Policies for a Sustainable Food Future

22 Oct 2010

Terra Madre workshops opened today with a series of discussions to finalize the network’s new Sustainability and Food Policies document. Students and well-known academic experts presented a draft of the document, which was developed this summer in an online course, as the first step in formulating concrete proposals to lobby international decision-makers for an alternative, more incisive and constructive model of production and consumption. The policies cover eight interconnected issues for creating an environmentally, socially and economically responsible world: Social Systems and Transformations, Energy and Systemic Production, Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Goods, Exchanges and Shared Resources and Law, Rights and Policies.

The “Energy and Sustainable Production” session opened with a discussion on the necessity of moving from a linear economic model in which the fundamental elements of productive processes are product and profit, to a system that has people as its focus, and where the outputs of productive processes become input for other areas. Participants discussed that the sustainability of an economic system based on oil is no longer a viable option. At the conclusion of the conference, students from the Advanced School Policies and Sustainability presented theoretical and practical guidelines for sustainable energy and production.

The workshop on “Social Systems and Transformations” explored how social systems are key elements in food matters, whether it is the preservation of biodiversity, food traditions or the fight against hunger. Emeritus professor Serge Latouche spoke of his vision of the fundamental principles needed to provide a healthier social and economic system, and therefore a healthier food system. Writer, activist and academic Raj Patel focused on the need to create a strong political dimension to current food movements. He also urged that policies must be holistic (not only about food) and in alliance with other movements. He insisted on the need for organization, and reminded participants that any political action takes time. Both speakers agreed that the needs of people must be at the center of any discussion on these matters.

Redefining how value is placed on goods and distinguishing the difference between quality and luxury were recurring themes at the presentation of the draft food policy entitled “Goods, Exchange and Shared Resources”. The draft policy calls for a re-evaluation of the current agrifood system and policy designs to encompass the tenets of good, clean and fair; a new definition of efficiency that acknowledges the damaging effect that subsidies have on the true cost of food as well as its diminishing of small-scale food producers; and the need to change the current attitude towards farming as a profession.

During the “Biodiversity and Ecosystems” workshop, the importance of diversity within groups and within the entire biosphere was discussed, focusing on the need to retain food and agricultural biodiversity for the survival of the planet. In addition, linguistic and cultural diversity was also a topic, with an emphasis on the connection between the loss of languages and traditional knowledge and the erosion of biological diversity.
The final version of the document will be published in eight languages on December 10 for Terra Madre Day – when the Slow Food and Terra Madre network hold hundred of events in communities around the world to celebrate eating locally – and will be promoted to local media, officials and policymakers.

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