Two food systems

This post is an adaptation of a portion of the article ‘How to feed the world’ by Mark Bittman.

The question “How will we feed the world?” might as well be a marketing slogan for Big Agribusiness, a euphemism for “We must ramp up sales,” as if producing more cars would guarantee that everyone had one.

We need to acknowledge that there are two food systems. The first is the industrial food system, dominated by genetically modified seed corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta, by food processing corporations such as Unilever and Nestle, and by food retail corporations such as Wal-Mart, Tesco, and Carrefour. The second is what the research and advocacy organisation ETC Group calls “the peasant food web”. It is made up of small landholders, or peasants if you prefer. According to the ETC Group, the peasant food web produces 70% of the world’s food using only 30% of the world’s resources of land, water, and fertilizer.

As Raj Patel puts it: “The playing field has been tilted against peasants for centuries, and they’ve still managed to feed more people than industrial agriculture. With the right kinds of agroecological training and the freedom to shape the food system on fair terms, it’s a safe bet that they’ll be able to feed themselves, and others as well.”