Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Wenonah Hauter

First Page



International free trade agreements under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) seriously undermine the international human right to adequate food. Conceivably, those deprived should be able to seek redress under Article 11 of the International. Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which spells out the right to adequate food. Unfortunately, while the concept of the right to adequate food has developed substantially since its inception, its implementation has been slow. It is not a well-developed tool for individuals or the groups representing them to redress harms that will likely result from the current Doha Round negotiations of the WTO. The limitations in the law's development suggest a need for an alternative strategy. Food sovereignty, a movement that has as one of its central tenets that food should be removed as a tradable commodity from WTO agreements, provides such an alternative.

Section I of this article discusses the present state of world food insecurity and draws from the experiences of Mexican farmers and consumers under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-the 1994 agreement liberalizing trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico--to show how food security can be undermined by agricultural trade liberalization. It also discusses how further agricultural trade liberalization under the WTO's Doha Round will likely have similar results, even if agricultural goods are exempted from the negotiations. Section II details how the right to adequate food is embodied in international human rights law. It argues that developments in this area of the law have increased people's opportunities to obtain redress when their rights have been denied due to trade policies. It also details the law's developmental limits. Section III discusses the food sovereignty movement and argues that it is a better strategy for protecting people's food security than the right to adequate food.