The 2011-2012 Food Ethics Lecture Series continued on October 11th with a seminar a lecture presentation by Olivier de Schutter, Professor of Law at University of Louvain, Visiting Professor at Columbia University, and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Professor de Schutter's lecture was preceded by a seminar on "Rebuilding Local Food Systems." The seminar discussed the need for a radical change in the dominant food systems of today. As UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter acknowledged that hunger cannot be approached as a purely technological issue about food production. Rather, a more wholistic approach to food is required, one that includes the political economy of the food chain, environmental sustainability and ecofarming, as well as the nutritious quality of food itself.
By linking small agricultural producers to the local urban consumers, through short food chains, we can hope to both improve the incomes of the producers and improve access of consumers to fresh and nutritious foods. And by improving the knowledge of agroecological practices, we can delink the production of food from its current dependency on fossil energy, which has become unsustainable. Professor de Schutter's key task as Rapporteur on the Right to Food, in addition to researching and generating reports on the various aspects of the right to food, is to show governments that new approaches to food are not only necessary but also viable alternatives. Industry likewise needs to be shown that it can play a new and significant role by participating in alternate food systems which sustains the environment, producers, and consumers alike.
The seminar was followed by a webcast lecture entitled "A Tale of Four Hungers." In this lecture, Professor de Schutter presented a diagnosis of the current state of hunger and malnutrition in the world, based on the perspective provided by the human right to adequate food. In addition to providing participants with the historical background on current food systems, he presented possible transitions, such as a larger scale turn to agroecology, and suggested how appropriate institutional frameworks and governance tools can contribute to ameliorating the current food crisis.