The global rush toward a biofueled future (and subsequent apprehension concerning unintended consequences) has met with powerful and wide-ranging critique. Bolstered by globally increasing food prices peaking in 2008, food insecurity has become a central concern when considering pursuing biofuels. Arguments in the wider literature propose a number of perspectives with which to evaluate the biofuels-food security nexus. In South Africa, however, the debate is largely configured around maize-for-ethanol and polarized between two antagonistic camps. A host of agricultural lobbies and industrial interests argue in support of biofuels while some politicians, civil society, and NGOs argue against it. Both groups draw their arguments from various domains of the food security discourse in support of their cause. This article considers the merits of these opposing arguments in relation to wider perspectives in the literature, in many cases highlighting non-holistic assumptions made by the opposing claimants. This article seeks to rekindle a waning dialogue and provide a more robust outline of the major concerns that need to be addressed when considering biofuels production from a food security perspective. Only then can South Africa expect to weigh up accurately the value of pursuing biofuels production.
An Appraisal of International Perspectives and Implications for the South African Industrial Biofuels Strategy
A New Rights Framework for Food and Nature?
Food sovereignty, as a critical alternative to the concept of food security, is broadly defined as the right of local peoples to control their own food systems, including markets, ecological resources, food cultures, and production modes. This article reviews the origins of the concept of food sovereignty and its theoretical and methodological development as an alternative approach to food security, building on a growing interdisciplinary literature on food sovereignty in the social and agroecological sciences. Specific elements of food sovereignty examined include food regimes, rights-based and citizenship approaches to food and food sovereignty, and the substantive concerns of advocates for this alternative paradigm, including a new trade regime, agrarian reform, a shift to agroecological production practices, attention to gender relations and equity, and the protection of intellectual and indigenous property rights. The article concludes with an evaluation of community-based perspectives and suggestions for future research on food sovereignty.
Peasant Agroecological Systems as New Frontiers of Exploitation?
Anne Cristina de la Vega-Leinert and Peter Clausing
In view of the Aichi international policy targets to expand areas under conservation, we analyze to what extent conservation has become an inherent element of extraction. We scrutinize the Land Sparing versus Land Sharing debate by explicitly incorporating environmental justice issues of access to land and natural resources. We contend that dominant conservation regimes, embedded within Land Sparing, legitimize the displacement of local people and their land use to compensate for distant, unsustainable resource use. In contrast, the Land Sharing counternarrative, by promoting spatial integration of conservation in agroecological systems, has the potential to radically challenge extraction. Common ground emerges around the concept of sustainable intensification. We contend that if inserted in green economy’s technocentric and efficiency-oriented framework, sustainable intensification will contribute to undermining diversified peasant agroecological systems by transforming them into simplified, export-orientated ones, thereby stripping peasant communities of the capacity to provide for their own needs.
Expo 2015 represented a major challenge for Milan and Italy. Built around the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” it combined local and global traditions, innovation, and technology, while establishing diplomatic and trade relations with many countries from around the world. The conclusion of a long process that had lasted about nine years, Expo 2015 was marked by difficulties in its governance and by delays in the implementation of its projects and works. After a brief review of this process, the chapter focuses on the events of 2015, the final race for the completion of works, and the event itself. It then discusses the theme that was chosen, including its representation by the various pavilions set up by the 158 participating countries. The final section discusses the outcome of Expo 2015 in terms of its legacy—the Milan Charter—and the economic opportunity for future development that the site presents.
Remaking Rural Landscapes in Twenty-first Century Europe
The management of agriculture has long played a key role in efforts to remake European borders, landscapes and identities. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been a centerpiece of European collaboration and debate since the first steps were taken to establish the European Community after the Second World War. Launched by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, it was first designed to regulate the agricultural market and protect food security across the original six member states of France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. With successive European enlargements and ongoing transformations in the world agricultural markets, the CAP has been in continual negotiation.
This article describes ways rural women and men in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forests created regional and trans-regional institutions to develop and sustain effective environmental governance. It traces their interpretation of political ecology within local realities, based on household concerns centred upon water and food security, and how they came to draw upon global discourse and increased civic participation. The article shows how they created communities of practice that came to define local (and glocal) sustainability. Their proactive and generative approaches to environmentalism – expressed through actions and institutions – are significant, offering examples of expanded social equity and adaptive resilience in the face of change.
Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda
The following question was asked during the 2017 International Conference of the Consortium for Comparative Research on Regional Integration and Social Cohesion (RISC) on “Integrated and Coherent Sustainable Development”: “If forced to choose one of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] to prioritize, which would it be?” Of course, this provocation elicited numerous responses, and passionate debate as each of the SDGs is worthy and the policy community supporting sustainable development is heterogeneous, including stakeholders who are implicated in discussions on the environment, human rights, public health, food security, water security, gender equality, and so on. None of the responses forwarded can be considered “wrong.”
Between 1900 and 1939, the French empire devoted increasing attention to the problems of hunger and famine in the colonies. Influenced by discoveries associated with the emerging science of nutrition and under pressure from international organizations such as the League of Nations, French colonial administrations accepted food security as their most basic responsibility to their territories overseas. French scientists and administrators applied nutritional insights first to individuals in the fight against deficiency disease, then to “races” in an attempt to increase labor productivity, and finally to colonial populations as a whole. But as increasingly sophisticated notions of nutrition and public health influenced colonial administration, it became clear that the lofty promises of nutrition science were empty in a context in which subjects struggled to achieve minimum subsistence. The inability of the French empire to fulfill its responsibilities undermined the ideological justification for colonialism.
Addressing Inequality and Neoliberalism
Teresa Marie Mares and Alison Hope Alkon
In this article, we bring together academic literature tracing contemporary social movements centered on food, unpacking the discourses of local food, community food security, food justice, and food sovereignty. This body of literature transcends national borders and draws on a rich genealogy of studies on environmental justice, the intersections of race, class, and gender, and sustainable agro-food systems. Scholars have emphasized two key issues that persist within these movements: inequalities related to race and class that shape the production, distribution, and consumption of food, and the neoliberal constraints of market-based solutions to problems in the food system. This article claims that food movements in the United States would be strengthened through reframing their work within a paradigm of food sovereignty, an approach that would emphasize the production of local alternatives, but also enable a dismantling of the policies that ensure the dominance of the corporate food regime. The article concludes by offering a critical analysis of future research directions for scholars who are committed to understanding and strengthening more democratic and sustainable food systems.