Bolivia proposes breakthrough new law on food security

Image from flickr user: Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak

Bolivian President Evo Morales is at it again. A newly proposed law by his government is poised to ensure food security for his people and protection for the environment. The law is presently being debated, though the President is expected to be signing it soon.

The Law of Productive, Communal and Agricultural Revolution is based on a Bolivian belief. The belief is a concept called Suma Qamaña which translates to living well. The Bolivian understanding of living well is not the same as most others would expect as in living a life of luxury etc. They believe in living in harmony with Pachamama, which to us means Mother Earth.

The government of Bolivia is willing to invest USD$54.5 million in this new law which will be funded by the Bolivian treasury. The investment will sustain policies guaranteeing local and self-sufficient production of high quality food whilst still preserving and respecting the country’s immense biodiversity. A crucial part to this law is that Bolivia will produce their own seeds.

Carlos Romero, the minister who initially proposed the draft law commented that “in recent years we’ve seen an increase in their [food production] price across the world, because of a rise in oil prices and the monopoly exercised on seeds by a few corporations. That’s why we want to create state-owned companies that produce seeds”

Food security is vital for any country at present. Global food prices are slowly climbing all over the world being impacted by climate change, price speculation and foreign demand. Bolivia itself is not immune to this, having to import sugar due to shortages which led prices to double. Prices for locally produced traditional indigenous foods like quinoa are also on a high with some highland communities having to instead resort to pasta and rice.

Demetrio Pérez, president of Anapo, an association of more than 14,000 wheat, soya and corn producers in the country’s fertile eastern plains says that consumers are far too reliant on imported produce.  Pérez stated that “We depend too much on Argentina and Brazil,  so what better way to produce our own seeds? If we use the latest technology and have a good harvest, prices can go down and we can convert Bolivia into an exporting country.”

A reassuring fact is that though the government would like to produce their own seeds whilst using the latest technology, they will not be embracing the same technology most large corporations use. They will also not be embracing genetic modification.

An agricultural engineer at the National Council for Food and Nutrition, Circo Kopp highlighted a growing problem in this new age of agriculture. “About 20 to 25 years ago, 70 to 80% of what we ate was produced locally in Bolivia, but then we embraced the agro-industrial model and now 70 to 80% of what we eat comes from the agro-industry, which makes us dependent on technologies and price controls from abroad. So, in the same way that industrialists received support from the government in the past, now it’s small farmers who need help.”

Bolivia’s representative to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, Elisa Panadés agrees with this new law. “Bolivia is creating the conditions to strengthen small producers who are the most vulnerable and affected by the isolation of where many of them live and by climate change,” she said. “[They] cannot compete fairly in local, regional or global markets, because of poor road conditions and lack of access to seeds and fertilisers.”

With the induction of this new law, food security will support small and local farmers whilst also improving their living conditions. Bolivia will be able to sustain themselves independently and instead of adding to rising food prices they may also help take some marginal pressure off.



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