Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by David Deese
Chapter 20: Food is different: globalization, trade regimes and local food movements
Food is different. It is not a typical commodity because it affects so many people – and the environment – in such intimate ways. Food has the power to move us to action. Food is both personal (it affects our bodies) and political (it affects the world). (Rosset 2006: 79) Food (the word is derived from an old English term of Germanic origin referring to fodder) is normally thought of as a nutritious substance that we eat or drink, which is necessary, at some minimal level, to the maintenance of life. In contrast, agriculture refers to the cultivation of crops in fields or the rearing of animals. The crops produced may or may not include edible substances we would call food. My use of the term ‘food’ in this chapter is intended to shift the focus in the discussion of the WTO to capture what Peter Rosset notes, that is, that food is not a typical traded commodity; it is different. Eating food is the most intimate act of consumption, necessary to our survival and well-being, tied up in culture and community. But a global food system has emerged as a result of liberalized markets, new technologies and financialization which has increased the distance between producers and eaters of food. The system has destroyed livelihoods of some and created both crises of hunger alongside abundance, and malnutrition alongside rising obesity levels.
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