Lecture outline Nov 7
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The Political Economy of Food Insecurity
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Prof. Ryan Isakson
Intro the Big Picture
- 925 million people suffered from chronic malnutrition/ 13 percent of worldwide population
- There was a steady decline before the 20 century, which started to rise in the 20 century
- Increase in overall population: proportion of undernourished people has decreased
- 98 percent of undernourished are from the south
- Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Pacific
- Why do we have 1/8 of the population suffering from chronic malnutrition?
- You would get an answer that it is due to the finite nature of the world, there is a
competition for food and some people are losing out (Idea present since Malthus). Basically, due
to a scarcity of food!
- However, there has been a population increase at a decreasing rate. On the other hand,
growth in food production has been increasing. Food production has been exceeding the rate of
- Food system can provide the average person with adequate nutrition.
- Kilocalories ingested have increased
- There is enough food produced. Why are people suffering from malnutrition? - Amartya Sen – Poverty of Famines: Two conditions for food security: 1) sufficient quantity
of food 2) the ability to acquire and consume sufficient food
- Sen – when there are famines, they occur through a “strategy of divide and conquer”. There
was a sufficient supply of food, but not everyone had access to it.
1. How can we challenge the view that malnutrition is a consequence of the scarcity of food
due to population growth? Refer to the idea of “moral economies” and how it has been
altered as global food systems have evolved.
2. What have been some of the leading causes for rising food prices in the past decade?
Consider the role of the globalization of food systems.
3. Why it is important to consider alternative paradigms of food production and what role
does social networking play in reinventing global good systems? Explore both
environmental and institutional factors.
Why is it that people suffer from hunger?
- Idea of entitlement to food (existed in pre-colonial Era)
- Food entitlements were a guarantee in “moral economies”. Everybody had the right to food
in these moral economies. They were guaranteed that right by political and cultural institutions
(Policropping - more resilient to pests, if farmers produced surplus of food they would donate
that food since it was an obligation, during times of needs the village chiefs would redistribute
- Instead of producing food crops, producing luxury crops or other exports crops: uprooted
moral economies and the right to food was the cause for many peasant rebellions (historically,
there has been this right for food)
- Colonialism – colonized countries were producing export crops for European markets
- Post colonial legislation boosting the production of grain, providing subsidies; establish
grain purchasing boards, trade measures (restricting imports from western nations through tariffs,
quotas in order to protect domestic farmers)
- Countries accumulated debt. It was speculated that they were wasting money with
producing goods that could be produced more cheaply in the North.
- Structural adjustment during Neo-liberal restructuring dismantled food support systems.
Countries were forced to sell off they grain reserves, remove trade protections.
- The impacts of SAP’s were manifold. Countries in the North exported their agricultural
goods and undermined post-colonial markets. They had to produce cash crops. Farmers were
migrating (to urban areas, to other countries). Countries became dependent on importing food - Food production became concentrated
- There has been a decline of food inventories
- Emergence of a just in time food model with
The Evolution of the Global Food System
- Focusing on one crop puts the country in a vulnerable position
- There has been an increase