Does the Human Right to Food Include an Implicit Right to a Healthy Environment?
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights defines the human right to food as "the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear." Notably, this definition provides no explicit mention of the environment. The General Comment on the Right to Food by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights references "sustainability" but not in the broader context of environmental protection. Instead, sustainability simply refers to "food being accessible for both present and future generations."
This presentation queries to what extent ecological sustainability is a component of the human right to food as understood by States in designing national food security strategies. Is it possible to read the right to food coherently with the right to a healthy environment or do these rights only overlap for those States that have formally recognized both the right to food and the right to a healthy environment through constitutional or statutory measures. What implications do these two rights have for international food production? Is the right to a healthy environment embedded with the right to food? Or is it acceptable for most of the United States (with the possible exception of Montana, Hawaii, and Illinois who have explicit state constitutional rights to a healthy environment) to sanction existing industrial food production practices as fulfilling the human right to food for both US nationals and international citizens because these activities satisfy the requirement to "provide adequate and sufficient food" even when some of these operations such as feedlots and pesticide-treated agricultural operations pose contamination risks to the environment?