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Food, law and the Commons

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This presentation was delivered at the Law Seminars organised by the Carlo Alberto Collegio and the University of Turin. It explores the origins of absolute propietary regimes over natural resources, the primacy of property rights over other fundamental rights to humans (food, water, land, health, housing) and the normative social construct of food as a private good and a commodity. This social construct, so prevelent right now in the global food system, can be changed if we so considered. The alternative narrative of food as a commons, based on multiple dimensions of food, is presented and practical implications are suggested. Finally, some examples of existing food commons are presented.

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Food, law and the Commons

  1. 1. Food, Law & the Commons Carlo Alberto Law Seminars Universita di Torino 24 March 2017 – Milan JOSE LUIS VIVERO POL PhD Research Fellow in Food Governance
  2. 2. Food system is the greatest driver of Earth transformation • Food systems accounts for 48% of land use • 70% of water use • 33% of total GHG emissions • 40% relies on agriculture for their livelihood • Phosphorus & Nitrogen exceeded Planetary Boundaries (Ivanova et al., 2015, Clapp, 2012) 2
  3. 3. 3 The actual way of producing & eating (western diets & industrial food system) is unsustainable It cannot be maintained for the next 50 years IAASTD (2008) UNEP (2009) UNCTAD (2013) UK Foresight (2011)
  4. 4. 5 Economic Epistemology on Commons: reductionist + theoretical + ontological
  5. 5. Ideas/Narratives Legal frameworks Policy Options
  6. 6. Everything started with the Romans • Res singularum (individuals) • Res publica (state) • Res communis (everybody) • Res nullius (nobody) Emperor Justinian 529-533 AD Res communes: air, running water, sea & coastlines
  7. 7. Cautious about superseding proprietary rights to other rights for people to survive “If the law stood between an individual and the loaf of bread he needed to carry on living, then the law ceased to have meaningful content” Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679
  8. 8. Property rights conditional to non-wastage of the good. “People should not enclose more land they could work on” John Locke 1632-1704 My own labour (part of myself) appropriates res nullius and res communis (un-owned natural resources) by working on them. LOCKEAN PROVISIO One may appropriate resources if “there is enough, and as good, left in common for others” He took for granted the supply of natural resources for all Timmermman (2014) 1.- Resources are un-owned 2.- Enough & as good left for others 3.- Ownership is subject to non wastage
  9. 9. Property & Justice R artificial ideas. No property in Nature. Social construct Disagrees with Locke on property as extension of self through the labour exerciseDavid Hume 1711-1776
  10. 10. Natural property: air, land, water, wild food. “Legitimate birthright of everyman” Land tax to fund Universal Basic Income Artificial property: human invention. It can be distributed unequally Thomas Paine 1737-1809
  11. 11. Founding father of capitalism Individual proprietary rights R pillars of free-market society & they need to be enforced in all cases & any circumstances Human´s tendency to self- interest would bring prosperity for all. Collective public goods would be promoted through individual selfishness Adam Smith 1723-1790
  12. 12. XX century Proprietary developments • Natural rights were translated into absolute proprietary rights to destroy everybody´s natural resources • Absolute primacy of proprietary rights over other rights (life, water, food, house) • Without right of absolute alienation, free- markets would not work well (in theory) Coase (1969), Alchian & Demsetz (1972)
  13. 13. Policies and Legal frameworks are just tools serving a purpose • Firstly, ideas; secondly, means to achieve them. Ruling elites use policies & law. • Commons R not defined by proprietary regimes (public, private, collective) • Commons R not defined by reductionist economic epistemologies
  14. 14. Policies serving a purpose plundering my share of commons to somebody´s benefit
  15. 15. Who is fishing my Tuna?
  16. 16. 17 Consideration of food as commodity is social construct that can / shall be reconceived WHY? lue Flickr Paradigm Shift
  17. 17. Commons are material / non-material resources, jointly developed and maintained by a community/society and shared according to community-defined rules, irrespective of their mode of production (private, public or commons-based means), because they benefit everyone and are fundamental to society’s wellbeing 18 Photo: ukhvlid, Creative Commons, Flickr
  18. 18. COMMONING CREATES THE COMMONS Dardot & Laval, 2014
  19. 19. 20 AIR WATER FOOD SUNLIGHT
  20. 20. 21 The six food dimensions relevant to humans: multi-dimensional food as commons VS mono-dimensional food as commodity Source: Vivero-Pol (in press). http://www.preprints.org/manuscript/201701.0073/v1
  21. 21. EUROPA leaving many behind because food is not a right
  22. 22. • 123 M poor EU people (1/4) (Oxfam, 2015) • 50 M severe material deprivation: food, water…(EUROSTAT, 2015) • 2009-15, + 7.5 M poor • 30-40% children (6 EU members) below poverty line (UNICEF, 2014) • Increasing children at school with no breakfast (UK, Netherlands, Spain)
  23. 23. No RtF in EU: How is that possible? • NOT in European Social Charter • NOT in any EU constitution • NOT in MDGs & SDGs narrative • Proposal in Belgium: National Food Policy Council including whole food chain (Eggen, 2014) • Proposal in Spain: RtF in Constitution • European Citizen´s Initiative + EP: water as human right + commons • Universal Food Coverage (non-existing)
