STOCK PHOTOIf Vancouver Island is to try to move toward becoming food secure, we must also have food sovereignty to ensure that our farmland is used to grow local food, says columnist.

Column: Food sovereignty needed to achieve food security

We must ensure that our farmland is used to grow local food, says columnist


What is the difference between food security and food sovereignty?

As I understand it, food security refers to the range of food vulnerabilities from emergency food aid, such as food banks and soup kitchens, to decreased dependence on imported food. Food sovereignty is more about who owns the means of production and taking food policy control out of global markets. Ten years ago the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, an intergovernmental panel under the sponsorship of the United Nations and the World Bank, adopted this following definition: “Food sovereignty is defined as the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies.” Emergency food charity will never end until we have measures in place to protect and properly use farmland.

There are always those who resist change with the TINA argument: There Is No Alternative. TINA people maintain that there is no alternative to current global food systems, that new technology can fix everything.

The alternative is already explained by experts who have the statistics to prove that organic agriculture (agroecology) is the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthy food. Frances Moore Lappé outlined this in her article ‘Farming for a Small Planet’ for the international research and action collective GRAIN. She asserts that “how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot – no matter how much we produce.”

Last month Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific stated that “what needs to be done is to dismantle the monopoly control over food, land and market by big private capital; uphold the food sovereignty and right to development of peoples everywhere; implement genuine agrarian reform; and promote agroecological systems as the sustainable and healthier systems of food production.” The current UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, notes that malnutrition is a universal challenge due to chronic undernourishment, nutritional deficiencies and obesity. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization notes that small-scale farmers – with fewer than five acres (two hectares) – manage 84 per cent of the world’s farms and produce most of the food by value, but they control just 12 per cent of the farmland and also make up the majority of the world’s hungry.

If Vancouver Island is to be food secure, we must also have food sovereignty to ensure that our farmland is used to grow local food. That means we must have regulations to protect our farmland from being taken out of production, as well as programs that make land available to young farmers.

Newly elected municipal and regional politicians need to understand the importance of supporting farmers markets, which have been the incubators for young farmers’ businesses as well as the source of healthy food for those who come to buy. They need to instruct their staffs to overhaul antiquated zoning cultures to repair the stultefying effects of subdivision tracts and remove separation of work and shelter and recreation.

And if Canadians watch an average of over four hours of TV, etc., some of that time can be used for scratch cooking.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at

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