Food as Power

“Food insecurity doesn’t mean there isn’t enough food produced in the world. It means that many people can’t gain access to, afford or grow their own supplies.”

What is food security, and how can you contribute towards it? | GVI (gviafrica.co.za)

The subject of food encompasses more than its benefits to health for humanity. ‘Food’ is so much more than just food. It displays our cultural identity and can yield social coherence -as well as division. We invest in its taste and aesthetic appeal as a form of creative expression. Today there is even the capitalisation of food as entertainment via satellite tv and social media channels. In the commercial aspect, our society opts increasingly for easy ‘convenience’ foods, ‘fast’ food take outs, or home deliveries to help beat the clock governing our rushed lifestyles. Ethically, access to healthy food is every person’s birth right. At the same time, there are millions of people going the extra mile of vegetarianism or veganism. Health-wise, we worry about calorie counting, micro- and macro-nutrients, whole foods versus refined, paleo versus Mediterranean. We inform ourselves about nutritional therapy especially for weight loss, beauty, healing, disease prevention, and sporting performance. Do we do snacking or intermittent fasting to rev up metabolism? Food is connected to body image, emotional comfort, health in all forms.

It is not the first time that we see socio-economic discrepancies being deepened by global events, bursting the bubble of many, who until lately, may have taken relative ease of access to food for granted. If the concept ‘knowledge is power’ can be applied to a basic seed, we embrace a deeper understanding of food, broadening the discussion to go beyond merely health or culture, and enter a space of struggles for power.

The recent pandemic and events in geo-politics raise real concerns around food security. Food security is the focus of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 2: Zero Hunger. In short, food security is about having enough to eat. More than 800 million people live in hunger every day, according to the UN, and experts predict that a further two billion people will be undernourished – not have enough food to stay healthy – by 2050.” The common person has lost more and more connection with the processes involved around food. Not only the biological and farming processes, but the business of it. “Social causes of food insecurity include inequalities in food distribution, unequal access to economic opportunities, and avoidable food waste.” That which used to exist within the realm of the village and local community, now drives profit beyond measure, as well as political governance and economic control. (What is food security, and how can you contribute towards it? | GVI (gviafrica.co.za).

Furthermore, we can never speak about food without understanding soil. Not only ecologically, but also by delving into the historical colonial background of geo-political and multinational monopolies and their demarcation of land ownership that continues to entrench today. Going back to the ecological impact from how food is produced, can we afford to ignore finding better ways of farming other than the predominant model of monoculture? Why is there not greater urgency around strengthening circular methods of farming, packaging, distribution, consumption, and waste reduction and management?  We know why, don’t we?

After all, this is also the age of GMO -the genetic modification of organisms and chemical farming. An age where an old teaching like ‘let food be thy medicine’ may have become a sociological holy grail for more and more people. Seriously, if you change the seed, can the technology over time change the human cell? Even though such food is cheaper?  Such food which is no longer ‘as real as’ food from at least a hundred years ago… Today’s food has become enshrouded by what many argue is posed as an agenda dubbed ‘feeding the masses’. We are now meeting a time where some are now not only remodeling protein but ‘growing’ meat synthetically, taking patented ownership and monopolization to a whole new level.

On the other side of the spectrum of hunger, we can’t forget how global bad food is connected to global bad health – as is illustrated by the current globesity epidemic (global escalating levels of obesity). Apart from your ‘extra’ conscious consumer seeking out alternative suppliers for superfoods and organic, natural products, the vast majority of people today are simply jaded by the smoke and mirrors effect of the food -and pharmaceutical -industries’, who won’t be loosening their grip any time soon.

In essence, food involves many power struggles which most people -who are caught up in everyday life -can’t even begin to contemplate -let alone change, right? Most people are in survival mode and ‘just are’ in ‘the system’ of things.  Food has gone from a simple to a deeply complex affair indeed. Having said all of this, it is our generational responsibility to save soil and to grow our hope. We can become proactive by informing ourselves and bringing food security back into our own hands wherever possible. How can we do this? Start by clicking on some of the latest informative links below.

-By Nicolette Da Costa

Further Information / References

Navdanya and the Navdanya movement created by Dr. Vandana Shiva 30 years ago in India to defend Seed and Food sovereignty and small farmers around the world. https://navdanyainternational.org/

Vandana Shiva & David Susuki: The Virus is a Wake-up Call

Vandana Shiva: How to decolonize the global economy

Vandana Shiva “Soil Not Oil” (main talk)

What is food security, and how can you contribute towards it?

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