Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty Meeting

Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty Meeting

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FoEI Group PhotoThere are millions of hungry people in the world and someone has to feed them. Small farms that seek to provide healthy food for their surrounding areas are being threatened by large-scale industrial agriculture.  To make matters worse, genetically modified foods and emerging technologies, like nanotechnology and synthetic biology, continue to threaten the extinction of small farms and hurt the consumer by removing the power of choice.

The Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty campaign held a a strategy meeting in Amsterdam recently.  Gillian Madill, our Genetic Technologies Campaigner, attended in order to provide the new technologies perspective, as well as to hear about the work being done in other Friends of the Earth offices around the world.

Saturday 4/18 – Sunday 4/19: FoEI Food Sovereignty Strategy Meeting

For two days, we met as a group of about 40 people from all over the Friends of the Earth International network and included representatives from La Via Campesina (LVC) and World March of Women (WMW).  LVC and WMW were included in our strategy meeting, for the first time, in order find areas of collaboration and to create a plan that includes both farmers and gender issues, which are central to the campaign for food sovereignty. 

Friends of the Earth groups from Nigeria, Swaziland, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Uruguay, Paraguay, Mexico, El Salvador, Latvia, EWNI, Netherlands, and Spain attended, as well as LVC representatives from Canada, India, Norway, South America and greater Europe, and WMW representatives from Brazil and the greater South America region.  This made for a very lively, rich discussion about values, stories, and ideas that all educated the creation of an ambitious strategy to execute the various goals of the food sovereignty campaign.

Although one primary focus of the meeting was to find ways to include farmers and women’s issues into our campaign, I also spoke about how our converging technologies campaign relates to food sovereignty issues.  Nanotechnology and cloned animals for food will put increasing pressure our food systems, so it is imperative to stretch our strategy beyond GMO crops and to new technologies in general.  

We had great conversations with Friends of the Earth South Korea about working together on cloned meat, since they are very concerned about the possibility of South Korea following U.S. policy on this issue.  Friends of the Earth South Korea was extremely alarmed about their seemingly national policy of pursuing human cloning research.  This could be a great collaboration between our group and South Korea, which is a key player internationally on these technologies.

I also spoke with our new member group, Friends of the Earth Mexico, that is interested in working together on new technologies issues, with a special interest in intellectual property, sugarcane mono-cultures that are needed for synthetic biology, and U.S.-Mexico issues.

Helen Holder, the European Coordinator for the GMOs, Food and Farming campaign from Friends of the Earth Europe is coming to visit the U.S. in May, and we are working on plans to coordinate her visit.  We are also working on creating a new strategy to collaborate on our cloned animals and synthetic biology campaign in Europe.

Monday 4/20: Media Strategy & Training

Friends of the Earth International Secretariat folks hosted a full-day media strategy and training for the food sovereignty program.  We included the issue of intellectual property into the the objectives, because it is at the heart of all the anti-GMO campaigns.  Without patents, there would be no GMOs.

Tuesday 4/21: Public Event on Soya Farming

Friends of the Earth hosted a public discussion and debate on soya farming.  The event focused on the unsustainable practice of monoculture soya cultivation in South America, featuring Martin Drago of Friends of the Earth Uruguay who exposed the real drastic effects of soya monocultures on local communities.  There were about 50 attendees, all of whom were very concerned about European policies that were incentivizing and promoting soya monocultures in South America.  You can read more about Friends of the Earth Netherlands campaign against GMOs here.