Misconception #3 about the Right to Food: There is no need to establish a right to food. Rights make people lazy. And who is supposed to pay for such a right?

The concept of a right to food should not be misunderstood as the right to “social transfers” of food or money to disadvantaged groups. Social transfers are only a last resort, except to children, the elderly, and the disabled. The use of transfers often reveals a state’s failure to implement the right to feed oneself. This right should ensure respect and protection of access to food-producing resources and work. Hence, the right to food leads to industriousness, not laziness, because when the right is appropriately enforced, access to resources, skills, and work is respected, protected, and fulfilled. Providing such access involves relatively modest levels of funding. Agricultural policy change, agrarian reform, and providing access to land for millions of landless farmers are productive investments in the fulfillment of human needs.

Governments must fulfill this obligation to provide people with access to food by guaranteeing them the opportunity to feed themselves. Such fulfillment-bound obligations have a bearing on decision making at the economic policy level. When economic policies fail to provide access to food, the State must first transfer adequate food-producing resources, including land, the means of production, and soft production loans. Only when these measures fail or are unfeasible should money and food be provided.

In summary, the right to food reduces the need for social transfers by organizing economic life so as to respect, protect, and fulfill people’s access to food-producing resources, self-employment, and wage employment.

Adapted from FIAN 1996, Twelve Misconceptions about the Right to Food as a Human Right. Heidelberg: FIAN International Secretariat.