Edited by Alessandro Bonanno and Lawrence Busch
Chapter 7: The political economy of agriculture and food in North America: Toward convergence or divergence?
Much like the Chinese curse about living in “interesting times,” agriculture and food have become profoundly interesting. The level of “interest” is a product of the seemingly limitless contradictory dynamics that are buffeting both the production and consumption of food—the bulk of which are, in turn, driven by various economic imperatives—and the bland fact of our persistent dependence on it. On the production side, we have been immersed since the late 1980s into a slow and inequity-laden liberalization of agricultural trade, with its associated industrialization of developing-country agricultures and concomitant urbanization of formerly peasant and agrarian societies. A significant part of this trade liberalization/agro-industrialization package has been the state-facilitated entrenchment of agribusiness multinationals (ABMs) as central organizers and beneficiaries of the evolving international division of labor in agricultural production (McMichael 2009a; Pechlaner and Otero 2010; Appendini 2014). Transgenic crops are another key component of agro-industrialization and they play a significant role in the global accumulation strategies of these ABMs, while simultaneously weakening the invisibility with which they operate (Pechlaner 2012a).
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