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The Food Sovereignty Challenge to the Corporate Food Regime: Food for Thought

This thesis forms part of an ongoing project working with Neilson (2012; Neilson & Stubbs, 2016) towards a revised version of regulation theory that is still a workin-progress. I have struggled towards a conceptual framework that distinguishes key concepts ‘model of development’, ‘food regime’ and ‘agricultural system’. I argue that this conceptual framework enables a more thorough analysis of the current era and also provides a tool for conceptualising a new one. I extend on the standard accounts of the concept ‘food regime’ (Friedmann, 1987; McMichael, 1992; 2009b) and attempt to more clearly delineate what I call the ‘agricultural system’, from the regulation/accumulation coupling (i.e. model of development). The corporate food regime while being essentially equivalent to the neoliberal model of development in agriculture, remains distinct from it because the food regime includes, yet is still distinct from, the prevailing model of development which over time transforms the pre-existing regulatory framework of the food regime. Using my conceptual framework, I critique the dominant agricultural system as environmentally destructive and (key to my project) undermining of food sovereignty. The dominant agricultural system is influenced by, though not solely or directly, the prevailing corporate food regime. The current food regime is largely responsible for the threat to food sovereignty in the current era. However, food sovereignty is an inclusive movement that challenges the dominant agricultural system and I put forward the argument that a new food regime should be premised on food sovereignty. I investigate emerging agricultural systems in Rome in order to think about the practical realities of alternatives to the dominant agricultural system that are based on food sovereignty. My field research was based on in-depth interviews using a qualitative approach. I looked at both production and consumption elements of an emerging agricultural system – central to any economic system. I met with GAS Testaccio Meticcio and three local producers, La Nuova Arca, Barikamà and Il Papavero. I pursued a multi-level research agenda that is theoretically informed and grounded in a sense of the big picture and an associated political agenda, and yet goes all the way down to the micro-level of empirical field research. My thesis is structured following this multi-levelled agenda. Beginning with the theoretical foundations I move to a national experience before honing down on the substantive emergence of agricultural systems in Rome. Finally, I integrate these levels in a discussion of a new food regime. Advocating for structural changes that focus on improving food sovereignty is by no means an original stance. However, my contribution comes from my core argument that the best chance of achieving such goals is through the conceptualisation and implementation of a new food regime. The centre-piece of such a regime needs to be a national template and practical strategy for promoting food sovereignty. Although I have made progress developing my revised account of the relationship between regulation and accumulation in agriculture, there are limitations to my framework which I will continue to work on.
Type of thesis
Howard, D. J. (2017). The Food Sovereignty Challenge to the Corporate Food Regime: Food for Thought (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11097
University of Waikato
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