  24. 24. Food as a commodity mono-dimensional approach whereby economic dimension of food prevails and overshadows non- economic dimensions. Price (value-in-exchange) 25Photo: Dean Hochman, Flickr
  25. 25. Food as a commons means revalorising different dimensions relevant to human beings (value-in use) & reducing the commodity dimension (value-in exchange) 26 Food commons are what a society does collectively, through private, state and self-regulated provision, to guarantee everybody eats adequately in quantity and quality everyday
  26. 26. 27 Food is essential for human life… … so access to food cannot be exclusively determined by the purchasing power
  27. 27. 28 De-constructing Food-related Elements: everything is commons but cultivated food and copyrighted patents
  28. 28. 29 1. Cultivated Food is a private good Completly produced by private means: private landholdings, copyrighted seeds and agro- chemicals, machineries
  29. 29. 30 2. Traditional agricultural knowledge Fotos:JoseLuisVivero
  30. 30. 31 3. Science-based agricultural knowledge by national institutions Public copyrights Universities National Research Institutions Foto: Argonne National
  31. 31. 32 4. Cuisine, recipes & national gastronomy Foto:CarlaBqn
  32. 32. 33 5. Edible wild plants and animals
  33. 33. 34 6. Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Seeds are commons Patents prevent innovation (Benkler, 2006) Fashion world and top cuisine are rather innovative without patenting systems ITPGRFA made seeds a global common good Foto: Edd.ie
  34. 34. 35 7. Food safety considerations (Codex Alimentarius) Foto:Lianne Milton Foto:MarianoBonora
  35. 35. 36 8. Good nutrition & public health
  36. 36. 37 9. Extreme food price fluctuations Foto: Megan Morgavan
  37. 37. 38 What if food is considered a commons… Banning futures trade speculation Controlling land grabbing, land evictions Binding Food Treaties Legislating collective rights Avoiding biopiracy, patenting of life forms, Minimising copyrighted agriculture Combating oligopolies of agri- food chains
  38. 38. Social Market Enterprises Supply-demand Food as private good Public Private Collective actions Communities Reciprocity Food as common good Partner State Redistribution Citizens welfare Food as public good Tri-centric Governance of Food Commons Systems Incentives, subsidies, Enabling legal frameworks Limiting privatization of commons Farmers as civil servants Banning food speculation Minimum free food for all citizens Local purchase Rights-based Food banks
  39. 39. 40 I am eager to exchange on right to food, hunger eradication & food as a commons @joselviveropol joseluisviveropol http://hambreyderechoshumanos.blogspot.com http://hungerpolitics.wordpress.com Jose Luis Vivero Pol joseluisvivero@gmail.com
  40. 40. La Partecipanza Agraria de Nonantola • Collective Ownership of Agricultural Land in Emilia Romagna • Almost 1000 years: Carta del 1058 dell’Abate Gotescalco, granting inhabitants of Nonantola the user´s rights over arable land within the municipal territory (now, 760 hectare) • Guiding values: Solidarity, Respect, Identity, Equality. • “Boccas” are raffled every 18 years within descendents still inhabiting Nonantola.
  41. 41. Hazas de la Suerte Vejer de la Frontera (Spain) Two entitlements: cultivate & benefit Established 1288 by King Sancho IV 3500 hectare, 232 allotments, 13,000 inhabitants (raffles yrs per generations)
  42. 42. 43 Universita Agraria Medieval institution to govern collective lands (Sacrofano, Italy)
  43. 43. 44 Territories of Commons 5% of Europe (12 M Ha of utilised agricultural area) More in coastal and forested areas 9% France 25% of Galicia is onwed in communal property Not just private-state duopoly
  44. 44. Territories of Commons • Climate adapted Food commons • Stewarding Nature & Biodiversity • Nurturing community, citizenship & values • Intergenerational sustainability • Public goods & services (oxygen, soil, wáter) • Participatory Governing Systems • Cultural Heritage & Collective Knowledge
  45. 45. 46 2014: CAP (40% of EU Budget) 52 Billion EUR 2013 CAP Reform: No single mention to commons (water, territories, land, seeds, food, knowledge)
  46. 46. POLICY & LEGAL OPTIONS with new narrative of Food as Commons 47
  47. 47. To guarantee school meals for all students in public schools 48
  48. 48. To support local purchase (small farming, agro- ecology & cooperatives) to satisfy food needs of municipal premises 49
  49. 49. Stricter & innovative rules to avoid food waste To recycle all expired food (i.e. France) Supporting citizens´ collective actions to reduced waste, promote food sharing and co-producing 50
  50. 50. Shifting from charitable food (Food Banks) to food as right (Universal Food Coverage) A food bank network that is universal, accountable, compulsory and not voluntary, random, targeted 51
  51. 51. Compulsory rooftop greening for every new building (with edibles, non-edibles) 52
  52. 52. Establishing bakeries where every citizen can get access to a bread loaf every day (if needed or willing to) 53
  53. 53. Encourage Food Policy Councils (open membership to citizens) through participatory democracies, financial seed capital and enabling laws54
  54. 54. Set target for food provisioning in 2030 (Food Council) • 60% private sector • 25% self-production (collective actions) • 15% state-provisioning (public buildings, destitute people, unemployed families) through Universal Food Coverage 55

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