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UN Report Calls for Radical, Democratic Food System

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The current global food system needs to be "radically" and "democratically" changed in order to alleviate global hunger and serve human rights over the profits of major agribusiness corporations, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

"At the local, national and international levels, the policy environment must urgently accommodate alternative, democratically-mandated visions" which go beyond the goal of profit maximization and instead rebuild local and sustainable food models, said Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter, while presenting his final report (pdf) to the UN Human Rights Council, finalizing his six-year term.

"Food democracy must start from the bottom-up, at the level of villages, regions, cities, and municipalities," the rights expert said.

"Food security must be built around securing the ability of smallholder farmers to thrive," he emphasized. "Respect for their access to productive resources is key in this regard."

The current system, says De Schutter, has instead created a world monopolized by the big-agro "green revolution" of mono-cropping, industrialization and pesticide-heavy techniques, which has boosted agricultural production over the past 50 years but has "hardly reduced the number of hungry people," the report states.

This system of large-scale export-based agriculture is most often "based on the exploitation of a largely dis-empowered workforce," the report states, "operated at the expense of family farms producing food crops for local consumption" that cannot keep up with corporate competitors.

This has resulted in a "paradoxical situation in which many low-income countries, though they are typically agriculture-based, raw commodity-exporting economies, are highly dependent on food imports," the report states, "sometimes supplemented by food aid, because they have neglected to invest in local production and food processing to feed their own communities."

This industrialized system has also led to a major loss in biodiversity, soil erosion, mass pollution, and a rise in man-made greenhouse gas emissions-"the most potentially devastating impacts of industrial modes of agricultural production," the report states.

Under these conditions, and particularly with the onset of climate change, agricultural productivity will only decrease sharply over time, De Schutter warns.   
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