Cat Johnson: The commons are generally thought of as shared resources — these include everything from the public spaces we share to the air we breathe. A new movement hopes to redefine food as a commons.
As agricultural engineer Jose Luis Vivero-Pol explains in a new proposal to create a food commons in Europe, food should be considered a commons based on its “essentialness for human survival and the commoning practices that different peoples maintain to produce food for all.” He points out that the ethos surrounding the commons is different from those surrounding for-profit capitalistic ventures, and that food should not be treated as the latter.
The proposal notes that “the theory of the commons has barely touched upon food.” Vivero-Pol recommends a number of policy options for food to be valued and governed as a commons in Europe — here are 10 from a list of 15 ideas published by the P2P Foundation:
1. Declare food as a commons
A Declaration of the European Parliament to consider food no longer as a commodity but a commons, public good and human right to be included in national legal frames and public policies.
2. Create food commons initiatives
European Citizen Initiative to consider food as a human right, a public good and a commons in European policy and legal frameworks. Policy priorities should be geared towards safeguarding farmer’s livelihood and eater’s rights to adequate and healthy food.
3. Get healthy food into schools
Local, organic, freshly-made school meals as universal entitlements, governed by parents and school staff.
4. Support food councils
Promote Food Policy Councils at all levels through participatory democracies, financial seed capital and enabling laws. Once enough numbers are achieved, an EU Food Policy Council could be established to monitor the reform yet-to-be Commons Food Policy.
5. Reframe the role of food producers
Food producers to be employed by the state to provide food regularly to satisfy the state’s needs (i.e. for hospitals, schools, army, ministries, etc).
6. Ensure that everyone is fed
Guaranteed daily bread for all. Establishing public bakeries where every citizen can get access to a bread loaf every day (if needed or willing to).
7. Reduce food waste
Stricter and innovative rules to avoid food waste (binding regulations).
8. Keep public research in the commons All agricultural research funded with public funds to be in the public domain.
9. Support civic actions
Food-related subsidies to support innovative civic actions for food such as Territories of Commons, community-supported agriculture, food buying groups, open agricultural knowledge, etc.
10. Food banks as a right
European Parliament to elaborate a communication to call for an E.U. food bank network that is universal, accountable, compulsory and not voluntary, random and targeted, shifting from charitable food to food as a right.