A ‘special’ perspective on food, human rights and the future of agriculture

Olivier De Schutter

For today’s podcast, we talk with the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter.

You may wonder: What the heck is a rapporteur, let alone a special one? What do we mean by a right to food? The UN loves to use five-dollar words and long titles, a great strategy if your goal is to get people to not pay attention.

But Humanosphere thinks everyone should pay close attention to what De Schutter says, despite the UN’s best efforts to make him sound wonky and hopelessly idealistic.  (No, right to food the UN doesn’t mean you can walk into a store and demand a banana. A ‘rapporteur’ simply means someone who does research and writes reports, by the way. Special means special).

De Schutter, who recently stepped down from the UN job, has some important and sometimes counter-intuitive insights on food, human rights and the future.

He has also long been willing to challenge some powerful interests, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or the Obama Administration, if he believes they are promoting misguided and possibly harmful strategies aimed at improving agriculture in the developing world.

Food is fundamental to life, but food prices and food production practices are also inextricably linked to economics, political (and geopolitical) stability, health, welfare and even human rights. De Schutter believes we can feed everyone on the planet and do so in a rights-based way that fights inequity, improves lives and protects the environment. His views are gaining acceptance in the international community so if you care about food, equity and the environment (and, well, who doesn’t?), you need to know De Schutter.

But before we listen in on Tom Paulson’s conversation with the former UN Special Rapporteur, I review some of the top news in the Humanosphere – a very creative interactive map that compares World  Cup rankings with other national stats such as GDP, happiness or corruption; and an analysis revealing the deadly difference between Hindus and Muslims in India when it comes to pooping outside.

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About Author

Gabe Spitzer

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago.