Sustainable Food Systems: The Role of the City

There is a sense that the world food system has reached an impasse. Hunger afflicts at least an eighth of the world population (FAO, 2012), mostly in the global South, but also in the North where austerity policies – which respond to crisis by prioritising the interests of the wealthy – leave working people hungry. What is even more serious is that even this damaged ‘food security’ cannot be guaranteed into the future. International institutions now recognise that something fundamental must change, a realisation embodied in the notion of paradigm shift (Graziano da Silva, 2015; FAO, 2011) and further concretised in the form of sustainable intensification. Such recognition is all the more significant since, for most of its history, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) tended to be somewhat unwilling to offend corporate interests. Within the UN system it was mostly the two successive Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler and Olivier de Schutter, who pushed for a more radical and systemic critique. The latter notably placed his authority behind agroecology (de Schutter, 2010), a term that implies bringing farming back to an understanding of natural systems, and that forms an important point of reference for this book.

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