‘Extinction of Consea is only the tip of the iceberg’ – exclusive interview about the big banquet, healthy eating and revocation of provisory measure

Amid smells, tastes and colours of a table dressed by several solidarity hands, social movements, popular organizations, CONSEA (National Food and Nutritional Security Council) volunteer workers, academics and students perform the ‘Big Banquet’ against the extinction of the institution. On day 27th of February, Wednesday, will be organized a collective banquet in more than 15 cities all over the country. In Salvador (Bahia), the activity will take place at Barra’s Port, from 10 am, in front of Midia Ninja’s House.

The initiative will count with several cultural activities followed by the “big banquet”, prepared by city’s cooking chefs, nutritionists, gastronomes and militants who are defending the human right to food. The event’s programming includes healthy eating free offer for population who visits the place, as   well as informations, presentations and conversation circle.

The Big Banquet is a national movement above political parties and aim to call attention of society, press and political power (deputies, senators and Citizenship Ministry) to the Council’s importance, which was extinguished by the actual president, on the first day of his mandate by the mean of Provisory Measure n° 870.

To understand better the importance of the act, we chatted with Sandra Chaves, former CONSEA national counsellor, PhD in Public Administration, Master Degree in Communitarian Health and professor at UFBA Nutrition School; and Carlos Eduardo Leite, former president of National Food and Nutritional Security Council (CONSEA)/Bahia and executive coordinator at Popular Rural Organizations Assessment Service (SASOP).

For the interviewed, the event is a creative manner of passing the message through to society about the CONSEA permanence and the right to appropriate, healthy and free of poison food. For UFBA Nutrition School professor, the act shows the importance of having an agenda in food and nutritional security policy, “giving an opportunity to access the information about all this, about the potential prejudices, about what is already happening and the perspectives”, she affirms.

According to SASOP coordinator, to feed is also a political act. “From the moment that you can choose what you want to eat, when you have the opportunity to choose between a healthy eating and a poisoned food, then you are exercising a citizenship position”.


CESE: The Big Banquet programming will take place in all the regions of the country on this 27th of February. In which manner this action pretends to raise awareness among the society about the importance of a healthy eating and to bring to debate the cancellation of the National Food and Nutritional Security Council (Consea)?

CARLOS EDUARDO: The Big Banquet has an important aspect, because it’s an innovation in the way to demonstrate publicly, offering healthy eating, on public square, for the population and for who is mobilizing around this initiative. This Big Banquet is a great idea! It is a moment of denunciation, but also of explaining the gains, because all the products mobilized come from family agriculture, from an agroecological production. There is an integration between family farmers, traditional communities and the people who consume in the city.

This debate in the big cities is of fundamental importance because major part of Brazilian population is in the big urban centres and we have to win the people of the city to join this struggle.


CESE: What do we loose with the CONSEA’s extinction?

SANDRA: We loose history and conquests, because the Food and Nutritional Security System, that was build since 2003 (and more institutionally in 2006, with the SAN Organic Law), results from a lot of struggles, denunciations and confrontations.

The life path of the CONSEA creation mixes with the very democracy reconquest in the country and with a way of understanding and act to promote rights and reduce inequalities. This is because a proposal arose in 1986, as a base for the Constituent National Assembly, is taken again and the first CONSEA was created in 1993, after the impeachment of Collor de Melo, at an important moment of the Citizenship Action Movement, against hunger and misery and for life. After, the CONSEA was extinguished during the first days of the first mandate of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and only will be recreated in 2003, on the first mandate of President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, when the fight against hunger and poverty reached the top of the political agenda.

When a unequal country as Brazil looses in democracy (in plural participatory spaces made to think, monitor and evaluate public policies), its citizens loose rights, specifically to participate in the public arena to ensure and demand rights.

For all the successful accumulated experience, a possible Consea extinction puts in perspective losses in the field of public action interesting the Food and Nutritional Security System. International Institutions acknowledge the range of social policies fighting against poverty and hunger, implemented between 2003 and 2014, part of which were proposed and debated at the CONSEA national conferences, were responsible for the removal of the country from the hunger map.

