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Discourse Analysis Of Local And Global Food Sup...

This article helps lay a basis for the kind of deep analysis of the stakes of global food governance that is required today, under the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and with the threat of corporate capture of decision-making spaces. The article reviews the history of global food governance, identifies the critical questions that need to be asked, and suggests some directions that may contribute to strengthening the agency of rights-holders, weakening that of corporations, and democratizing multilateral governance.

Discourse analysis of local and global food sup...

The same periodization, read through the lens of the institutional history of global governance, restitutes similar lessons. Nineteenth century imperialism and the new forms of accumulation it introduced produced much of the foundation for the technical and managerial aspects of global governance as we see it today, aimed particularly at regulating and extending the world market and industrial capitalism and attenuating its social costs (Gill 2019). A classic account of this process distinguishes three generations of the multiple international organizations created after 1850, articulated around the construction of successive world orders following periods of upheaval (Murphy 1994). Explicit attention to the specific issue of global food governance was born in the pre-World War II period when the League of Nations was invited to address the co-existence in the world of widespread malnutrition and global over-availability of food, occasioning acrimonious debate that was cut off by the advent of the war (Shaw 2007).

The COVID-19 pandemic is serving to expose and exacerbate the dramatic food provisioning choice that confronts us today and the structural issues underlying it: corporate-led global supply chains rooted in environmentally destructive industrial agriculture and churning out unhealthy processed food, on the one hand, or territorially-embedded food systems fed by agro-ecological family farming and attentive to the social relations and the cultural, ecological and health dimensions of food provisioning on the other. History teaches us that moments of crisis represent extraordinary opportunities both for consolidation of power and for transformation. Never before has it been so critical to get the architecture of global food governance right.

Knowledgeable diagnoses of what is blocking beneficial change in our food systems and their global governance have multiplied as evidence of the damage they have wrought to people and the planet has accumulated. Some of the more thoughtful have been produced by the Independent Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), and the autonomous High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the CFS.

We need also to seriously consider the extension of rights to nature, as in the constitution of Ecuador and national and local regulations in a number of countries. For sure, in framing the issues of food provisioning and governance we need to think outside of the (western) box with more determination than we have shown thus far. We need to learn from other cosmologies rather than just making politically correct gestures in their direction. Indigenous Peoples have lessons to teach us which we can no longer afford to ignore about the importance of re-integrating humanity within nature and outlawing forms of profit-making that damage the web of life and the planet that sustains it. We need to move past the black and white state-market dichotomy and find space for other ways of configuring and governing territories seen through a lens of political ecology, such as thinking of Lake Superior not as a border between two sovereign states but as a common, living resource to be managed by those who live around it (Friedmann 2015; McKeon 2016). Another imperative is that of taking feminist analysis seriously, not just as one perspective among others but as a profound re-reading of all aspects of the transformation of food systems and governance (CSM 2019).

Closely related to the above is the push for victory in narrative battles that seemed to be just losing fights only a few years ago. Corporate discourse may seem a poor cousin to economic muscle but it does perform the important functions of legitimizing the global food system and stifling public awareness of the stakes involved. Broader acceptance of agroecology as the better way to go than industrial agriculture is a prime example of how narratives can evolve. We are well aware of the capacity of the proponents of the corporate global food system to co-opt language and concepts, and indeed agro-ecology is the object of such an exercise right now as retail chains develop their own brands in which some agronomic practices are excised from the broader understanding of the social, cultural, ecological and political implications of agro-ecology.Footnote 7 Nonetheless, the side battling for alternative narratives has going for it the fact that their discourse corresponds to the complex nature of reality to a far greater degree than do the simplistic market and technology-based messages of the corporate cohorts. Narrowly defined agro-ecological products produced according to a corporate logic might possibly have some positive effects on the environment, but they can never contribute to employment creation, improving the nutritional status of neighbouring communities or strengthening the social and economic texture of family farms the way peasant agroecology does.

If the CFS constitutes the advanced frontier of inclusive multilateral governance it is because its reform was not the outcome of a technocratic drawing board exercise or governmental dictat but of two decades of mobilization and networking by small-scale producers and other social constituencies, from local to global levels. For governance to function in a people and planet-friendly way people need to exercise their agency as citizens and communities rather than as individual consumers/economic actors in a market logic. This is an apprenticeship that most often works best at the local level to start with, where authorities are closest to reality and to community pressure. If reality is a valiant arm for fighting false narratives, connectedness is one for building political power against the isolation and the separation of producer and consumer induced by the market and the divisiveness of populist, nationalist we-they discourse. Rebuilding connectedness starts in the community but requires convergence to be politically effective: intersectional convergence at all levels, across issue areas and identities, that builds a common understanding of the threats posed by corporate capture of the economy and democracy and stimulates common action against them (McKeon and Berron 2020).

This discussion is limited to formal global governance. A good deal of the decision-making that impacts on food provisioning is de facto exercised by agro-food corporations managing supply chains without political oversight.

Indeed, those assessments are challenging in their attempts to integrate food production-to-consumption impacts in comprehensive decision making tools, able to highlight tradeoffs and ethical dilemmas. However, the scientific community has not yet agreed on a shared methodology, allowing robust and simultaneous comparisons over all sustainability dimensions. Despite the global importance of food chain alternatives to the mainstream (global) food system, here, we concentrate on the EU context. We propose a multidimensional sustainability assessment based on a set of 19 criteria. Provided the impact of food choice on human health and ethical concerns associated to food consumption, we considered those two social issues as autonomous dimensions of sustainability, thus ending with five sustainability dimensions. After a preliminary literature review, we develop a comparative case study research considering two Italian wheat-to-bread chains differing for their geographical scope, and summarise research findings into a matrix, that helps discriminate local and global chains for their relative sustainability performance. The paper is structured as follows: firstly, we introduce the methods; secondly, we describe the Italian bread sector and introduce the two case studies; thirdly, we present and discuss the comparative assessment matrix. The concluding paragraph summarises our findings, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of our work, and providing insights for further research.

This paper has the objective of exploring the sustainability dimensions relevant for the performance assessment of the supply-chains, with a special focus on the wheat-to-bread supply chains. It aims at providing a qualitative assessment on the expected performance contrasting local versus global wheat-to-bread chains, based on evidence gathered on two case-studies.Footnote 1 This contribution represents the first step, preliminary to the further assessment of the most critical attributes here identified, that shall be based on evidence provided by indicators selection and measurement.

The methodology used entails three main steps: i) analysis of academic literature to identify the critical links between a pre-defined set of sustainability attributes and the wheat-to-bread chain ii) mapping of a local and a global bread supply chain in terms of globalness/localness. iii) Expert qualitative assessment of the supply chains case-studies with regard to the ability of the selected sustainability attributes to discriminate between local and global, and preliminary evaluation on the best performing supply chains.

In the third step we turned to selected experts asking them to formulate an assessment on the ability of each selected sustainability attributes to discriminate across local and global chains, and to give a preliminary assessment on the best performing supply chain (local or global) in relation to each attribute. We interviewed eight experts, chosen to cover as many scientific domains as possible: one academic in plant genetics, one in food technology, an NGOs active in seed saving networks, a regional policy maker, one expert artisanal baker and one expert industrial baker, an innovation manager for industrial bakery, a quality manager for a large retailing company. 041b061a72

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