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The politics of international agri-food policy: discourses of trade-oriented food security and food sovereignty

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard Lee


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How have the discourses of ‘trade-oriented food security’ and ‘food sovereignty’ contributed to a politics of international agri-food policy? Discourse is understood as the meanings given to phenomena (both social and physical) and the practices associated with those meanings. Consequently, metaphors are regarded as powerful sense-making constructs. In their classic forms, these two discourses constitute seemingly irreconcilable paradigms: one representing a hegemonic assertion of neo-liberal economic rationalism, the other an oppositional and populist social movement. Analysis of public-facing discourse reveals distinctive meanings and metaphors concerning the role of trade in food security and in the conceptualisation of nature (particularly in reference to agricultural biotechnology) along with elements of co-construction. While both forms of discourse face challenges in retaining coherency, trade-oriented food security enunciates a poorly specified and increasingly arcane vision, relatively unconcerned with ecological sensitivities and resource constraints. New opportunities for the discourse of food sovereignty may involve continuing to specify and exemplify a politics of the particular founded on agro-ecological practices.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lee RP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Politics

Year: 2013

Volume: 22

Issue: 2

Pages: 216-234

Print publication date: 12/10/2012

ISSN (print): 0964-4016

ISSN (electronic): 1743-8934

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2012.730266


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