Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology, and Culture

Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology, and Culture

Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology, and Culture

Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology, and Culture

Synopsis

An analysis of the apparently opposed imperatives of political economy and sustainability. The authors argue that the present means of food production do not satisfy the demands of North and South, resulting rather in food shortages and surplus and environmental destruction.

Excerpt

Contemporary interest in food is not confined to pleasure in its consumption, but extends in every direction: to its economic importance, the semiotics of food taste, the dangers of food additives and the politics of food security. We live in societies as dominated by food preferences as by sexual preferences, as obsessed about eating too little as by eating too much. In addition our interest in food is associated, for good and evil, with our interest in ‘nature’. As we begin to become aware that we are in a position to destroy our environment, for the first and last time, ‘nature’ has become imbued with so many virtues that the term ‘natural’ no longers confers unambiguous meaning. Nature commands attention, and the ‘natural’ has an ideological force, which takes us to the heart of the paradox of development itself. We have refashioned nature, in our minds, as well as in test tubes and fields, transforming ecological processes into political axioms. We are poised on the threshold of a very dramatic breakthrough in thinking; we can no longer evade the global biospheric imperatives, such as climate change, without at the same time closely scrutinizing the products of science and technology which transform everyday life. And at the centre of the paradox is our view of nature, biological and social, in the modern food system.

The conventional approach to the food system is to concentrate on its component parts: geographical, cultural and conceptual. We possess, as a consequence, a rich literature on agricultural development, technology, food policy (both national and international) and diet. Since the 1970s we have also seen a burgeoning literature on farming, ‘organic’ and chemically-based, and on biotechnology. The environment has

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