Food – a commodity or a human right?

So – food: The thing we all depend on, the thing that gives us energy to live and vital nutrition, what is it? A commodity like all other commodities, made to make money on, or a basic human right that everyone should have a right to?








How you answer that question tells a lot about you and what kind of food policy you support.

As for me, you can probably guess my answer. That food is a human right isn’t just an ideal but a fact. It says so in the human rights declaration. But what does that actually mean? I mean, when people is deprived of food, when One billion people starve, as today, and when a child dies every sixth second because of food deprivation, who is to blame? And more important, who is to take the responibility for it?

In 2002, the US refused to sign a text saying that food is a human right. The juridicial implications of this is that the US would like to avoid being legally bound to any responsibility when it comes to poor people starving. On a rhetorical level, the US supports the human rights like all other, but not when it comes to politics. Why? Because they think it’s each country’s own responsibility to make sure that its inhabitants don’t starve.

What comes out of this? Well, it means that the US can continue to support a global food policy that on a rhetorical level claims to want to eradicate hunger and poverty, but in reality tries to uphold status quo and make as much money as possible. And I’m not just talking about the US here, let that be clear.

Every country that is historically responsible for contributing to the fact that we have the largest amount og hunger stricken people in the world ever is responsible, as well as all the rich countries that says hunger must be combated with all means, while utilizing no means, or the means that everyone knows won’t work. Yes, just by upholding the regime that is today, we are all responsible of the global hunger we see today.

But more on the individual responibility another time. Right now back to perhaps the biggest scandale in modern history: The fact that we today have a trade regime that systematically robs food from hungry people that desperately need it. We have a regime today which regards food as a basic commodity, as a good that is supposed to be traded on a global market like any other thing. What does this entail?

A lot of things, amongst others:
– That the food production system follows along captalist and neoliberal lines, meaning that those with money has the most power, and those with power get even more money.
– That global food production is governed by the principles of high gain and quick profits to the ones on the top, no matter what the social concequences are
– That the system we have now contributes to an increase in inequality and unfair distribution of natural resources, making the poor even poorer, and the hungy even hungrier
– That big transnational companies get to have control over icreasingly larger areas of land and markets, producing more and more goods that are directly exported ut of poor countries
– That poor rural farmers in the global South keep getting forced to produce cash crop food for a large, global market instead of producing healthy and nutritious food for themselves and for local consumtpion.
– And that companies like for example Monsanto get to patent traditionally common natural resources like seeds, making old cultivation and trading traditions amongst farmers illegal, and makes it illegal to own seeds that are not in fact bought from Monsanto.

Personally, I can’t even begin to undertand how it is possible that we have come to this. Isn’t it quite strange that about 75 per cent of the hungry people in the world is involved in food production? Isn’t it also quite strange that since we began with neoliberal food politics, especially since the 80’s, hunger has just increased? I mean, this is a system meant to give everyone an opportunity to participate in the world markets. And the market mechanisms are perfect, right?

Apparently not. Obviously, this is one of the most well-crafted lies the capitalist world has come up with ever. The truth is, hunger wasn’t eradicated when food was abundant and food prices were low, and it certainly won’t be eradicated now, with an ever higher population increase, food scarcity and high food prices.

The market will never fix this. Why? Because the market doesn’t care about people. It care about profits. It doesn’t even care about the fact that the way we are doing agriculture at the moment is destroying it’s own natural foundation from which it gets it’s wealth from; that the nature gets ruined because the industrial agriculture isn’t sustainable.

It’s all about here and now. No thought for consequences. Not as long as somebody makes money today. No matter how many people die.

This is food as a commodity. It will never reach out to the hungry when the hungry don’t have money to buy it. We, on the other hand, have loads of money. We buy so much food that we throw away up to 50% of it. Because we have become wealthy at the expence of those who now can’t scrape together enough money for more than one meal a day.

Something is clearly wrong here. What is positive, however, is that it can be changed. Rather: we can change it. Of course, hunger could have been eradicated a long time ago, had the world leaders actually wanted it. But it’s not in their interest. Therefore, we should let ourselves get in touch with the moral consience we all have, and call on those with power to take responsibility. The world can be changed, and people like these guys are the ones who make it possible. La via campesina has started a worldwide movement, doing progress for the sake of food sovereignty every day.

But it’s not enough. It takes all of us to do it. All who dream or once have dreamed that a better and more just world is possible. Food is a human right, and the fact that one billion people in the world today live in hunger, is humanity’s – by far – biggest disgrace.

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