What is Food Sovereignty?

“Food Sovereignty -the right of peoples and nations to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”

So what does that all mean? I’ve only first heard of this term used just a year ago when I took a class on global food systems in my graduating year. It was there where I learned about the deep struggles many local producers face all around the world.

The term “food sovereignty” was actually coined by the group La Via Campesina, an organization founded by small and middle-scale farmers, peasants, and indigenous producers. It was an initiative to call out and challenge the corporate markets that threaten and disrupt local production methods and way of life, and put the power and control back into local producers’ hands. Specifically, it aims to uphold the farmers and peasants’ right to produce their own food in their own territory, so that it matters who grows the food, where and how it is produced, and at what scale. 

As our world becomes increasingly industrialized and continually advancing in technology and innovation, access to food has become so easy that we don’t really give it a second thought. When we wake up each morning, we never have to question whether or not we’ll be able to obtain food for the day. We know that there will be an abundance of food waiting for us at whichever grocery store of our choosing within any 2 blocks.

And when it comes to the process of actually buying food, we often see the food we buy as just a commodityThis phenomenon is known as commodity fetishism, whereby in this case, food loses its intrinsic, social value and is seen as nothing more than an economic commodity -something we simply pay money for in order to have sustenance for the day. Any social or ecological efforts that went into producing that food is lost on many of us, and even more importantly, they are ignored by the powerful corporations that control our food systems.


As much as we hate to admit it, the corporate players who dominate the food systems that we’re a part of prioritize mass production and maximum profit with little regard for any of the social or ecological consequences of their actions. As a result, humans and ecosystem behind the food are effectively taken out of the equation, and we see food as just food.

In this way, food sovereignty is a social justice initiative, responding to the ignorance of producers’ deprived rights by emphasizing solidarity, seeing food as more than a commodity, and demanding more market regulation from the skewed control led by corporations and the industrial agriculture system.

Food sovereignty is a topic I’m very passionate about. I’d like to emphasize that by no means do I know everything about this issue -on the contrary, I am passionate about food sovereignty mainly because I myself was so ignorant of this issue until recently and now realize how important it is be aware and talk about. I’m still learning about the depth of food justice issues such as this day by day and would love to open up this blog for more discussion, so we can all learn more together!

How about you? When you go to the grocery store, do you ever think about the individuals, farmers, and ecological processes that go into producing that apple, broccoli, milk, or bag of rice that you are holding in your hand as you place it in your grocery cart?

Do you think the initiative of food sovereignty is even necessary? What do you think would be some challenges to implementing food sovereignty in our current food systems today?


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