Three Misconceptions About Right to Food

1. A Right to Food Implies that the Very Existence of Hunger is a Violation of Human Rights

Mere existence of hunger does not constitute a violation of human rights. Deprivation – lacking access to food – can have many causes. In some cases a government does its best to keep its obligations, yet people still go hungry due to natural calamities or inadequate resources. Only a clear failure of a government to fulfill its obligations, when it is in a position to take remedial steps, can be termed a breach of the right to food.

2. The concept of a right to food is too theoretical–It is food, not the right to food, that is needed

Pragmatically speaking, people need access to food in a normal dignified way. One’s access to food affects one’s entire fabric of life. First Information and Action Network (FIAN) uses the term, “right to feed oneself,” which does not mean an individual’s right to sustenance but rather, the individual’s right to dignified freedom to procure food, whether from others or from nature.

Dignified access to food means the freedom to be employed, perhaps self-employed, in agriculture or industry; it means the availability of work under conditions, which are as just and fair as reasonably possible. So, implementing right to food automatically implies efforts by the state to create employment opportunities.

3. There is no need to establish a right to food. Rights make people lazy. And who is supposed to pay for such a right?

Right to Food is Responsibility

The concept of a right to food should not be misunderstood as the right to “social transfers” of food or money to disadvantaged groups. Social transfers are only a last resort, except to children, the elderly, and the disabled. The use of transfers often reveals a state’s failure to implement the right to feed oneself. This right should ensure respect and protection of access to food-producing resources and work.

When the right is appropriately enforced, access to resources, skills, and work is respected, protected, and fulfilled. Agricultural policy change, agrarian reform, and providing access to land for millions of landless farmers are productive investments towards implementing right to food.

The right based obligations of government have a bearing on decision making at the economic policy level. When economic policies fail to provide access to food, the State must first transfer adequate food-producing resources, including land, the means of production, and soft production loans. Only when these measures fail or are unfeasible should money and food be provided.

In summary, the right to food reduces the need for charitable social spending by organizing economic life that is conducive to self-employment and wage employment.

About Goodpal

I am a firm believer in healthy people (mind and body both), healthy societies and healthy environment. Please feel free to comment, share and broadcast your views -- I like rational and intellectual discussions. Thanks for stopping by. Have a Good Day!
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