Right to Food Rapporteur Completes His Mandate

By former FSC Steering Committee member Stuart Clark.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food is one of a growing group of experts who believe that there are many links between hunger in developing countries and hunger and food systems issues in countries like Canada. That’s why he included a rich country like Canada in a five year mandate that focussed on poor and middle income countries.

Now at the end of his mandate, de Schutter has issued his final report, a veritable manual on ending global hunger and food insecurity.  It’s a remarkable achievement, covering everything from farming methods to consumer choices and biofuels.  Unimpeded by the niceties of international political processes, he gives a clear, unvarnished and comprehensive view of a pathway to a hunger-free world.

Among the most striking (and likely controversial) of his findings concerns livestock production and meat consumption.  Noting that livestock production, including the production of livestock feedgrains, takes up almost 70% of total arable land, De Schutter quotes the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and other experts reporting that raising livestock may account for over half of greenhouse gasses generated by human activity.  This is more than double the contribution from all global transportation.

Biofuel production, encouraged by government mandates, and food waste resulting from poor storage in low income countries and inefficient production in rich countries are the two other of a ‘big three’ of global hunger.
Looking at the increasing food needs of a growing population, de Schutter says that the deepest debate is not about whether agricultural productivity should be raised but how this should be achieved.  Looking particularly at the needs of the poor for livelihoods as a way to stimulate growth in the wider national economies, he focusses on the potential of a wide range of farming methods intended to increase food production, reduce chemical fertilizer use and reduce the impact on climate change.

Overall, his prescription to end hunger focusses on the development and strengthening of local food systems, supported by a more local and democratic decision making on food related issues.  Given the difficulty of international agreements of any sort alone, this seems to make good sense.  It's advice that Canada would do well to heed.