By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – Regional and international people’s organizations and advocates led by the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) recently held the Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems through various online and on-ground activities.
“A true and legitimate People’s Summit should put the hungry and marginalized – landless farmers, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, rural women, youth, rural people living in occupied areas, and sanctioned peoples – at the helm of agenda-setting in the radical transformation of our food systems,” said PCFS global co-chairperson Razan Zuayter.
The GPS is a challenge to the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) held on September 23 in New York.
With the theme “Resist! End the global corporate food empire!”, the three-day counter-summit aimed to “expose the neoliberal agenda and corporate capture in the UN Food Systems Summit and present an actionable, pro-people and pro-planet alternative to radically transform the food systems.”
Global corporate food empire
According to Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific executive director, the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems directly challenges the “global corporate food empire” that exploits and oppresses small food producers who feed the world.
“These corporations are out to further consolidate their control of land, seeds, agricultural inputs and markets by embedding themselves even deeper into policy-making processes of the UN and its member states, as what we are witnessing now with the UN FSS,” said Rengam.
He explained that the massive corporations affiliated with the UN are actually peddling the discredited market-based solutions and techno-fixes, “that are responsible for much of the widespread hunger and environmental destruction we are experiencing,” in the guise of helping ‘transform’ food systems.
Towards a Filipino food system
In the Philippines, Salu-salo National People’s Food Systems Summit 2021, a collaborative effort of various progressive organizations, aims to build a food system needed by the Filipino people in the time of a pandemic and worsening hunger.
Last year’s data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology revealed that 62 percent of Filipinos suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity.
To combat this issue, the Duterte administration was urged to rechannel the proposed P30.46 billion ($607.5 million) 2022 budget for counterinsurgency agency National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to subsidize food production instead.
Agroecology X, a community of organizations and sustainable agriculture practitioners, likewise created an eight-step method to attain secure, safe, and affordable food for and from the Filipino people, as follows: stop the liberalization and foreign domination on food; implement genuine land reform; achieve just prices and wages; strengthen Filipino agriculture and develop rural and national industries; fund Filipino food; ensure sufficient and immediate support in times of calamity; promote farmer-led research and development; and advance the people’s democratic rights.
The group believes that through a strong people’s movement, the Philippines can realize a complete shift on who controls the food systems, a tilt in power relations “paving the way for the people to put power from corporate hands into those who produce food.”
Respect for food sovereignty
This was echoed by Zuayter who proposed to redirect focus to the grassroots level instead of giving multinational corporations a platform.
“Food systems can be transformed through the respect of food sovereignty via the will of landless peasants, small farmers, and fishers,” he said.
He reiterated that the Global People’s Summit is a space to listen to their aspirations.
“We cannot succeed in our efforts without ending the use of food as a weapon in the context of war, militarization, sanctions, and occupation,” he said.
“We are the real People’s Summit. We have shown that the people are hungry for real change, and are willing to do whatever it takes to fight for and reclaim their land, their rights, and the future of food systems,” concluded Zuayter.
The summit ended with a protest action at the UN Headquarters in New York organized by the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), International Women’s Alliance, and the International Migrants Alliance. (JJE, RTS)