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Seeds, food networks and politics: different ontologies in relation to food sovereignty in Ecuador

Martinez Flores, L.A.

Abstract

Abstract

In this thesis I explore the ontological proposal of food sovereignty and I discuss the possibilities offered by studies like this one to the attempts of the social sciences to explain – in a symmetrical fashion - that develop between humans and other entities at the time of production, processing and consumption of food. In this effort I combine ethnography and history.

I argue that in countries like Ecuador, food networks such as that of the lupine, Lupino mutabilis Sweet, since they do not establish ontological differences between nature and culture, promote the implementation of food sovereignty in practice, as long as agricultural and science and technology (S&T) policies enable the autonomous development of such networks. More specifically, food networks in the Andean highlands have functioned in a rhizomatic way, without establishing hierarchies between entities of different ontology: foods as goods or foods as gifts, society and nature, and have spread without discontinuities between town and country. This analysis enables me to show that these networks can promote food sovereignty, because in them is condensed an ontology distinct from that of modernity with regard to the cultivation, processing and consumption of food. Considering these findings I analyse the rationality of S&T policies and the current policies of the Ecuadorian State. I argue that such policies go against the logic of food networks. Food sovereignty is an achievable goal if Ecuadorian government policies contribute to the strengthening of food networks, creating new links so that they can sidestep the agribusiness model.

The organisation of this thesis is unusual, as the object of study is a food network. This forced me to research and structure this dissertation in a particular way. So, I start with the ethnographic explanation of a food network. Here I analyse its operation, relationships and the paths it establishes. From this analysis it is possible to understand why S&T policies, specifically those related to plant breeding, created new social relations that affected the food networks of the highlands. I show here how the modern rationality on which agricultural policies are based inhibits the growth of food networks and works against food sovereignty. Then, from the analysis of the formation of the food sovereignty network, I examine the introduction of the food sovereignty proposal into the Ecuadorian Constitution and the changes made to the original proposal. I show how the translation of the Via Campesina proposal present in the constitution and the subsequent law is possible due to the intervention of actors linked with the big businesses of the food trade. All this enables me, finally, to discuss my contribution: the analysis of the ontological promise present in the food sovereignty proposal.