Alternative to World Food Prize to be awarded to two organizations

The Food Sovereignty Prize will go tonight to two organizations combating hunger in their communities.

It’s billed as an alternative to what critics of the World Food Prize say is an award for corporate agriculture.

The honor goes to organizations that work with farmers and infuse their efforts with advocacy for social justice. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees builds farmer cooperatives and supports small-scale farms and fisheries in the war-torn West Bank and Gaza. Community to Community Development works with immigrant farmers from Mexico and supports Familias Unidas, a farm workers’ union in Washington State.

The prize, bestowed by the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, will be awarded in a ceremony at the state Historical Building at 7 p.m.

Adam Mason, state policy organizing director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said an alternative to the World Food Prize can break apart what he described as the myth that genetically modified crops, produced in large numbers, are the only solutions to feed a growing world population.

“What we’re seeing at World Food Prize is a lot of CEOs, industrial agriculture spokespeople and diplomats,” Mason said. “We’re not seeing the actual folks who are on the ground doing the farming or dealing with hunger issues.

To effectively address world hunger, Mason said, “what we really need to be looking at is more sustainable methods — traditional farming methods that are more culturally and geographically important.”

“It’s ensuring that local folks who best know their land and communities are the ones making decisions about the food and farming practices that they’re using,” he said.