Farmers threaten to boycott UN Food Systems Summit as it focuses on big players alone

Climate change continues to intensify globally, contributing to a world hunger crisis. Some farmers and human rights groups aren’t thrilled that the UN’s Food Systems Summit concept paper left them out of the plan for change and highlighted the importance of big corporations.
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Farmers and human rights groups may boycott The United Nations Food Systems Summit, set to take place in September 2021, as the summit, according to them, is favouring big corporations and high-tech intensive agriculture.

The summit’s concept paper stirred controversy and angered some as it outlined the importance of using genetic engineering, data collection and precision agriculture to address the global food crisis. The paper did not include reference to societal involvement or farming.

The UN special rapporteur, Michael Fakhri, wrote an open letter on the right of food and said the summit was “heavily skewed in favour of one type of approach to food systems, namely market-based solutions”.

He wrote, “the business sector has been part of the problem of food systems, and has not been held accountable.”

The summit’s brief was meant to showcase ways of reducing global hunger and improving global food systems in the wake of the worsening biodiversity and climate crisis, as described in the Guardian

While it initially recognized that farmers had been ignored largely in climate talks, controversy arose when the UN secretary general, António Guterres, appointed Agnes Kalibata to lead the event.

Agnes Kalibata (PHOTO: Courtesy of Flickr/Neil Palmer (IWMI)

Kalibata is a Rwandan agriculture scientist who is also the president of the Gates-funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa which was “set up in 2006 to open the continent up to genetically modified crops, high-yield commercial seed varieties and intensive farming”.

Kalibata told the Guardian that she does not expect everyone to agree on all the issues in the Summit right off the bat, adding “I know those among the world’s most vulnerable and I am determined that this summit will not let them down.”

According to the Guardian, the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism, a group with more than 500 civil society groups with more than 300 million members said they plan to boycott the summit and set up a parallel meeting.

Sofia Monsalve Suárez, the head of Fian International, a group working for the right to nutrition, told the Guardian, “we cannot jump on a train that is heading in the wrong direction.”

“We are questioning the summit’s legitimacy,” she added, “the summit appears extremely biased in favour of  the same actors who have been responsible for the food crisis.”

It is unclear yet what will happen as the event is months away, however global hunger remains a serious problem globally.

Oxfam Canada, an affiliate of the international Oxfam Confederation networked in over 90 countries as part of a global movement for change, found that “every day more than one billion people go to bed hungry,” while “25,000 people, most of them children and women, die because of hunger and malnutrition.”

PHOTO: Courtesy of Reuters

The organization also found that a child dies from hunger and related causes every six seconds globally.

It states that climate change is intensifying and acts as a driver of inequality, adding that “without climate adaptation strategies suited to each reality, farmers, fisher folk and pastoralist communities face a difficult choice: to migrate in search of other livelihood opportunities or to stay and face hunger.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, world hunger has gotten even worse. Some researchers are saying that “2020 marked the most severe increase in global food insecurity.”

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