Over 300 scientists and academics are boycotting the UN’s first Food Systems Summit to be held later this year.
They’ve joined 500 civil society groups representing 300 million members who form the People’s Autonomous Response to the UN Food Systems Summit which will hold alternative meetings in protest.
The group says, “The summit drives transformation of food systems into the wrong direction: it does nothing to pave the way for the urgent and profound change needed in food systems.
“With the UN event being hijacked by representatives of the food industry and agribusiness, it is likely that the summit’s narrative supports industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive use of pesticides and monocultures of commodities, which causes soil deterioration, contamination of water courses and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and people’s health, will continue to grow and wreak havoc.”
In their petition, the scientists cite criticism of the Food Systems Summit by the current UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food Michael Fakhri, his predecessor Hilal Elver and Olivier De Schutter, also a former Rapporteur on the Right to Food and now UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
The scientists say “knowledge-intensive agriculture like agroecology has largely been sidelined from summit discussions,” adding “an early concept paper… made no mention of agroecology, organic farming, or Indigenous ecological knowledge.
“Using 25 per cent of resources, the peasant web feeds 70 per cent of the world”
“Innovation is being narrowly defined along the lines of corporate-dominated agribusiness.
“But as former UN FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva recently argued: ‘Agroecology should not be seen as a movement backwards that rejects new technologies. It is a different way of producing food that requires innovation, respecting local conditions and the participation of producers in the innovation process.’
“Agroecology must be recognised for transforming food systems, alongside food sovereignty and the human right to food.”
The wider group says, “There is no need to develop technologies such as genetically modified organisms, nor to push for euphemisms such as sustainable intensification, climate-smart agriculture or nature-positive solutions.
“Currently, 70 per cent of the world gets food from the peasant food web, which works with only 25 per cent of the resources.
“Millions of smallholder farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, agricultural and rural workers, and entire indigenous communities practice agroecology.
“The summit is side lining the UN Committee on World Food Security’s Civil Society and Indigenous People’s Mechanism”
“Agroecological farming constantly adapts to local needs, customs, soils and climates. As countless experts have attested, agroecology improves nutrition, reduces poverty, contributes to gender justice, combats climate change, and enriches farmland.”
The group says the summit is dominated by corporate interests such as the World Economic Forum, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Agri-Food Network, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the EAT Forum, Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Business Network, as well as corporate philanthropies such as Rockefeller Foundation, Gates Foundation and Stordalen Foundation.
It’s critical that the President of AGRA, Agnes Kalibata, was appointed UN Special Envoy for the Summit. Previous research found a 30 per cent increase in hunger where AGRA operates.
The scientists say “the role of Dr Agnes Kalibata casts the legitimacy of the UN Food Systems Summit into real doubt.
“By appointing Kalibata as the Special Envoy, the United Nations has given AGRA, and agribusiness, special entry to the negotiation process.”
The group also says the summit is side lining the UN Committee on World Food Security’s Civil Society and Indigenous People’s Mechanism.
Quota’s own proposal to the UN Food Systems Summit, led by Professor Tim Lang, respects the request in the scientists’ petition which reads: If you are participating in panels, workshops, or other events about the UNFSS, press to have rights-based governance and epistemic justice put at their heart.
Please do register to join our event discussing the proposal on July 27.