While we depend on food, water, air, and shelter to survive, only our requirement for food demands that we rely on a complex international trading system for our day-to-day needs.  Not even the food industry knows where much of our food comes from as many sources are hidden down long and complex supply chains with middle people whose power rests on others not knowing the sources.

Once this food is processed, it is also very difficult to know whether it is healthy to eat.  We may also be in a situation where our access to fresh food, more likely to be healthy, is limited by price and/or availability.  Furthermore industrialised agriculture globally is degrading our environment.

In theory, the trading system should increase the resilience of our food supplies. Back in the day a local drought could have caused famine and death. Now we can access supplies from places around the world, where there are no droughts.

If the risks of drought and other disruptions to food supplies around the world become correlated, then trade no longer provides a hedge.

This theory breaks down if the risks of drought and other disruptions to food supplies around the world become correlated. Then trade no longer provides a hedge against local shortages. If things are bad here, they are likely to be bad there too.

An example of this is “multi-bread basket” failure, where production in countries that provide the majority of global cereal production are simultaneously disrupted. And the chances of this are rising as we reach and surpass the crucial 1.5ºC temperature increase when climate change is deemed globally dangerous.

Such failure will substantially increase global food prices. And recent history such as the food price spike in 2008 preceding the Arab spring uprisings, suggest increasing global food prices lead to civic unrest. Of course, how that ultimately plays out, we cannot say for sure but it is unlikely to be good.

Are we addicted to the cheap food this industrialised food system provides?

So what should we be doing?  How could we create a more resilient, sustainable and healthy food system?  Are we addicted to the cheap food this industrialised system provides?

These are big questions, but our contributors provide large helpings of food for thought to help address them.

Ann Pettifor explains how finance affects global food prices; Jayan Jose Thomas and B. Satheesa question whether trade delivers food security. Bruno Bonizzi, meanwhile, suggests local currency debt could be part of the solution in developing nations. and Joanny Bélair examines land grabbing in Tanzania.

Chris Smaje explores a future of low-energy, local farming systems while Lynne Davis seeks multiple futures and Zoe Gilbertson suggests we shouldn’t forget fibre. Rohini Kamal explores the potential and challenges in combining food growing and solar panels in Bangladesh.

Elsewhere, Hilary Sutcliffe analyses how the food industry creates addiction, Grant Ennis surfaces the misleading narratives of this industry and Megan Blake looks for a ladder out of food poverty.

Finally Stewart Lansley re-examines wealth creation, Frances Coppola explains how Israel uses malnutrition as weapon of war and Verity attends a banquet which Prinz saves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *