Following the global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent identification of so-called ‘toxic assets’ – particularly the multifaceted financial products associated with the real estate sector – finance capital has been seeking new asset classes through which to channel funds. While the food and farming sectors have traditionally been risky investments, factors such as rising global population levels, increasing scarcity of land and water resources, and the growing demand for food from the burgeoning middle classes in countries such as China, India and Indonesia, have made food industry and farmland investment increasingly attractive. Much research has focused upon ‘land grabbing’ in the Global South. This is occurring as sovereign wealth funds from rich, but often land-poor, countries seek to guarantee a steady and long-term food supply for their citizens by investing abroad. It is leading to displacement of subsistence producers and often occurs in a manner that is unfair, underhanded and socially disruptive. Biofuel production is another land-based investment that is popular with finance sector investors. Along with these activities, finance is creating products that incorporate foods and fibres and is selling these as virtual assets traded on international markets. Such ‘derivatives’ provide opportunities for hedging and speculation on futures markets. In this chapter, financialisation is defined and its contours outlined. Details are provided of takeovers in food manufacturing and retail, commodity speculation, and global farmland purchase. A final section details the growing opposition that is occurring globally as food and farming are progressively ‘financialised’.
Browse by title
Pratyusha Basu and James Klepek
From the 1960s, agriculture across the developing world was transformed through new technologies and policies collectively designated as the ‘Green Revolution’. While major increases in food production can be traced to Green Revolution technologies, their environmental and social outcomes have remained matters of concern, including pollution and species and habitat loss, and persistent food and livelihoods insecurities. The Green Revolution also denoted a new ideology of agriculture that shifted agricultural innovations from farmers’ fields to scientific laboratories, and often argued for the universal dispersal of such innovations. The globalization of science and development was thus a central component of the Green Revolution and this chapter seeks to understand the Green Revolution through the lens of these global flows. Overall, this chapter considers how the unfolding of the Green Revolution has been accompanied by North–South technology flows, beginning in South America and Asia, and currently extending to new sites in Africa.
Roy E. Rickson, Kara E. Rickson, Peter Hoppe and David Burch
Globalisation of food production, processing and retailing focuses our attention on social and economic relations between large-scale, often international, companies and local communities. We need to focus also on emerging and intensifying conflicts between mining and agriculture when the extraction of natural resources such as coal, limestone, or coal seam gas intersects with productive farmland and rural settlements. The ‘local’ and the ‘global’ are tied together in these issues, and ever more so as neoliberal policies are embraced by national governments in ways that tend to dissuade or dismantle regulatory hurdles or oversight for international agri-food and mining developments, and the social and environmental impacts of projects at local levels. Rural communities and regions in these circumstances are ‘contested terrains’, where accessing natural resources can add economic benefit and social vitality to rural areas. However, the risks of degradation of underground and surface water systems, air and land quality, valued rural landscapes, cultural heritage and the social sustainability of rural communities are costs often tied to these benefits. Relations of social power and trust (or distrust) characterise collaboration and conflict between community groups and individuals, company managers and responsible government agencies as they negotiate the risks and benefits of project development. Addressing social and environmental justice dimensions of economic objectives is a necessary focus of actor relations, and informs our understanding of sustainability, which we define as balancing economic goals with social and environmental justice. Powerful companies can push projects through local and national resistance. Yet their power is institutionally limited and project development across food and mining sectors is, to varying degrees, contingent upon the relationships corporate actors generate and maintain with local people. We examine here in particular the ways that mobilised local groups can influence access to natural resources, and how related costs and benefits are distributed.
Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
This Handbook provides insights to the ways in which globalisation is affecting the whole agri-food system from farms to the consumer. It covers themes including the physical basis of agriculture, the influence of trade policies, the nature of globalised agriculture, and resistance to globalisation in the form of attempts to foster greater sustainability and multifunctional agricultural systems. Drawing upon studies from around the world, the Handbook will appeal to a broad and varied readership, across academics, students, and policy-makers interested in economics, trade, geography, sociology and political science.
