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The term food sovereignty was coined by the International Peasants Movement - Via Campesina, in 1996 to advocate a policy framework claiming the right of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces and to the "dumping" of agricultural commodities into foreign countries.
The priority of food sovereignty is the local consumption to meet the needs of local people. It cannot be realised without a free access to land, water and seed as well as other fundamental resources and adequate public services that can enable landless people, peasants, small farmers and indigenous peoples to have full control on their activities aimed firstly at meeting their basic needs. To this purpose, they should dispose of ownership and control on lands they work, and, in the name of the right to honest and accurate information and open and democratic decision-making, they should be able to participate in social, economic and political life in an incisive manner. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation.
The concept of food sovereignty is considered wider than that of food security, because it does not refer only to the full enjoyment of the right to food, but advocates a general framework that takes multifaceted aspects and different actors that may have effects on people in their fundamental need of nutrition: economic policy, environmental protection, policies on land tenure, justice in trade, appropriate law on intellectual property. In the meaning of food sovereignty, the notion of sustainability is very relevant because it refers to the long-term availability and accessibility of food for present and future generations.
The national incapacity to meet the internal demand of food makes developing countries dependent from imports under conditions they do not have the power to influence. Food imports have the effect to displace local production and depress prices. Therefore, people are at the mercy of global forces that cannot control and that are interested in feed the need rather than meet it, because they can benefit from it. These circumstances weaken the capability of people to control their resources and choose their model of development denying their food sovereignty.