Food democracy or food control?
DOI link for Food democracy or food control?
Food democracy or food control? book
Core arguments Food policy requires different issues to be joined up rather than being dealt with in different policy silos. This is complex for governments, industry and civil society. Food is historically a sensitive issue. People want their food to be affordable, available and fit to eat but also to meet other values. Many institutions of food governance in both public and private sectors struggle with this complexity and how to maintain consumer trust. They have failed fully to address the changing nature of the food economy, the challenges to human and eco-systems health, and the rise of corporate influence. Over the last century, power over food systems has tended to move from local to global, weakening perceived democratic control over food. The modern evidence about food’s impact on health, environment and society ought to be a central concern for the state since only the state and its institutions can ultimately be a democratically accountable facilitator and mediator between increasingly powerful interests and the consumer which complex modern supply chains require. Yet most official food policies are wedded to the ‘hands-off’ versions of the state promulgated by neo-liberalism. Productionism which was put into place with firm state investment and support in the 20th century coincided with a growth of corporate power. And now that the state is generally reluctant to be seen to be too hands-on about food, it remains the default policy position. Productionism seems unable to address these present, let alone future, challenges. A central tension for future food governance will be negotiating the imbalance between ‘food democracy’ and ‘food control’,
one being publicly accountable, the other being ‘top-down’. The chapter reviews issues where this tension is manifest, such as trade, food rights, institutional structures and subsidies. Different models and interpretations of food democracy exist. Some argue that democracy occurs in the form of consumer choice at the check-out. Others counter that democracy requires the setting of new frameworks to achieve coherent and longterm sustainability. At the very least, the awesome challenges highlighted in this book about food’s role in health, the environment, society and economy suggest that more dynamic and inspiring leadership and open debate are needed. The stakes are high but there are signs that actors spread throughout the food system recognise the need for systemic change.