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Food Sovereignty

A New Rights Framework for Food and Nature?

Hannah Wittman

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.

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Mapping the Food Movement

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.

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From Urban Agriculture to Urban Food

A Food System Analysis Based on Interaction between Research, Policy, and Society

Heidrun Moschitz, Jan Landert, Christian Schader and Rebekka Frick

Urban agriculture is embedded in an urban food system, and its full potential can only be understood by looking into the dynamics of the system. Involving a variety of actors from civil society, policy, and the market, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the food system of the city of Basel, Switzerland, including policy and actor analysis, analysis of perceptions on urban agriculture, food flow analysis, and a sustainability assessment. The article presents the results of these analyses and discusses how research can contribute to the societal debate on food systems transformation. We particularly reflect on how the research project became a boundary object in a dynamic process to develop new ideas and activities, as well as to create a space for future debates in the city’s food system.

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From Biotech to Nanotech

Public Debates about Technological Modifi cation of Food

Jennifer B. Rogers-Brown, Christine Shearer and Barbara Herr Harthorn

Technological modifications of food are being marketed as novel products that will enhance consumer choice and nutritional value. A recent manifestation is nanotechnology, entering the global food chain through food production, pesticides, vitamins, and food packaging. This article presents a detailed literature review on risk and benefit perceptions of technological developments for food and agriculture, including our own research from US deliberative workshops on nanotechnologies. The article suggests that many of the public concerns discussed in the literature on biotechnology in food are being raised in qualitative and quantitative studies on nanotechnologies for food: although nanotechnologies are generally perceived to be beneficial, many people express particular uneasiness about nanotechnological modifications of food. The article argues that these concerns represent material examples of unresolved social issues involving technologies and the food industry, including questions about the benefits of nanotechnology for food, and the heightened values attached to food as a cultural domain.

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Howard Cooper

This is a personal essay on Rabbi Lionel Blue and his idiosyncratic relationship to God. Although he had a first-class mind, Lionel Blue thought the mind was limited in relation to religious experience, and that Jews couldn't and shouldn't trust in material things, but had to learn to trust the intangibility of the spirit. Everyday life was a vehicle for holiness: food, cooking, religious items of the home were all valued, as was humour as a way of conveying religious truths. He was a religious pragmatist, finding out what works religiously and using that, rather than relying on tradition. His focus was on the everyday realities of people's lives rather than abstract theology.

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Patrick McEvoy

Studying the socio-ecological systems which produce food highlights the entangled nature of humans, other species and ecosystems near and far. The three texts discussed in this essay have this awareness in the foreground. Participants in the solidarity economy and artisan cheesemakers know this, and the three authors do as well, demonstrating an integration of ecological awareness in their research and the pursuit of new knowledge. Cristina Grasseni, Heather Paxson and Anna Tsing trace connections and describe flows of organisms, food, skills and ideas, from the microbial community on the surface of a maturing cheese to global trade networks shaping mushrooms, mushroom pickers and forests. Each demonstrates the tight synergies of human culture and more-than-human nature that shape ecosystems and produce food beyond increasingly fragile capitalist industrial food production systems.

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Marian Simon-Rojo, Inés Morales Bernardos and Jon Sanz Landaluze

In the aftermath of the economic crisis in the city of Madrid, food geography transformed. The urban unemployed began to engage in agriculture in periurban areas, creating new alliances between producers and consumers. Over a period of 15 years the alternative food movement organized on the fringe gave way to agroecological civic platforms that are highly assertive, and a dialogue with political institutions has opened. A key moment in the advance of this proactive attitude came about in the municipal elections of May 2015. Activists ascended to positions of political power and the backdrop of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, created an opportunity for the food movement to move from protest to program, and public policies permeated by agroecological principles.

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Another (Food) World Is Possible

Post-industrial French Paysans Fight for a Solidaire Global Food Policy

Chaia Heller

If the post-war industrial model entails a mix of technological and chemical interventions that increase farm productivity, then post-industrial agriculture (emerging in the 1970s) constitutes agricultural surpluses, as well as an array of trade, aid and biotechnology practices that introduce novel foodstuffs (processed and genetically modified) on an unprecedented scale. While industrial agriculture reduces the farming population, the latter gives rise to new sets of actors who question the nature and validity of the industrial model. This essay explores the rise of one set of such actors. Paysans (peasants) from France's second largest union, the Confederation Paysanne, challenge the industrial model's instrumental rationality of agriculture. Reframing food questions in terms of food sovereignty, paysans propose a solidarity-based production rationality which gives hope to those who believe that another post-industrial food system is possible.

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Orit Rozin

This article portrays the shaping of the Israeli nation and the shaping of the Israeli family at the early stages of statehood and nation-building, in times of economic strain, austerity, and massive emigration. Food supply, food consumption, and food distribution will be discussed. It is assumed that these aspects of daily life express, construct, produce, and reproduce social relation and hence have close affinity to both social and national order. Israeli legislators discussing the austerity policy, Israeli housewives struggling to feed their families, and food habits of immigrants under economic and cultural duress are some of the topics discussed. The study portrays the role of the state in building the nation's social net and constructing its character through food repertoire. The role played by the state will be compared to that of other social and cultural agents.

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Rethinking the Food-versus-Fuel Debate

An Appraisal of International Perspectives and Implications for the South African Industrial Biofuels Strategy

Shaun Ruysenaar

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.