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UN Food System Summit ‘Dialogue” events spark renewed concerns of corporate capture in North American food system and rural economies globally

CAGJ is a proud member of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), an organization that has been closely following the developments of the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), scheduled to take place in New York City in September 2021. Below is a letter NFFC drafted regarding the event.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that this week a series of invitation-only  ‘U.S. National Food System Dialogue’ events will be launched ahead of the United Nations Food  System Summit (UNFSS), slated for later in 2021. As civil society and food producer groups in  the United States, and members of the self-organized United Nations Committee on World Food  Security’s Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM), we have significant concerns 

about the UNFSS, and its related Food System Dialogue events, which from its onset has been led  by interests affiliated to agro-chemical corporations and economic forces that do not serve the  interests of people and the planet. 

In March 2020, 550 civil society organizations sent an open letter to the United Nations (UN)  Secretary-General condemning the involvement of the World Economic Forum in the UNFSS, the  appointment of Ms. Agnes Kalibata as UNFSS Special due to her links to corporate agribusiness,  the failure of the UNFSS to elevate the primacy and indivisibility of human rights frameworks as  foundational to the governance of food systems, and the necessity of civil society organizations to  have an autonomous, self-organized, and equal ‘seat at the table.’ These concerns have not been  addressed despite numerous CSM interactions with UNFSS organizers. A Summit born of  corporate influence has no chance to meaningfully address the fundamental issues of corporate  capture of our food systems, the exploitation of agricultural labor, the marginalization of human  rights, and the manipulation of public institutions by powerful business interests.  

Our concerns around the legitimacy of the UNFSS, and related events organized by USDA, have  been compounded over the past year as we witnessed firsthand the U.S. government’s repeated  undermining of negotiations on the UN Committee on World Food Security’s Voluntary  Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition. In similar fashion to U.S. Ambassador Kip Tom’s  attempt to derail international policy discussions around agroecology, the U.S. government’s  representation to the UN Committee on World Food Security has objected to the inclusion of  references to the UN 2030 Agenda, human rights frameworks (specifically the Right to Adequate Food, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, and ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous  Peoples` Rights) references to the World Health Organization and regional public health  authorities, and safeguards against conflicts of interest in public policy-making spaces. 

Furthermore, the U.S. National Food Systems Dialogue events are led by U.S. Undersecretary of  Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at USDA, Ted McKinney, who prior to this role worked  for nearly 20 years for Dow AgroSciences, now part of Corteva which is one of the world’s largest  agro-chemical corporations. These on-going elements clearly indicate that the U.S. government is  neither objective in engaging in multilateral policy spaces in the United Nations, nor acting in  good-faith to represent the needs and interests of all producers in the U.S. toward the  transformational food system change we need, and thus further undermines the legitimacy of the  UNFSS. 

The COVID 19 public health crisis clearly revealed the fragility of the corporate-dominated sectors  of the food system in the U.S. and globally. With rising hunger in the U.S., historically high farmer debt, producer income and housing insecurity, and agribusiness monopsony control of most key  agricultural markets and sectors (including farm inputs, processing, and retail), it has never been  more apparent that systemic reform of food and agriculture sector governance is needed.  

The UN is an international organization in which all countries are supposed to have an equal voice,  regardless of their economic weight. Existing mechanisms at the UN, including the UN Committee  on World Food Security, allow meaningful consultation, negotiation, and dialogue with civil  society and producer organizations from around the world. We call on USDA and the U.S.  government’s representation to the UN, and the UN specialized agencies, to make significant  changes in how it approaches international food and agriculture policy. In the context of the  UNFSS, we urge the incoming Biden-Harris administration to:  

Publicly announce and implement steps to raise environmental, labor, public health, food  security/sovereignty, and economic standards of all food producers, workers, and  consumers, with prioritization of historically underserved and marginalized communities,  through international multilateral fora, such as the UN Committee on World Food Security  and UNFSS. 

Publicly announce all stakeholders the U.S. government is consulting in the formulation  of its policy positions and priorities in-relation to the UNFSS. 

Determine processes to ensure broad and meaningful participation, consultation, and  negotiation with civil society and producer organizations (including CSM North America)  throughout all events and policy negotiations related to the UNFSS and the UN Committee  on World Food Security. 

Take conflicts of interest prevention measures to ensure that the UNFSS, and the U.S.  government’s role in the UNFSS, do not cater to agribusiness interests but rather the public  good.  

We look forward to a response to these concerns. 

On behalf of the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism – North America 


Patti Naylor ([email protected]) CSM North America Focal Point  Jordan Treakle ([email protected]) – National Family Farm Coalition



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