The food commons in Europe: Relevance, challenges and proposals to support them

Document presented and discussed during the first meeting of the European Commons Assembly, 15-17 November 2016, Brussels

Jose Luis Vivero Pol, November 2016

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Summary :

ood, a life enabler and a cultural cornerstone, is a resource with multiple meanings and different valuations for societies and individuals. Food shapes morals and norms, triggers enjoyment and social life, substantiate art and culture (gastronomy), affects traditions and identity, relates to animal ethics and determines and is shaped by power and control. Therefore, this multiple and relevant meanings cannot be reduced to the one of tradeable good. The value of food cannot be fully expressed by its price in the market. The six dimensions of food (see figure 1), namely food as an essential life enabler, a natural resource, a human right, a cultural determinant, a tradeable good and a commons, cannot be reduced to the mono-dimensional valuation of food as a commodity. So far, the theory of the commons has barely touched upon food, still considered a realm that escapes the normative doctrine and praxis of commoners and common scholars. Oddly enough, the different epistemologies (schools of thought) that have analysed the commons in order to understand its nature, origins, governance, utilities and challenges have rarely considered that food is a commons or can function as a commons.