Events and actions
Sat 8 June will see David Cameron host a ‘hunger summit’ in London, the first in a series of events leading up to the G8 summit in ten days’ time. The event will include a meeting of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a private investment initiative launched by the G8 in order to expand the reach of multinational companies into Africa. The UK government has pledged £395m of taxpayers’ money to the scheme.
African civil society groups have condemned the New Alliance as part of a ‘new wave of colonialism’ that will hand over their farmland to foreign investors and destroy their livelihoods. Over 40 companies have signed up to profit from the initiative, including agribusiness giants Monsanto, Syngenta and Diageo. Today’s hunger summit is being held at the headquarters of Unilever, another company set to make a killing from the scheme.
We stand in solidarity with African civil society in rejecting the New Alliance. We call on the prime minister to withhold the £395m in UK aid money that he has pledged to the initiative, and to invest it instead in support for smallholder farmers in Africa. Members of the public are invited to join our protest outside Unilever House at 10am on Sat 8 June 2013.
UK food sovereignty movement
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Food systems have become global, multinational businesses, and food sovereignty has to address the scale of this global problem. However, the situation in each country and region is different, and the battle must be fought in different ways appropriate to the local context.
In the UK, we are fortunate to be experiencing something of a ‘food renaissance’. In recent years there has been a blossoming of interest in recipe books, cookery programmes, and of course, celebrity chefs! We are all familiar with the government’s ‘5-a-day’ recommendation and the concept of ‘super-foods’, and schools and businesses are under pressure to overhaul their canteens. A nation of animal lovers, public interest has been sparked by campaigns concerning battery hens and the welfare of other livestock, and in the UK – unlike many of our neighbouring European countries – it is neither difficult nor unusual to be a vegetarian. Retailers are finding that labelling British produce increases sales, as people are keen to buy local and support British farmers. This is an exciting time for food in the UK, with hundreds of individual projects – food co-ops, veg-box schemes, farmers’ markets, organic cafes, allotment initiatives and more – going on in all parts of the country, and a growing awareness that a better food system is possible.
These are the assets the UK food sovereignty movement is inheriting. However, the UK has its own set of challenges to face too. In so-called ‘under developed’ countries, the majority of farming is still small scale with little or no chemical input. Not so in Britain – here the fields have long since been turned over to industrialised farming, and chemical fertilisers are the norm. This status quo will be difficult to overturn. The first growing of GM in the UK has gone ahead this year, and the EU has just ruled to allow GM in animal feed, meaning it is in our food chain too.
The coming months and years will be critical in the fight for food, people and planet, and the UK could have a big part to play. The organic and environmental movement have a long history in this country, as do agriculture and food production. Today, more and more people are recognising that we have gone down the wrong path with our food system. The role of Food Sovereignty UK will be to harness that energy and unite those concerned about local food, organics, producers’ rights, animal rights, land rights, health, etc, in bringing about the changes we need.