Introduction: The food policy problem
Food is an intimate part of people’s daily lives. It is a biological necessity but it also shapes and is a vehicle for the way people interact with friends, family, work
colleagues and ourselves. It is associated with pleasure, seduction, pain, power, sharing and caring. As people eat their daily food, bought in the shops that they know, buying brands that they are familiar with, it is hard to imagine that there is such a thing as a global food system, stretching from the local corner store to the giant food conglomerate, from the small farmer to the marketing mogul, and from the consumer to a web of business interactions. This book is partly about that, trying to bring to attention the complexity of the way food is produced and processed. We also consider its impact on long-term public health and well-being. In addition, there is overwhelming evidence about food’s impact on the environment. The natural resources used to grow, process and distribute food are a major factor, for example, in climate change, energy and water use. And there is a strong social dimension to the Food Wars; social factors such as class, gender and culture shape and are influenced by the material and biological realities of food systems. As data on these issues has improved, policy-makers and increasingly the consuming public and food businesses have become aware of tensions over the shape of the food system, in relation to both human health and the pressures on the environmental resources needed to sustain our food supply. What seems an obviously good thing – food – has become problematic with layers of complexity making it hard to grasp an overview to tackle the global challenges ahead. In this book we set out a framing narrative based around three competing ‘paradigms’ to help business, policy-makers and civil society situate problems and solutions facing the global food system – this is set out in detail in Chapter 2.