“Food sovereignty” – people’s right to decide what they eat and what they produce – is today one of the hottest topics debated around food policies.
It arose in the mid-1990s, when the debates around food policies were dominated by the globalisation of agribusiness and by food aid. At that time, peasants and small farmers who were – and still are – the world’s main food producers saw that the policies implemented were serving large conglomerates and not the people – transforming small-scale agriculture into industrial plantations; dumping food surpluses from rich countries in poor ones; increasing the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers; concentrating food production in the hands of multinationals.
While the World Trade Organisation was being invented in 1995, some small-farmer organisations from across the world came together to defend sustainable family farming. It was simply about producing healthy food for local markets while creating jobs and protecting the land and its diversity. The idea to call this “food sovereignty” emanated from these discussions, and was presented in 1996 at the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s world food summit in Rome.