NEW YORK, New York – Held on October 15, 2013 at Cooper Union, the Food Sovereignty Prize ceremony honored four grassroots organizations working to build a more democratic food system. This Prize stands in direct contrast to the more well-known World Food Prize, which has faced heavy criticism this year over its support for GMO-promoting organizations.
First awarded in 2009, the Food Sovereignty Prize differs greatly from the World Food Prize both in its focus and its support base. While the World Food Prize emphasizes increased production through technology, especially biotechnology, the Food Sovereignty Prize rewards social and agro-ecological alternatives by those impacted by the effects of the corporate global food system.
While the World Food Prize has the backing of government, large philanthropies and the monopolies controlling the world food system, the Food Sovereignty Prize is supported by activists, environmentalists and others who believe in the democratization of the global food system.
Critics of the World Food Prize have argued that this year in particular, the Prize has falsely portrayed GMOs as the solution to hunger. Some believe that in doing this, the Prize wrongly promotes large-scale industrialized farming as the ideal solution to global food insecurity. Since the World Food Prize Foundation relies on corporate, private and government contributions, activists have also pointed to the large donations Monsanto and Syngenta have given to the Foundation as evidence of corporate monopoly over the world’s food systems.
This year’s Food Sovereignty Prize awardees stand in sharp contrast to the three biotechnology scientist winners of the World Food Prize. The winner of the Food Sovereignty Prize was an alliance of four of Haiti’s largest peasant organizations working to promote good farming practices, preserve control of Haitian Creole seed and advocate for peasant farmers. This alliance, termed the Group of 4 (G4), has worked to rebuild Haiti’s environment, promote wealth and end poverty. They made global headlines in 2010 when they threatened a donation of hybrid seeds from Monsanto, countering the organization’s claim that only privileged northern consumers reject their products.
The three honorable mentions of this year’s Food Sovereignty Prize included the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective of India, the Basque County Farmer’s Union of Europe and the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali, Africa. ‘Food sovereignty’ is defined as the right of people to determine their own food and agricultural systems, based on social and economic rights such as the right to food, the right to produce and the right to land. The Food Sovereignty Prize describes this movement as growing from the bottom up, from those most impacted by global hunger and poverty.
The Food Sovereignty Prize works to fill the gaps left by the World Food Prize. Beyond focusing on the availability of food to support physical needs, the Food Sovereignty Prize asserts that control over the food system should be localized and tailored to the needs of those at the heart of it.
– Tara Young