Where will these policies be build, debated? Moreover, we already know that part of the institutional apparatus that was created to manage these policies, also is being dismantled and its technicians, carrying the area organizational culture, were dismissed or relocated.


CESE: In other spaces, Caê, you already classified the Consea revocation as the tip of the iceberg. What is behind the extinction of the Council?

CARLOS EDUARDO: The law that creates Consea (11.346 of 2006) not only creates the Council, but all the Food and Nutritional Security System. This system has three fundamental organs, that are the National Food Security Conference, the National Food Security Council and the Food Security Inter-ministerial Chamber. As a system, on the same way that it is structured nationally, it must be structured in the States and Municipalities.

We succeed in incorporate into Brazilian legislation, the human right to food. Not even the 1988 Constitution included food as a right. So, from the moment that you dismantle a system, with the removal of one of its component (in this case, the Consea, which is the organ of social control over policy), you then pass to a system that doesn’t function well.

Once, a child made a drawing that, for me, translated all what we wanted to say, representing the Consea as a guardian of real food. And why it called Consea as a guardian? Because it is a space which counts with organized civil society participation, for two thirds. The presidency is from civil society – and this is an innovation in Brazil. It is also an organ of counselling to the president of the Republic and the Bolsonaro government substituted  by 2 councils: the Council of the Republic and the Council of National Defence. So this is an important data, symbolically and strategically, that shows the meaning of this actual government’s policy. In other words, the president wanted to tell: I’m not interested in being assisted by civil society to pursue a fight against hunger’s policy.

Now we will struggle so that we can guarantee the revocation of this Provisory Measure. We have already a series of modifications to this PM. So the fight doesn’t stop here. That’s why the Big Banquets have a mobilization strategic role, so that society can pressure not only the government, but also that other areas, which could still not be sensitized, can gain awareness of the reality in which we are living.

It’s important to show that the dismantle not only comes from this Bolsonaro President Measure. The dismantle came from the Coup, from the moment when you put out the Agricultural Development Ministry, narrow the Bolsa Familia program, are interrupted all the water supply policy with cisterns in the North East, all this during the Temer Government. So we need to look at these measures inside of a process. It is a 2016 Coup process which goes on materializing itself more and more and consolidating itself.


CESE: Brazil is one of the countries that consume more agrochemicals in the world. From Bolsonaro Governement’s first day, were liberated already 57 new pesticides on Brazilian market. What are the main effects on human health?

SANDRA: The documentary “Poison is served” already denounced the size of the Brazilian food problem due to the use of pesticides, a lot of which are banned in their country of origin. The exposition forms attain workers (occupational and food exposition), pesticides residues in food, and environment (contaminating air, water, rain, soil, residencies, agriculture and cattle raising).

The intoxications can be of acute, sub-acute or chronicle type. The causal links are, sometimes, difficult to be established, they demand expensive, long term researches and there is a lack of funders. But funders exist (the industries that produce the poisons) to support projects which demonstrate the benefits for food production, more time-life on shelf, etc.

In terms of human health, intestinal diseases, skin illnesses, liver and kidney alterations, neurological, immunity diseases and even also psychiatrical clinical scenario have been linked to the contact / consume of pesticides. The increase of cancer cases (breath, ovarian, prostate etc.) is being linked by researchers to the exacerbated and long-term consuming of these products. We are what we eat and we eat a lot of things and a lot of contaminated food.

Considering data’s from 2010, from ANVISA-MS, for 24 Brazilian States, 4,2% of the samples of lettuce were unaccepted because of their pesticides content; the same for 49,6% of carrots samples and 63,4% of strawberries samples. These results were before the change of ANVISA role in the liberation process and of all this opening to poisons produced in the world policy – with retraction also, and this is very important, of the investments for family, organic agriculture and for agroecology. We need to know more about this and disclose it.