A Call for National Food Sovereignty


Farmer in Brittany, Axel Törneman, 1905

From Monthly Review:

In human terms, land grabs mean real people and families are dispossessed. When people lose access to their land, they also lose their means to obtain food, their communities, and their cultures.

The commodification of land—that most basic of resources, the source of terrestrial life, and the foundation of human civilization—was essential for the development of capitalism. And from the early modern capitalist era until the present, it is the commodification of nature—with land bought (or obtained by other means) and sold, speculated upon, and used to produce human food, animal feed, fiber, or fuel and with crops selected based on climate and soil type but also on what would bring the greatest returns—that is the underlying basis of the dispossession of people from their lands.

As we discuss these events let us remember the lines from Woody Guthrie’s song about the outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd: “Some will rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen.” Dispossession of people from the land over the last three centuries has formed an important pathway for the accumulation of capital—or, as some have put it, capital accumulation by dispossession. There have been many variations of means used, including both force (the “six gun”) and swindling by using a variety of laws and agreements or outright chicanery (the “fountain pen”). Sometimes the two are used together. And at other times, farmers and peasants lose their lands as a result of capitalist economic relations—usually through not being able to compete in a cutthroat marketplace, or to afford the rents that the larger more highly capitalized farmers can pay.

“Twenty-First-Century Land Grabs”, Fred Magdoff, Monthly Review