By Simone Adler, Community Alliance for Global Justice
SEATTLE, WA – Activists from around the world gather in Seattle this week to honor grassroots organizations and leaders in the food sovereignty movement. On Saturday, they will come together for the Food Sovereignty Prize, an alternative to the World Food Prize which is awarded this weekend in Iowa. On Thursday, the Food Sovereignty Prize winners and activists with AGRA Watch will mobilize outside of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to protest the oppressive food systems they support, that puts corporate profit, biotech, and market expansion over food sovereignty, small farmers, and agroecology.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has deep ties to the World Food Prize and the controversial model of global food security it promotes, particularly through the Foundation’s high-tech, industrial agricultural development model. The Gates Foundation is a primary donor to half of the recipients of the 2016 World Food Prize. One recipient is funded for a crop biofortification program throughout Africa; another received $21 million for a project of the Gates’-fundedAlliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, focused on positioning genetically engineered sweet potatoes in the food economies of 17 African countries. A director from the Gates Foundation will be speaking at the Iowa prize events (along with representatives from groups that have been called out for their human rights and environmental abuses, including Nestlé, Syngenta, DuPont, USAID, and the World Bank). The Gates Foundation has funded the World Food Prize since 2009, granting nearly $1.5 million.
To lift up the grassroots solutions and movements protecting food, land, seeds, and water, the 2016 Food Sovereignty Prize, awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, goes to the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and the Farmworkers Association of Florida. These groups of farmworkers, small-holder and family farmers promote food sovereignty, agroecology and social justice to ensure that all people have access to fresh, nutritious food produced in harmony with the planet.
“We have a vision to bring together the community around the art of healing with good food and herbs, which is part of our culture. We practice agroecology in the community by sharing the knowledge we bring from our grandparents, our mothers, our families, our ancestors,” says Elvira Carvajal, Farmworker Association of Florida’s lead organizer.
“Africa has a myriad of ways to feed her people and to keep her environment safe. However, a few international corporations from the global North have generated approaches strictly for their own profit by misleading our leaders and our people, stealing our seeds and culture, and destroying our environment,” explains Bern Guri, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa’s chairperson.
Thursday’s action is not in isolation. Last week, New York farmers sent a letter to Cornell University demanding the eviction of the Alliance for Science, for which the Gates Foundation provides $5.6 million, due to its biased promotion of biotechnology and genetically engineering without criticism or evaluation of other agricultural systems and technologies. This week, a people’s assembly is organizing at The Hague during the International Tribunal on Monsanto to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations and ecocide. The Gates Foundation has partnered with Monsanto on projects such as genetically engineered corn in African markets, trapping farmers in cyclical debt for the expensive seeds.
What: A protest of the Gates Foundation’s ties to the World Food Prize, highlighting the global increase in food insecurity, poverty, and environmental damage worsened by the exploitative model of market-based, high-tech agricultural investments and false solutions of genetic engineering and biotechnology. Representatives of the Food Sovereignty Prize winners will speak to the power of grassroots food sovereignty and agroecology to end hunger and feed the planet.
Where: In front of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: 440 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
When: 3-4pm, Thursday October 13th
Who: Food Sovereignty Prize recipients and food sovereignty activists from AGRA Watch in Seattle and around the globe.
Visuals will include people holding large banners, flags, art, and a display of agroecological symbols.
Background on Gates Foundation controversial investments in Africa and biotechnology: http://cagj.org/agra-watch/resources/.
Now in its eighth year, the Food Sovereignty Prize ceremony is a free event and will take place this Saturday at Town Hall in Seattle from 6-9pm. More information on the prize and ceremony can be found here: http://bit.ly/2e3U8GQ.