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Imagining a new Law to help feed the planet

Recognizing an “exception for food” on the model of the “cultural exception” & providing special treatment for natural resources products are some of the propositions of the LASCAUX program to reach the objective of food democracy in the world

At the end of 2008, political troubles and revolts burst out in Madagascar, leading to the overthrow of the government. Among the causes of the revolt was the discovery of a contract to be signed between the Madagascan government and a foreign company. In this contract, the government agreed to lease for 99 years over one million hectares of land to the company. This contract was made possible because of a land reform started in 2005 which revoked the existing land law and liberalized the possibility for foreigners to invest in Madagascan land. More broadly, land grabbing, food crisis, horse meat scandal, world food imbalances are made possible because national, European and international rules are badly made, badly implemented or non-existing. If we want international trade to take into consideration values such as human rights, or objectives like food security, the protection of agricultural biodiversity and the preservation of natural resources, we need to make the laws evolve in such way. One of the objectives of the EU-funded LASCAUX program (2009-2014) was to identify the legal causes of the crises linked to agriculture and food in national law, continental law and international law, and to conceptualize several legal frameworks that could allow Human Beings to have access to sufficient healthy food. With an international network of researchers from Europe, Africa, Asia and America, mostly jurists but also economists, historians, sociologists and anthropologists, the LASCAUX Program identified legal obstacles but also legal models to reach the objective of food security. Eventually, LASCAUX researchers came up with propositions. One of them is the international recognition of an "exception for food" on the model of the "cultural exception". Another proposal is to revisit the Havana Charter. Signed in 1948 by 53 countries but never ratified, this charter provided special legal treatment for commodities, that is to say, for natural resources products. LASCAUX researchers also worked on fairer balance for international investments in farmland in developing countries, on access to agricultural inputs and intellectual property, and on better information on food products to allow willing consumers to make choices as informed citizens. These solutions and levers are highlighted in three books: a “Legal dictionary of food security in the world”, which sheds new light on the legal issue of food security and a collective book “Thinking a food democracy”, which outlines possible solutions (two volumes). The LASCAUX Program: