The Quebec and Canadian governments must get involved in the fight to recognize an exception for agriculture and food and the right of all people to food sovereignty, as they did when they recognized the cultural exception at UNESCO.
Food sovereignty is the right of a people to set their own national policies to promote local, healthy and environmentally-friendly agricultural and food production. Agricultural and food production should be carried out in equitable conditions that respect the right of all partners to decent working conditions and pay. Accordingly, all people have the right to set their own food and agricultural policies, protect and regulate production and national agricultural and food trade in an effort to achieve the objectives of sustainable development, determine the extent of their food sovereignty and eliminate dumping in their market. Food sovereignty is a more responsible strategy than all-out liberalization of agricultural trade, as conceived by the World Trade Organization (WTO);
Les Producteurs du lait du Québec (PLQ) is one of the founding members of the Food Sovereignty Coalition and wants the principles of this concept to be recognized by the Canadian and Quebec governments, as outlined in its vision statement. On the last hearing of Quebec’s commission on the future of agriculture and food, which took place on September 7, 2007, 42 Quebec and Canadian civil society organizations, including the PLQ, signed a declaration entitled “For A New Social Contract Based on Food Sovereignty.” A few months later, the Commission tabled its report and suggested in it that the sound ideas of food sovereignty should be supported. This declaration, now known as the Declaration of Montreal, is a sort of policy statement that led to the creation of the Food Sovereignty Coalition just over a year later.
It should be noted that the concept of food sovereignty was discussed publically for the first time in 1996 during the World Food Summit of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and is gaining more and more support around the world. Since then, thousands of civil society organizations around the globe are arguing in favour of food sovereignty, from North, Central and South America, Asia and Africa to Europe and Oceania. In conjunction with the general meetings of the FAO, which are held every few years, these organizations meet within a worldwide food sovereignty network. Internationally renowned leaders also question the fact that agriculture and food are considered the same as any other trade sector. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is one of them. He declared before the UN in October 2008 that “we should go back to a policy of maximum food self-sufficiency.”