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Using your vote – not just your wallet – to change the food system

July 2010

In another great piece in GRIST, author Tom Philpott stresses that we can’t change the broken food system only through changing what food we consume and how, important thought it may be. This echoes what progressive U.S. food system advocates have been saying for some time: to fix the current food system we need structural change. “We also have to get out there and organize for policy reform: to become, in short, a countervailing force that challenges the power of the food lobby”, Philpott contends.

The U.S. Working Group on the Global Food Crisis, comprising over fifty national, state and local organizations, has been working since 2007 on educating the public and public servants on the issues Philpott raises. In fact, members of the U.S. Working Group mobilized hundreds of people during the recent U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit, Michigan on addressing systemic change through the concepts and tools of food sovereignty/justice. See the final declaration of the people’s movement assembly on Food Sovereignty.

If the Obama Administration is serious about safeguarding U.S. communities’ right to food (as well as helping eliminating hunger in developing nations, for that matter), it will have to actively curb transnational corporations’ influence over and control of our food system. For too long, the food/agribusiness lobby in the U.S. has hijacked policy discussions and legislation that have favored concentration of power and wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations, instead of families, communities and even our governments. The administration’s record at the G-20 summit in Toronto (around the same time as the USSF) is not a good indication of forward movement on curbing corporations’ excesses.

U.S. organizations and communities advocating for food sovereignty/justice are pushing in the opposite direction. Food sovereignty is the right path to restore democracy in our food system. Our biggest concern should be eliminating hunger and poverty from the farm to the city. Increasingly, farmers are losing their land, farmworkers are dying in the fields of hunger and exhaustion, and low-income consumers are only able to afford unhealthy food.

Allies like GRIST play an important role in the movement for food sovereignty/justice, without whose professional, and quality, journalism we are not going to be able to advance food sovereignty.

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