A fair climate change requires food sovereignty

World food consumption today accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and Sweden must switch to agriculture, but the opposite is happening at EU level. We need a policy that supports a sustainable and fair conversion of the agricultural system for food sovereignty, write Fanny Skarborg Butler and Linn Rabe from Framtidsjorden.

On 19/3, Fridays for future called for a global strike for the climate under the slogan #nomoreemptypromises. The same week started with International Consumer Day and for Framtidsjorden it is obvious that we need to talk about the effect of food consumption on the environment and the politicians' empty promises about the food system.

When the EU's CAP was voted through in October 2020, it quickly became clear that the effect of the budget negotiations would make the climate goals declared by the UN in Agenda 2030 impossible. climate collapse.

Along the entire food chain, food affects the environment. About a third of households' consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions come from food. Swedish food management, for example, also accounts for half of our total eutrophication. Without requirements for sustainable food production, biodiversity and thus also exponentially reduces nature's capacity to cope with climate change. But when environmental law organizations sound the alarm about system collapse (eg #votethisCAPdown) as a result of industrial agriculture, MEPs shrug their shoulders the most and note better profit opportunities or debate the names of plant-based products. This does not meet the standard for securing food sovereignty, neither in Sweden, the EU nor the global South.

Sweden trades mostly with other EU countries, mainly Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. But in those imports often hides the original source from third-party countries with even lower demands on the environment and social justice. This means that if a banana boat from Colombia sails across the Atlantic to Rotterdam and that the cargo is then taken on to Helsingborg, Sweden will, on paper, buy fruit from the Netherlands. We do this because it provides cheaper food supply, not because it is an ecologically sustainable food strategy.

Sweden is now supporting a new free trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur countries; Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, which would increase the exploitation of the Amazon and further impair food sovereignty in both regions. If only one country vetoes the EU Council of Ministers, the agreement cannot normally be approved. It is thus up to the EU countries' trade and foreign ministers, including Sweden's foreign minister Ann Linde, to decide the fate of the agreement.

The free trade agreement is a direct threat to the environment by increasing trade in some of the most climate-damaging goods such as meat, soy, bioethanol, pesticides and fossil cars. Although efficient and large-scale food production ensures food security in the short term, it is not possible to grow on dead soil. When we deplete the earth of nutrients, we also threaten the world's food supply.

By pushing down production prices according to the principles and market forces of efficiency and competition, farmers are being pushed harder and harder in the global food system. As we increasingly separate production and consumption, it has ecological consequences: fossil fuel dependence, loss of biodiversity and the extinction of smallholder-diversified agriculture over specialized industrial agriculture. This for-profit dynamic deepens long-term processes that marginalize farmers and create poorer consumers without stable incomes. Adjusting agriculture is therefore important to counteract and adapt to climate change, to protect biodiversity and to fight poverty.

The climate crisis requires a system change through new agricultural policies that support food sovereignty. That is, which enables local solutions for small-scale agriculture according to agro-ecological principles. We need to focus on producers and consumers, rather than intermediaries, in order to cope with socially just climate adaptation.

There are good conditions in Sweden for increased self-sufficiency and crisis preparedness. An increased production of Swedish food is a need that became even clearer during the corona pandemic. That Sweden's degree of self-sufficiency is declining is very worrying. In the early 1990s, the figure was 75% and today it is below 50%. A long-term policy that pushes for an export-import system and with a clear urban norm for Swedish society is the reason for this development. Sweden needs to rethink.

We need a policy that can:

  • Support a sustainable and fair conversion of the agricultural system to food sovereignty. It is particularly important to ensure producers' access to and participation in decision-making bodies related to agriculture and food production.
  • Enrich forests and land, on store shelves, on the plate and in decision-making rooms with diversity.
  • Act to transform conventional agriculture from a fossil-based production system to a circular and renewable food system.
  • Action for a change in the EU's common agricultural policy. It must focus on the well - being of nature, humans and animals, instead of capital and multinational corporate profits. The CAP is potentially a powerful policy instrument for environmental protection and should be used as such.
  • Reconsider Sweden's vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Farmers and Other Farm Workers, ratify ILO Convention 169 and actively take a stand against the binding treaty EU-Mercosur.

It is a challenge for the contemporary food industry to be able to generate sustainable development as a change challenges the balance of power that benefits the interests of the large agricultural companies. There is therefore a need to spread power in agriculture along democratic ideals to create sustainable development. In order to spread power and achieve this, public support plays a major role.

Framtidsjorden has just launched a new consumer guide to strengthen the individual's actions for food sovereignty. It lists some steps toward behavior change that are required in a major system change. We as consumers, and most of all citizens, must put pressure on our politicians to show new behaviors and stop making empty promises. Consumption is driving climate change and we have an unsustainable agricultural policy within the EU that affects the whole world. It's time to dare to talk about our food system. A fair climate change requires food sovereignty.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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