UN food summit criticized from all sides

Calls for a boycott by at least 600 organizations and disavowal of human rights experts from the same organization: the United Nations Summit on Food Systems which opened Thursday morning in New York is proving to be a tense meeting.

“I can tell you that the summit has already failed”, announced on the eve of this event Michael Fakhri, UN special rapporteur on the right to food. Along with two other colleagues in similar positions, they expressed concern that this summit “will abandon the most vulnerable and marginalized”. Food security and human rights should be at the center of the concerns of the states participating in the meeting, “but the influence of corporations [agroalimentaires] has been completely eclipsed ”from the discussions, Fakhri wrote.

Over 600 groups and individuals also signed a call to boycott the international conference which takes place against the backdrop of a UN General Assembly, including the National Farmers Union, a national farmers union in Canada. The signatories criticize industry giants such as Nestlé, Dupont and Bayer for having been too involved in all the preliminary discussions leading up to the summit, among other things, to identify “solutions” put forward by the participating states. ” [Nous] reject the ongoing corporate colonization of food systems and governance under the “facade” of this summit, they write in their statement.

These dissenting voices are a reminder that a handful of multinationals dominate the entire food chain, from seeds to pesticides, slaughterhouses and supermarkets. Small producers, movements of the landless, peasant and indigenous agriculture are thus asking to put agroecology back at the center of the transformation of food systems.

José Graziano da Silva, a former director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) also spoke of “nutri-washing” on social networks. Inspired by the portmanteau word “greenwashing”, the word is intended to criticize too many proposals “which reflect the voices of well-nourished people and too little to end hunger and other forms of malnutrition”.

Interference from the meat production lobby has notably been brought to light by environmentalist organizations. Documents obtained by Greenpeace Unearthed and verified by the British newspaper The Guardian showed how a coalition of beef and poultry associations lobbied a task force. The coalition called on the UN to support increased meat consumption, arguing that technical advances could “help preserve planetary resources.” This statement is in particular contrary to the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which calls for limiting the consumption of meat throughout the world.

Urgent problems

In his speech, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not hide the deep problems facing the participating countries: two billion people are overweight or obese, hundreds of millions “go to bed hungry”, the third of the food produced worldwide is wasted and its production generates too many greenhouse gases.

Hunger and malnutrition affect more people on the planet since last year, and this significant increase is due to the pandemic, said a UN report published in the wake of this summit.

UNICEF was going too of its conclusions in another analysis according to which the feeding of young children has not improved over the past ten years. “The report’s conclusions are clear: even though they are at a crucial stage in their development, millions of young children are not receiving adequate nutrition,” said Henrietta Fore, director of UNICEF. The COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have contributed more recently, but rising inequalities, conflicts and climate disasters are blamed for the past decade.

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