European CAP Reform: We Need Food Sovereignty

We propose that a CAP reform should provide a platform for a transition towards food sovereignty and a more collaborative and creative rural space in Europe. Exisiting groups and local initiatives need to be supported and become a compass for Europe’s future agriculture.




Freegan Kolektiva is involved in food and agriculture and is advocating for the notion of ‘Food Sovereignty’ to become central in our food system. Therefore, we strongly support all organizations, groups and individuals who pursue ‘Food Sovereignty’ in their struggle.

What is Food Sovereignty?

Food Sovereignty does not only represent our human right to sufficient and nutritious food but also entails the capacity of an individual/community/region to determine how this food is going to be produced. Thus people have the right to define their own food, farm, livestock, aquaculture and agro-forestry systems.

Food Sovereignty is a complex notion that was proposed to ‘amend’ or expand the established notion of ‘Food Security’. While Food Security is limited to the availability and access of an individual to food, ‘Food Sovereignty’ goes further to stress the significance of one’s ability to determine the production means of food as the global food system is increasingly controlled by agri-business corporations and regulated by global ‘free’ markets.

Developments in the food sector reflect the dominant model of development that is being enforced everywhere. The food system is largely operated by agri-business giants that are increasingly in control of seeds, fertilizers and agro-chemicals in general, food production, food processing, global trade, retailing etc. Here are some consequences of the dominant industrial food system.

Marginalization of Rural Populations

Such system has marginalized large parts of the rural population worldwide. Small landholders were forced to leave their lands as they were not competitive enough and subsequently gave space for industrial agriculture to develop. The benefits for the remaining large-scale farms were limited, since the farm gate prices dropped while the cost of farming increased as it became more dependent to inputs (seeds, agro-chemicals) and mechanization.

The health of producers and consumers is compromised

A host of health issues is associated with the food system. Agro-chemicals have caused cancer and other health problems to farmers who use them while hormones and chemical residues have negative, long-term impacts on the health of consumers as well. Moreover, the food system promotes the consumption of more processed foods of the food industry that result in epidemics like obesity, heart failure etc. Food is the number one cause of death in the developed world.

Environmental degradation 

There is currently no ecosystem untouched by human activities. Agriculture has played a
major role in the decline of ecosystems. Agriculture has expanded in previously robust ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest. Agro-chemicals have been polluted the soils, groundwater reserves and have been leaching in the water streams to lakes, rivers and seas causing unprecedented damage. Monocultures have reduced nature’s diversity down to one single crop. While the sustainability of traditional farming systems has been evident in most places in the world by hundeds of generations of farmers, industrial agriculture has (over)produced food only for a couple of generations with unprecedented damage to the environment.

Climate change

Greenhouses in Almeria, Spain (satellite view)

Artificial fertilizers and pesticides are energy intensive and their life-cycle is related to considerable carbon emissions. Moreover, animal factories are responsible for 17% of the total GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions. The volume of global trade has increased manyfold the last decades and it is responsible for a great deal of GHG emissions (food miles).


In EU and other developed regions there are subsidies given for the production of food. In the developing world there are no such measures. Subsidies, reduce the prices of exports and render local farmers in developing countries ‘non-competitive’. The result is that those farmers cannot sell the produce in their local markets because the ‘dumped’ subsidized products are less expensive. Small-scale farmers are driven out of business.

Concentration of power

Agri-business giants are controlling the food system to a great extend and they continue growing. Seed and agri-input sector is becoming monopolized as well as the processing and retailing sectors. These businesses are the most subsidized from governments and other institutions. It becomes harder and harder for small-scale farmers to survive in this system, as they lost influence of the input and output prices.

Food Waste

There is increasing awareness about the issue of food waste. A recent FAO report showed that 1/3 of the food for human consumption is being thrown away. In developed countries it is a result of overconsumption, broad assortments etc.

Food Prices’ Volatility

Food prices are not stable so are rural livelihoods. As proven in 2008 higher food prices can lead to food crisis, driving large parts of the population to extreme poverty and chronic hunger.

Hunger and poverty

Rural livelihoods suffer from minimal returns; poverty in turn diminishes livelihood options and human potential while chronic hunger is an unbearable toil and a vicious cycle. 925.000.000 people suffer from chronic hunger while another two billions suffer from inadequate food.

Agricultural reform needed: CAP and people’s initiatives

There is an urgent need for the food system to change towards sustainability, diversity and real farmers’ agriculture as well as give place for all the alternatives to expand and advance. We believe that the only sustainable solution should come from below in a participatory and inclusive way. Policies and political frameworks should enable the already existing alternatives to flourish and become the main driver of agricultural transition toward a culturally-appropriate, just and sustainable food system based on the notion of food sovereignty.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU is the most important sector of EU policy one of the most important tools of rural development in Europe.  The CAP has been absorbing most of EU’s budget (48% until 1992 to reach 32% in the near future) that is given in the forms of direct subsidies for the production of certain foods or agricultural programmes.

80% of those subsidies are given to large-scale farming and agri-businesses, thereby reinforcing the dominant food system. In the light of the ongoing negotiations for the CAP reform (to be implemented from 2013 to 2020), a transition from food inadequacy to food sovereignty needs to become possible. Positive grassroots initiatives need to be strengthened and become a compass for Europe’s future agriculture.

We support all mobilizations for a food-sovereign Europe in support of real farmers not agri-business. There is a big demonstration in Berlin and we encourage everyone lving near by to join.

The people are going to be gathered on the 21st of January 2012 1130hours at the main train station of Berlin.



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