The following is the speech I gave as the final speaker for the negative at a debate last week at the Lake House, ‘The Food Revolution is a Big Fat Lie’. On my team were Necia Wilden and Michael Harden – on the affirmative there were Dani Valent, Janne Appelgren and Richard Cornish. It was a rousing debate followed by a predictably delicious country-style meal put on by our host, the wonderful doyenne of the Daylesford Macedon region Alla Wolf-Tasker.
Of course we won, because of course the current food revolution is no lie, though there is a lot of work ahead…
Comrades and colleagues, I’d like to continue the excellent work of my fellow revolutionaries here on the opposition, and tell you a bit more about this revolution that is everywhere, and that we must win lest we abandon our children’s hope for a future.
Let’s start with the children. 20 years ago, chef Alice Waters in California said: “What we are calling for is a revolution in public education – a Delicious Revolution. When the hearts and minds of our children are captured by a school lunch curriculum, enriched with experience in the garden, sustainability will become the lens through which they see the world.”
As Necia has already mentioned, here we have Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation – and Waters’ and Alexanders’ efforts are certainly not restricted to the middle class – Waters’ program started in the disadvantaged schools of Oakland, California, and Alexanders’ took root in inner-city Collingwood, and has now spread as far as the remote communities of Bourke and Coober Pedy.
The international Via Campesina peasant movement has been around for 20 years and is still gaining momentum. Currently they’re uniting to fight against land grabbing by the World Bank and Wall Street in countries as diverse as Honduras, Mali, Italy and Indonesia.
In India, Vandana Shiva’s work over the past two decades is legion. “I don’t want to live in a world where five giant companies control our health and our food,” said Shiva, and so she started a food revolution in India in 1993. Shiva’s foundation, Navdanya, trains farmers in seed saving and sustainable agriculture.
She cites the peasant prayer:
“Let the seed be exhaustless, let it never get exhausted, let it bring forth seed next year.”
More recently, the Occupy movement was quickly adopted by the food revolution in a spin off called Occupy Big Food, which has drawn support from activists and celebrities as diverse as Vandana Shiva, Michael Pollan, Willie Nelson, and Woody Harrelson. There’s also Millions Against Monsanto and Occupy Monsanto, to follow on from Michael’s point about resistance against the GM food giant.
Back home in Australia, we call Coles and Woolworths ‘ColeWorths’ or ‘the duopoly’, because in naming their power we begin to contest it. Just last week the WAFarmers passed a motion: “That due to Coles’ predatory pricing policy, WAFarmers encourages their members and the wider farming community in general, to boycott Coles supermarkets and all Wesfarmers subsidiaries…”
And if you need more evidence that Australian farmers are part of the food revolution, there are now 44 Australian free-range pig farms listed on the Flavour Crusader blog – five years ago you could have counted us on one hand.
But it’s not just activists, farmers, and academics who’ve joined the food revolution. In 2008 the United Nations appointed a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, who has proven to be a stunning global leader of the food revolution, saying that:
“Our food systems are making people sick. We should not simply invest our hopes in medicalizing our diets with enriched products, or changing people’s choices through health warnings. We need ambitious, targeted nutrition strategies to protect the right to adequate food, and such strategies will only work if the food systems underpinning them are put right.”
Tonight as we dine here in Daylesford, our comrades in Puerto Rico are hosting the ‘First Agro-Ecological Cocktail’: bringing “ecological farmers, chefs, organic food restaurants, nonprofit organizations, and consumers [to] join efforts in Puerto Rico to formally present what has been done by the agro-ecologic movement in the last 20 years with regards to the conservation of our native seeds, and support the principle of Agricultural Sustainability.”
I ask you, fair denizens of Australia, will you join the cynics and defeatists, and give up all hope of a future in which our grandchildren can still grow and eat clean, fair food, or will you join us in this very real and happening food revolution that is today everywhere just gaining momentum?
Please, raise a glass of red to our distant comrades around the world.
Viva la revolucion!