In­ter­view: John Stans­field, Ox­fam's ad­vo­cacy and cam­paigns di­rec­tor

Element - - Cover Story -

What has brought about this cam­paign? Peo­ple are hun­gry be­cause the food sys­tem is bro­ken. And it is bro­ken be­cause we have ceded sovereignty of the sys­tem. We are no longer say­ing that this sys­tem is re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing enough food sus­tain­ably for us to eat, we have let it be­come its own sov­er­eign state, and we say ‘what­ever you think is right to make money, it’s fine’. We look back at slav­ery and say ‘these are in­tel­li­gent peo­ple, they were well ed­u­cated and moral, how could they have al­lowed that to hap­pen?’ I think peo­ple will look back on star­va­tion and say the same thing. What does the cam­paign fo­cus on? It is aimed at the root causes. It’s our most in­tel­li­gent re­sponse yet to hunger, with the in­ten­tion of cre­at­ing a new sol­i­dar­ity be­tween pro­duc­ers and con­sumers. The thing that de­ter­mines whether you will be hun­gry or not is the rights you have, the po­lit­i­cal power. We have to make food a right, and then work on peo­ple’s ac­cess to power. Why can t we just leave this to the mar­ket? It’s no ac­ci­dent that the places do­ing re­ally well on this are those who have not just left this to the mar­ket. Food is too im­por­tant to just leave to the mar­ket. It’s not just Bar­bie dolls we are talk­ing about; this is how we grow our kids! Why now? There’s a whole lot more in­ter­est among or­di­nary peo­ple about where the food comes from and what’s in it now. At the same time our govern­ment has made a weak de­ci­sion that we can’t af­ford to la­bel our food so that we know where it comes from. I was in the su­per­mar­ket on the day they made that de­ci­sion, and I had a piece of fruit in my hand, and on it was a sticker say­ing ‘yummy’. We can af­ford to put a sticker on to say ‘yummy’ but not tell me where it has come from? Re­ally? What do you think New Zealand s role should be in mak­ing these changes? When our govern­ment is sit­ting down at the ta­ble we want them to write rules that favour de­vel­op­ment, not food multi-na­tion­als. We have some bril­liant agri­cul­tural re­searchers in this coun­try and we should be start­ing to show real lead­er­ship about the sort of agri­cul­ture that will work. It’s not large scale farm­ing, be­cause that brings a whole load of other en­vi­ron­men­tal and hu­man rights prob­lems. We need to pri­ori­tise small-scale farm­ing and take on some of the en­trenched in­ter­ests of this sys­tem.

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