John Stansfield, Oxfam’s advocacy and campaigns director talks to Element about the campaign.
What has brought about this campaign?
People are hungry because the food system is broken. And it is broken because we have ceded sovereignty of the system. We are no longer saying that this system is responsible for producing enough food sustainably for us to eat, we have let it become its own sovereign state, and we say ‘whatever you think is right to make money, it’s fine’. We look back at slavery and say ‘these are intelligent people, they were well educated and moral, how could they have allowed that to happen?’ I think people will look back on starvation and say the same thing.
What does the campaign focus on?
It is aimed at the root causes. It’s our most intelligent response yet to hunger, with the intention of creating a new solidarity between producers and consumers. The thing that determines whether you will be hungry or not is the rights you have, the political power. We have to make food a right, and then work on people’s access to power.
Why can’t we just leave this to the market?
It’s no accident that the places doing really well on this are those who have not just left this to the market. Food is too important to just leave to the market. It’s not just Barbie dolls we are talking about; this is how we grow our kids!
There’s a whole lot more interest among ordinary people about where the food comes from and what’s in it now. At the same time our government has made a weak decision that we can’t afford to label our food so that we know where it comes from. I was in the supermarket on the day they made that decision, and I had a piece of fruit in my hand, and on it was a sticker saying ‘yummy’. We can afford to put a sticker on to say ‘yummy’ but not tell me where it has come from? Really?
What do you think New Zealand’s role should be in making these changes?
When our government is sitting down at the table we want them to write rules that favour development, not food multi-nationals. We have some brilliant agricultural researchers in this country and we should be starting to show real leadership about the sort of agriculture that will work. It’s not large scale farming, because that brings a whole load of other environmental and human rights problems. We need to prioritise small-scale farming and take on some of the entrenched interests of this system.
By Andy Kenworthy