Andrew Dorward and Jamie Morrison
Subsidies have been a pervasive feature of agricultural policy throughout history. This chapter describes different kinds of subsidies and their changing roles in different societies. It reviews evidence on the economic, food security and poverty impacts of different agricultural subsidies in developed and developing countries. The evidence suggests that different subsidy programmes have had in some contexts profoundly positive and in other contexts profoundly negative impacts on food security and on the livelihoods of poor people and poor societies. Discussions of the historical and potential roles of subsidies and their more recent use have, however, often been the victim of a narrow overemphasis by some on their negative effects and, paradoxically, of their misuse as a result of others’ exaggerated expectations of their benefits. The chapter concludes with recognition that more judicious, differentiated and new uses of subsidies for food production may (with complementary investments in technology, infrastructure and socioeconomic change) be crucial in both high- and low-income countries in promoting sustainable food security and poverty reduction in the face of growing national and global challenges in food production and access.
In order to explore the long-term sustainability of food production it is necessary to examine the labour market practices of food and beverage organisations, many of which are multinational, particularly in relation to skilling and meanings and practices associated with recruitment, retention and training of workers. These organisations shape rural labour markets and therefore jobs available to local residents. This chapter gives specific attention to the gendering of the rural workforce and examines how organisations both gender rural labour markets and are shaped by gendered and classed practices associated with the places in which they are located.
Stefan Bringezu, Helmut Schütz and Meghan O’Brien
Globalisation increases the share of foreign resource supply, also for agricultural goods. Locations of production and consumption are drifting apart, leaving conditions and consequences of production hidden to consumers. Certification schemes try to bridge that gap. However, the major part of agricultural markets remains unaffected. As long as the global demand for food and non-food crops is growing, standards for selected products will be insufficient to control the global expansion of cropland, which will continue in particular in the tropics at the expense of grasslands, savannahs and forests, leading to biodiversity loss and increased GHG emissions in the coming decades. Without drastically increasing the efficiency of biomass use a sustainable supply of food and non-food biomass will not be possible, both globally and in particular regions. An essential condition for a globally safe operating space of biomass use is that the expansion of cropland will come to a halt. Measuring the global use of cropland for the domestic consumption of all agricultural goods allows countries to monitor whether their real footprint is within or beyond the safe operating space. Using data for the European Union, this chapter shows how such monitoring could provide the basis for governments to adapt the incentive framework for industry and households to increase efficiency in the use of biomass (e.g., reducing food waste). Policies could include removal of misleading incentives and subsidies, such as biofuel quotas in those countries where the real footprint is already globally oversized.
Noel Russell and Amani Omer
One emerging challenge facing global agriculture is to provide a secure supply of food to increasing numbers of affluent people. Yet the response remains constrained by limited arable land and a technology that supports unsustainable agricultural practices. In this context the notion of sustainable agricultural intensification has been suggested as a strategy for increasing crop yields and sustainably delivering a secure supply of food. The chapter reviews the concept of sustainable intensification by considering both alternative views of sustainability and alternative measures of intensification. Two distinct strategies are possible: a strategy based on increasing yields using novel varieties and production processes, and a strategy based on increasing yields by increasing non-biological inputs accompanied by conservation investments that compensate for ensuing ecological damage. This latter is illustrated using a stylised model of farmer decisions in which increasing input use and ecological services jointly contribute to food production, and ecological degradation is balanced by induced conservation. In this setting we suggest that sustainable intensification can be promoted through voluntary implementation motivated by ecosystem service benefits for agriculture. We also consider policies that directly encourage ecosystem conservation, and how government interventions can avoid ‘crowding out’ voluntary implementation.
Simon J. Fielke
The concept of multifunctional agriculture has been theoretically influential as the consequences of historically productivist agri-food systems continue to be felt. In this chapter two examples of multifunctionality, policy driven and bottom-up, are used to explain that the term can be conceptualised in different ways. Policy mechanisms to increase the multifunctionality of European agricultural practice are highlighted as having benefits in terms of affecting landholder decision-making. Alternative food networks in Australia, farmers’ markets in particular, are used as an example of producers themselves initiating futures that incorporate multifunctional ideals and using these principles to market their produce in innovative ways. While both forms of multifunctionality face challenges, the concept of multifunctional agricultural practice will continue to impact land management decisions and has significant potential to be used as a means to add value to traditional food and fibre production.