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The Global Food System Still Benefits the Rich at the Expense of the Poor

10:17 EDT 31 Jul 2017 | Meridian Institute

In this article, Laura Pereira, a researcher/lecturer at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, notes that while most of us think of the world as globalized and sophisticated in food tastes, the spread of, for example, ramen noodles in Sweden, “also exposes a darker underlying history of globalisation and industrialisation. Patterns in the way that food is distributed around the world follow colonial-industrial trends from the past. And while global trade has helped lift many out of poverty, it has not done so evenly. It has kept a colonialist imprint on the planet in a different way: with differentiated access to nutritious food and the rise of obesity and other food-related health problems.” Today, eaters in developing countries are more likely to eat white bread, maize or rice - foods that are less nutritious and often require unsustainable farming practices. “To escape these patterns,” says Pereira, “a new way of engaging with the complexity of food systems is needed. We need to adopt an approach that recognises that challenges are systemic and that they can’t be solved with silver bullet solutions.” Trade and globalization, she says, are not bad - but the way trade regulations and globalization currently play out is detrimental, especially for those in the global South and the environment. “The world simply can’t sustain 9 billion American-style consumers or the continued expansion of modern industrialised agriculture,” she concludes, saying what is needed instead is “Formal recognition of how much developing countries contribute to developed economies… This assessment will be an important component in working to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, relating specifically to goal 12: sustainable consumption and production.”

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