Monday, January 3, 2011


Democracy invariably signifies consent by a majority of the constituents involved in any decision making. It is also a people oriented system where the aspirations and sensitivities of people are required to be respected. It is another matter that most practicing democracies have evolved over the years into a system where politicians tend to overwhelm the people who elect them with policies and actions for serving their own interests rather than those of the people. Food policies also are evolved by the governments without bothering to take the real interests the people. The widespread use of GM foods in the US is a classical example where government colludes with the industry to force the citizens to eat what is not acceptable to them without keeping the latter informed about it. The food council phenomenon that is becoming widespread in many states in that country wants to address this issue by involving people at the local level in evolving and taking decisions desirable for the community.

"Food policy councils (FPC) began holistic, whole-systems approach to the innumerable issues surrounding food production, processing, preparation, and distribution. Food policy councils harness the weight of already existing local, county, state and grassroots initiatives, working across sectors, engaging with government policies, grassroots/nonprofit projects, local businesses and food-industry workers from farm to table. Food policy councils establish a space for coordinated discussion and action regarding the food system at the local level. Rather than administering programs, the FPC would primarily serve as a forum for discussion and project incubation, helping individuals to start up programs. Food policy councils have grown in size, scale and number since the first FPC was formed in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1982. Today there are more than 40 active food policy councils across North America, with new ones forming every month. Their overall goal is to democratize the food policy system, thereby giving all people equal access not only to food but also to the policy/procedural processes that largely govern the food system and determine what options are and are not available to local communities".

How far these councils would be able to really make any impact is a debatable issue, especially when government is not involved or represented in these bodies. It is easily said that one should not depend on the government too much to solve people's problem but what if government itself is the problem? If democracy is truly practiced these councils could become channels for effective communication between the government and the people. Probably there is a case to integrate the food policy councils into the country's decision making apparatus vis-à-vis food related issues. In a country like India if and when such local set ups are created, it may be more appropriate to empower them to meet the challenges involved in tackling large scale food adulteration that is becoming more and more rampant day by day. They should not be made innocuous like the NGOs without any power, leaving them only to agitate and carry out campaigns against the government with practically no impact.


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