India’s food security emergency

Source: Al Jazeera

Corporate influence on food production and large, chemical monoculture farms is causing a severe food insecurity crisis.

The proposed introduction of the Food Security Act by the UPA Government is a welcome and much needed step towards securing the right to food for all of India’s citizens. The right to food is the basis of the right to life, and Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life of all Indian citizens.

India has emerged as the capital of hunger, illustrated by the fact that per capita consumption has dropped from 178 kg in 1991 – the beginning of the period of economic reforms – to 155 kg in 200-2003.

Daily calorie consumption of the bottom 25 per cent of the population has decreased from 1683 in 1987-88 to 1624 in 2004-05, against a national norm of 2400 and 2011 k cal/day for rural and urban areas respectively.

Therefore, a response on the food security front is really a response to a national emergency. Unfortunately, the current approach to food security in the draft law Food Security Act ignores the larger food crisis.

What is food security?

Food security includes three vital aspects: Ecological security, food sovereignty, and food safety.

Land, water and biodiversity are the natural capital for the food production. Currently, each of these is under severe threat. The land-grab of fertile farm land is not just an issue of injustice against farmers, but it is actually a threat to the nation’s food security.

If fertile farm lands disappear, there will be no food.

India’s seed wealth is being handed over to global corporations leading to erosion of biodiversity and undermining of farmers’ rights. Without seed sovereignty there can no food sovereignty.

The country as a whole is growing increasingly vulnerable on the ecological security front, even more so because of climate change. That is why ecological agriculture that builds ecological security and resilience is necessary at this time for food security.

Food sovereignty is increasingly being lost as food and agriculture is hijacked by global agribusiness and determined by the unfair rules of WTO. That is why fair trade and WTO reform is vital to food security, and food sovereignty must be its foundation.

India’s food is becoming unsafe and hazardous, with GMOs and chemically-processed food being promoted.

Corporations like Pepsi and Coke sit on the newly formed Food Safety Committee. The corporate influence on issues of safety is denying citizens their right to safe food. Without safe food there is no food security; without food democracy there is neither food safety nor food security.

The biggest blind spot in the dominant paradigm of food security is neglecting food production and food producers as a core element in the current food security approach.

You cannot provide food to people if you do not first ensure that food is produced in adequate quantities. And in order to ensure food production, the livelihood of food producers must be ensured. The right of food producers to produce food is the foundation of food security. This right has internationally evolved through the concept of “food sovereignty”. In Navdanya we refer to it as Anna Swaraj.

Food sovereignty is derived from socio-economic human rights, which include the right to food and the right to produce food for rural communities.

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