Economics and politics of a rapidly changing global food system

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - 16:15

A new issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, edited by Christopher Adam and Doug Gollin, Department of International Development, discusses the economics and politics of the rapidly changing global food and agricultural system.

It tackles the big public policy questions associated with the huge, recent transformation of the food system from small scale and highly seasonal agricultural production to an industrialized food system in which farm-based production accounts for only a small fraction of gross spending on food in rich countries.

At the heart of the discussion is the core question of food security and whether the contemporary food system is capable of meeting the needs of a global population that is projected to peak at over 9 billion mid-century, despite severe pressures on land and water resources are increasing. The consensus view is that it probably can, but this leads to further questions.

Can public policy address the so-called ‘double burden of malnutrition’ where extreme hunger and extreme over-consumption co-exist? Can the huge problem of food waste, estimated by the UN to be as much as one third of total food produced for human consumption, be tackled? And can national and global regulatory structures protect producers and consumers against the accretion of monopoly power by large vertically integrated agro-industrial multinational enterprises? 

The papers show how the shift in economic and political power away from traditional agriculture towards the industrial component of the system has led to new challenges for the governance of global food systems – and perhaps also created new spaces for policy and regulation. It is not yet clear what institutions and policies will be needed to govern the emerging food systems, but new sources of profits, new coalitions of interest groups, new analytic tools, and new understandings of the problems of food systems have arguably set the stage for a rich policy dialogue.

Read more about this publication in the blog article by Christopher Adam and Doug Gollin.

Read the articles in the special issue.

Contents of the special issue:

  • Christopher Adam and Douglas Gollin
    Editors’ introduction: The economics of the global food and agriculture system
  • Douglas Gollin and Lilli Teresa Probst
    Food and agriculture: shifting landscapes for policy
  • H. Charles J. Godfray and Sherman Robinson
    Contrasting approaches to projecting long-run global food security
  • Thomas Reardon
    The hidden middle: the quiet revolution in the midstream of agrifood value chains in developing countries
  • Howard Smith and John Thanassoulis
    Prices, profits, and pass-through of costs along a supermarket supply chain: bargaining and competition
  • Johan Swinnen
    Changing coalitions in value chains and the political economy of agricultural and food policy
  • Rachel Griffith, Martin O’Connell, and Kate Smith
    Relative prices, consumer preferences, and the demand for food [OPEN ACCESS]

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