Although long overdue, we now consider what has come to be known as “food sovereignty” as a proper universal right. This means that people have the right to healthy food. This places a great strain on governments to monitor food production and keep high standards that cannot be exposed to corruption. Furthermore, these foods must be “culturally appropriate”, and at the same time, they should be produced through methods that are ecologically sound and sustainable.
Now, where does the “sovereignty” part come in? Well, at least in paper, this implies the ability of each local people to own and run their food systems; that is, to be self-sufficient when it comes to their supply of food.
There are a couple of things, however, that deserve to be explained a bit more. For instance, what does “culturally appropriate food” mean in a precise and enforceable manner that can be set to a law? It simply refers to the particular cuisine that is traditionally used by a certain ethnic group. This is believed to reflect the values, norms, religion and preferences of that group, and as such is part of their philosophy and identity as human beings and communities. It must be taken into consideration, nevertheless, that this set of cultural elements are usually dynamic and can be expected to change over time; at least that is the case with the average ethnic group. While some believe that international trade will help this, this is still contested by those who believe that self-sufficiency and sovereignty is only such if it is entirely rooted on the land that people belong to and own.
What can be done, however, in cases where cultural cuisines have become reliant on foreign imports, is to find a way to replace the same flavor or function with something that can be produced more locally or at least with a lower degree of dependency on an outside force. There are many examples of this, a primary one being the island countries of Japan and Taiwan, which have been dependent on imports for a very long time. The latter has had an overpopulation problem since the 18th century, but the government continues to encourage population growth and a cutting away of farming land in exchange for more industrial and housing development. Talk about people against local sovereignty…
Some have alluded to an “interwoven sovereignty”, whereby both parties rely on each other and so none has a real monopoly. This sounds very nice, but is completely unrealistic unless massive social and economic change is carried out for the benefit of the weaker parties. History has shown that this sort of ideal situation will never be allowed to happen without forceful interruption. Nevertheless, it is our duty to continue to fight for it in order to create a better world.