Organizers of the Labor Day weekend celebration to follow expect to draw over 50,000 people to a variety of events, including a victory garden, food tastings, a Food for Thought speakers' series, a marketplace, and chef demonstrations. It could be the largest food event in American history.
Some of the leading voices in "the good food movement" have drafted the petition. It seeks to change the food policy of the United States and is described as a "national call for a new, sustainable food system." It intends to provide "a clear and commonly held framework for future action to educate citizens and policy makers."
The president of Roots of Change (ROC), a San Francisco-based group, and former chairman of Slow Food USA, Michael Dimock, initiated the concept of such a petition. "This declaration is a call to action by and for all Americans," he said. ( www.rocfund.org) "The purpose of U.S. food and agriculture must change and it can no longer focus on the production of cheap calories. Conditions demand a more holistic approach to human and community health that begins on our farms and ranches," he added.
Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Richard Rominger, a farmer, helped draft the petition and said, "This Declaration, which is being crafted by a broad coalition, is the preamble for the next generation of farm policy, and we hope it will stimulate the discussion to help get us there."
"Behind us stands a half-century of industrial food production, underwritten by cheap fossil fuels, abundant land and water resources, and a drive to maximize the global harvest of cheap calories," the Declaration's first paragraph asserts. "Ahead lie rising energy and food costs, a changing climate, declining water supplies, a growing population, and the paradox of widespread hunger and obesity," it continues.
"'It's the spectre of a food, fuel and water crisis,' says Lars Thunell," the IPS article continues. He is the executive vice president of the Washington-based International Finance Corporation. Agriculture is the most water-intensive sector. The decline in fresh water threatens the food supply. Thunell described recent riots over food prices, growing hunger, and rising malnutrition. Current estimates are that the world will not have enough water to feed itself within 40 years.
"Keeping water under local, public and democratic control is the most just way to insure the greatest degree of water access for the greatest number of people," according to Patti Lynn of Corporate Accountability International, the IPS article concludes.
This is the context within which the Food Declaration will be unveiled in San Francisco and posted at www.fooddeclaration.org. Endorsements and comments will be solicited. The public will be given 90 days to comment before the drafting team creates the final document. The goal is to get at least 300,000 signatures to present it in Washington, D.C. to Congress in the Fall of 2009.
"The movement to create better food and agriculture in the U.S. has been slowly and steadily gaining ground for well over a decade," according to a recent Roots of Change (ROC) statement. "The public's increasing interest and the media's deepening coverage of climate change, energy, agriculture, labor issues, food costs, food quality and obesity may finally illuminate the interrelationship of these crises and provide a context for urgently needed changes," ROC continues.
The intention is to influence the next national farm bill. "The last farm bill cycle," ROC maintains, "confirmed that a tight cadre of lobbyists control the debate to protect the status quo rather than aid the population of the nation." The current farm policy "is mired in a 20th Century industrial paradigm" that benefits "entrenched interests," ROC asserts.
A healthy food and agriculture policy, according to the Declaration, would follow twelve foundational principles. Among them are the following:
• Provides access to affordable, nutritious food for everyone;