alliance. The Organising group for the seminar included: Chris Emerson - SAFE Alliance, Adrian Bebb - Friends of the Earth, Jagdish Patel - UK Food Group Coordinator, Jackie Taylor - ITDG Communications Manager, Nick Hildyard - The CornerHouse, Patrick Mulvany - ITDG Food Security Policy Adviser.


For Further Information contact Lucja Wisniewska, ITDG Press Officer.

Tel: +44 1788 661100 Fax: +44 1788 661101 Email:

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