At a public hearing of the Joint Special Committee last week, Senator Fernando Bezerra Coelho, accepted the politician's amendment and suspended the article that disbanded CONSEA.
The proposed measure would see CONSEA linked to the Ministry of Citizenship, charged with implementing Brazil’s National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security. The text was set to go to a vote in plenary sessions in the House and Senate.
CONSEA was an advisory body that allowed for dialogue between civil society and the Brazilian Presidency on issues of food and nutrition security, such as nutrition labeling, GMO foods, misleading food advertising, and access to food.
It received international recognition for its progressive work. The 2016 Global Nutrition Report praised Brazil its work in promoting healthy, sustainable food systems through CONSEA.
However, on the same day he was sworn into office, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s newly formed government introduced a provisional measure that repealed paragraph 2006 of the Organic Law of Food and Nutrition Security, effectively disbanding CONSEA.
The provisional measure sparked outcry from stakeholders and demonstrations across the country.
The Federal Public Ministry (MPF) published a technical note warning that CONSEA's extinction was unconstitutional because it created a "legal impossibility" by removing the tool needed to implement fundamental policy, such as the right to food, without providing a replacement.
In February, thousands of chefs, farmers, activists, and members of the public across 22 states organized large-scale, community banquets in the streets, calling on the government to bring back CONSEA. In São Paulo, 1,500 meals were served, according to consumer rights organization IDEC.
'An important victory'
Ana Paula Bortoletto, head of food at IDEC, called the development “a victory [and] an important step”.
Politician Nilto Tatto tweeted: “Congratulations to everyone who has been fighting for CONSEA, threatened by Bolsonaro’s misgovernment. Yesterday we achieved an important victory by recreating this important Council.”
However, others exercised more caution.
Bringing back CONSEA was “very possible but not guaranteed”, said Ming Liu, president of organic food industry trade association Organis.
“Let’s hope that [politicians] vote thinking about the practical effects and not political issues, as several topics are being used as a bargain for political parties in the dispute of power,” Liu told FoodNavigator-LATAM.
“Fortunately, civil society made several movements for reinstating CONSEA and also different senators and deputies from different parties have agreed to bring [it] back, which builds strength for the presidential decision.”
“[CONSEA] is an important voice of the society to discuss food security throughout the whole chain,” Liu added.