The Global Supermarket
Global agribusiness and food systems
Rise of the local food movement is a response to the growing dominance of the global
food system. How much and what items of food do you consume that come from the
Toronto region or from Ontario? To what extent does your supermarket stock local
The reality is that our food system is a mix of local, regional, national and global
products. It is a good example of “glocalization” – the co-existence of global and
local systems. But even the local system is controlled in part by global agribusiness
which supplies inputs and controls distribution and marketing
• Where does our food come from?
• Who controls its production and distribution?
• How do geographical concepts apply?
The globalized supermarket
1. The Plantation System – the beginnings of a global agriculture system. Created by the
establishment of empires, large scale production of commodities traded on a global scale:
cotton, sugar, rubber, tea, coffee.
This was a pure capitalist system involving the extraction of maximum surplus values
from land and labour (slavery), free trade and markets, private ownership of plantations,
large-scale capital accumulation.
2. Social changes, especially in the 19 and early 20 centuries
- population growth- rapid growth in western European populations
- urbanization – migration from rural areas and farms to cities, by 1900 more
people in western Europe lived in urban than rural areas, by 1930 urban
population in Canada outnumbered the rural.
separation of food producers from consumers, meaning that a growing
number of people had to buy their food.
Population growth and urbanization needed agriculture to be more
productive and changed food into a marketable commodity
3. Transportation and storage innovations
- invention of steam engine – steam ships and railways
- canning, freezing, cold storage
- new methods of drying and storing grain 2
4. Industrialization of agriculture
Industrial inputs and processing of outputs –generally referred to as the
- appropriation of natural and labour processes by machinery, greenhouses,
- substitution of natural by artificial
processes and ingredients including artificial fertilizers and pesticides
- Production line methods of farming - Fordist farming, sometimes referred to as factory
5. Global agribusin