Article written by 2008 DPDF Animal Studies Fellow Anjali Clare Gupta:
This paper explores the concept of food sovereignty on the island of Molokai, where the Hawaiian value of aloha ‘āina, or love for the land, guides local efforts to preserve and promote local food production. This organizing concept also has political undertones—food sovereignty requires access to land and resources, both of which Native Hawaiians have historically been dispossessed of since colonial contact. In the paper, I examine current anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activism as one example of the uniquely Hawaiian food sovereignty efforts taking place on Molokai. I present two key arguments. First, I show how the anti-GMO platform, which has garnered support from both native Hawaiians and more recent settlers, reflects a strategic alliance that gives greater momentum to Hawai‘i’s food sovereignty movement, which in turn is viewed by a growing number of Native Hawaiians as a pathway toward Indigenous sustainable self-determination. I also draw from the Molokai case to illustrate a perceived tension between community-based work and political engagement that exists within both the food sovereignty paradigm and the contemporary Indigenous sovereignty framework. I argue that aloha ‘āina as a cultural and political praxis suggests ‘ways out’ of this apparent paradox, by showing how Hawaiians have historically engaged simultaneously in both community-based practices and political activism as a means to care for their land and people. While food sovereignty on Molokai calls for the privileging of place-based knowledge, there are lessons to be learnt for social movements elsewhere that are also struggling internally to deconstruct and define what is meant by food sovereignty, and how best to achieve it.