Change: the food system
- whose power to control?
PEOPLE'S SUMMIT - FOOD SEMINAR REPORT
Food Seminar organised by
Intermediate Technology (ITDG) and the UK Food Group/UKabc (Click Here for
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.
- In Zimbabwe, where local communities have reversed recent trends in
reduction of food security, diversity and choice and are developing their own
sustainable alternatives based on locally-adapted technologies and increased
seed security, backed up by stronger local institutions - a model that is being
- In India, where the control of life through plant patents and the
industrialisation of agriculture is being challenged by an alliance of public
sector ministries and Civil Society organisations that will ensure the Right to
Food, especially in relation to the World Trade Organisation's measures on
intellectual property and its Agreement on Agriculture.
- In the UK, where local organic farming with local marketing and consumption
of produce is providing an alternative to the 1000 hypermarkets whose food
products, that provide the majority of the population's food, travel many
thousands of miles from farm to plate.
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
Delegates resolved to work to:
- Improve local control of the food system with publicly accountable TNCs
operating within a new, democratised, legal and regulatory framework
- Increase local access to affordable, locally-available food, resources,
information and markets
- Protect and enhance dynamic (bio)diversity for food and livelihood
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
SPEAKERS AND ORGANISERS
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
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
- 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
- The CornerHouse, Patrick
- ITDG Food Security Policy Adviser.
For Further Information contact
Wisniewska, ITDG Press Officer.
Tel: +44 1788 661100 Fax: +44 1788 661101 Email:
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