Denouncing The UN Food Systems Summit 2021!

No sooner had countries of the global south liberated from the clutches of colonialism, than they were trapped once again by global capitalism; this time as ‘free member-nations’ of the new international monetary  system and trade regimes established at Bretton Woods in 1944, and operationalised through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, institutions formed at the conference. India was still a colony, when it participated at Bretton Woods, and  became a member of the World Bank Group in 1945.    

Controlling the food systems of the global south, has always been an integral component of capitalist expansion, and has taken various forms since we gained independence:   forced grain imports from the global north (such as the infamous PL- 480 wheat imports into India from the USA in the 1950s and 60s) which destroyed local food production, and set the stage for the onset of the ‘Green Revolution’ in the 1960s, with its package of HYV seeds, pesticides, chemical fertilisers, high energy and water intensive crops. Pro-actively financed and piloted by the capitalists of that time, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, States of the global south including India, already trapped in Bretton woods debt-based development, were arm-twisted into Green Revolution becoming the mainstay of agriculture policy, via State support. Parallel macro-economic food-grain public procurement policies that focused exclusively on procuring rice and wheat (the 2 primary green revolution crops), forced farmers to switch from cultivating ecologically resilient millets and pulses, to wheat and rice. In India, from a high of 55.6 million hectares in 1968, millets and pulse production plummeted to 28 million hectares by 2006. 

The 1980s Washington consensus imperialist policy prescriptions of the US, its allies, along with the IMF and World Bank,  upon debt-strapped countries of the global south anxious to access fresh loans from these institutions, similarly forced India in the 1990s, into accepting the conditionalities of the IMF and the World Bank  to push through macroeconomic stabilization reforms and structural adjustment programs. This paved the way for further destruction of our food and agriculture system. Food and agriculture were identified as key growth sectors requiring economic reforms, and resulted in shrinking state agriculture subsidies, diminished agriculture budgets, liberalised trade regimes after India joined the World Trade Organisation in 1995,  facilitating imports of highly subsidised food and agriculture commodities from the global north, to compete with non-subsidised food produced by India’s farmers, and a shift from a universal to a targeted public food distribution system. Subsequent multilateral free trade agreements, 100% foreign direct investment in key agriculture and food sectors, agribusiness financed expansion of green revolution and genetic engineering technology into rainfed and eastern India, has culminated today in the complete deregulation of food and agriculture markets manifested in the 3 Farm Laws, new land lease laws, labour laws and digital technologies in agriculture, which completes the story of structural adjustments, and sets the stage for the total control of India’s food systems by agribusiness and related corporations, from farm to plate . This also includes the capitalisation and agri-business capture  of agro-ecology, considered by social movements to be a counter to industrial agriculture. The new-age philanthro-capitalists such as the Gates Foundation, are pro-actively pushing the agenda of corporate capture of food and agriculture systems be they  chemical or agro-ecological. 

The upcoming UN Food Systems Summit 2021, scheduled to be held as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, has been shaped, is governed and controlled by Corporates represented by the World Economic Forum (WEF), along with the identical set of players that created this highly unjust , exploitative and iniquitous global food regime, in the first place. The Summit is blatantly more of the same. Reprehensibly, these institutions whose actions have resulted in starvations, chronic malnutrition, deaths, livelihood loss, inequality and poverty,  dispossession, poisoned air, waters, soils, ecological and climatic chaos, far from being  held accountable and penalised for their unjust actions over all these decades,  now present themselves as the leaders to solve the problem that is of their own making, via ‘multi-stakeholder dialogues’ at the UN Food Systems Summit.  In the words of the WEF, the summit will initiate ‘ Joint reflection’  among leading  development institutions, member- states , donors and other stakeholders on changes required in the Food System and create a shared vision for more sustainable food systems! The World Bank’s Dialogue, in partnership with UNEP, and IFPRI, dispels any illusions anyone may have about the true intentions of this summit when they specifically state “ The UN Food Systems Summit Global Finance Dialogue brings together public and private stakeholders to tackle barriers to investment and to build an ambitious shared vision of a Food Finance Architecture that mobilises large scale capital for more sustainable food systems”-an oxymoron if ever there was one.   

The World Economic Forum, building on its experiences of implementing its New Vision for Agriculture (NVA) initiatives in 3 Indian States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra which includes the much touted Zero Budget Natural Farming of AP) , is supporting the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare in the development of a multistakeholder Agricultural Value System Platform to cover all primary agricultural sectors and activities and promote public-private partnerships and enable scaling of the partnership approach to all interested states. The proposed platform, which will operate at national, state and district levels, is envisaged to transform food value chain systems in India through multi-stakeholder participation from private sector, government, international bodies, and farmers groups, and is part of the strategy to double farmers incomes by 2022. Select corporate members of the WEF’s NVA India Business Council scripted the mechanics of how Agriculture Exports should drive India’s agriculture policy, an integral component of India’s XVth Finance Commissions Report.    It thus comes as no surprise that India  wholeheartedly supports the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, which is in line with the countries  objectives of handing over India’s food system from farm to plate, to Corporates . 

Regardless of which political party has been in power at the centre, governments have submissively and unquestioningly followed this diktat, which today  serves the interest of both domestic and international capital and agribusiness/ corporates whose profits stand to rise, with their capture of the global food supply chains. The pandemic only contributed to magnifying this enslavement, and the entrenched utter exploitations of the system . 

This system has to be dismantled; not ‘transformed’  as is the slogan of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021. And towards this end, we The Food Sovereignty Alliance, India denounce this Summit as another farce, and a strategy to mobilise the global UN system with all its member countries to officially endorse Corporate Controlled Global Food Futures. An immediate step in our struggle to dismantle the regime,  is to force our government to repeal the 3 Farm Laws and associated laws. Our long term struggle lies in reconstructing a democratic non-brahminical, non-patriarchal and non-capitalist just food farming system, founded on the tenets of Food Sovereignty which begins with executing the unfinished agenda of genuine land reforms , where the State is accountable to the people, and not to Capital.