Food access and policy is essential to an urban environment, and like other components of city life, is often hijacked by corporate control. The recent awarding of the "World Food Prize," essentially by biotech monopolies to themselves, is depictive of some of the tactics used by institutions such as Monsanto and Syngenta. As pointed out in the Huffington Post by Eric Holt Gimenez, executive director of the environmental non-profit, Food First Institute; these monopolies supply more fuel and farm feed than actual feeding of the hungry. An interview with Gimenez focusing on the Food First Institute's home base, Oakland, California, highlighted how communities can regain control of urban food-systems. He pointed out that approximately $60 million a year is siphoned out of the city, and that localizing food production and distribution would increase the multiplier benefits of those dollars circulating within communities.
Strategies such as enabling Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and community organized groups, like the Oakland Food Policy Council, would work to provide an avenue towards engaging the citizenry and influencing policy. Gimenez noted that recommendations offered by such organizations should include measures like the allocation of arable land for community gardens and urban agriculture, the creation of pesticide and Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) free zones, promotion of local food enterprises in underserved areas, advocating for diverse food retailers such as mobile vending and accessibility of affordable farmer markets that accept food assistance funds to name a few.
A Geographic Information Science (GIS) based project, Cultivating the Commons, sponsored by Food First and other non-profits, is exemplary of the vast amount of arable land available and underutilized in Oakland that could be used to expand local food production for the city. Such findings include “1,200 acres of undeveloped open space at 495 sites."
Overall, organizing locally to participate in urban land-use planning and recognizing organizations truly working towards public interest is the best defense against conglomerate control. Also, as pointed out by Gimenez, acknowledging food prizes organized more credibly by food activists such as the US Food Sovereignty Alliance can help to counter the hidden agenda of such prizes issued by the GMO monopolists.
If the food prize vote were up to you, is there a provider in your community you would find more deserving or would you argue against the notion that GMO corporations do more damage than good?
Credits: Images by Gina Kiani. Data linked to sources.