Festival Community
This website is using cookies to. By clicking 'OK', you agree with our cookie policy. More about this.


critical writing

Food Democracy-opinion essay

About work

food democracy is the reaction of the collective people, either public or private, on the industrialization and commercialization of the food industry, and to the provision of adequate, affordable, safe and human foods.

Food democracy

works/2646f8d8c998d3a572793e95f14dd94a/thumbnail/Food Democracy_ Opinion Essay_39258_DES360.pdf

Editors comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

This essay argues that a more democratic system of food production will create a healthier diet for consumers. Whereas in the past, the struggle around food was for the provision of necessities, in today’s developed economies, the struggle is for healthier foods than the corporate system provides. The author characterizes European systems as narrow and anti-democratic, and the American system as somewhat more open and responsive to consumers who want organic and healthy food. However, the American diet is notoriously unhealthy; while organic and other healthy alternatives are growing in popularity and availability, most people’s diet is much more unhealthy than many of their European counterparts. Thus, alternatives may coexist with very negative developments. The author suggests that knowledge of alternatives will lead to widespread rejection of unhealthy food. While increasing knowledge of alternatives is certainly worthwhile, this seems like a simplistic solution to a very complex set of issues regarding price, advertising, and the formation of taste.

The author should also attend to the differences between people’s roles as producers and consumers. How much will a more decentralized system benefit small farmers, and consumers? Are their interests the same? By recognizing their similarities and differences in a more explicit way, the author could start to conceptualize the benefits of change to each in a more rigorous way. Finally, since neoliberals think that consumers already “vote” with their money when buying food, the author’s arguments would benefit by an explicit response to this logic, to explain what “democracy” means in this context.

View other works commented by Daniel Marcus  ››

I found the initial outline of the changing nature of food democracy issues and struggles very important as they remind the reader that the substances and structures of both food control and food democracy change in changing geographical, social, and historical conditions. Therefore, it is also crucial to have situational and dynamic approaches to the analysis of food control and the means by which it can be overcome.

Likewise important is the stress the essay puts on democratic structures and procedures and the need to have the widest possible goal, that of the collective welfare of the people, always in mind.

The essay thus rightly alerts us to the fact that questions of food democracy cannot be relegated solely to questions of food production, distribution, and consumption.

Here, however, a number of questions spring to mind. Firstly, are information and participation the only keys to implementing food democracy?

One can be, for instance, fully informed of unhealthy food and harmful eating patterns. But if one is socially disadvantaged, excluded even, is in a condition of extreme economic exploitation, if one does not have the time, the energy nor the financial resources to implement decisions based on the information at one’s disposal, then the possibility of implementing individual choices made on the basis of sound information drastically recedes.

A similar argument can be made with regards to political participation: many people have to sacrifice the need for the own greater social and political participation and the long term beneficial changes to their individual conditions this participation may bring simply because they are engaged in short-term, but extremely taxing, struggles for survival on a daily basis.

In addition to the above, what is the relationship between individual and social change ? Where does one start: with oneself or with the wider social, economic, and political structures or, in both realms simultaneously?

Thinking about food democracy may lead us to the task of rethinking democracy generally. A good place to start with this would be, for instance, David Graeber’s The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (2013). True, the point of departure of this book is the recent Occupy movement, but the work raises some very important points about political participation and process that are relevant to this essay here, too.

One thing the essay points to is to the need for reforms in the agricultural sector. But one could go a lot further in this and ask whether or not a genuine food democracy is possible without the wholesale transformation of all the aspects of society, inclusive of the market based economies within which we live and the political structures that overlook them.

The stress on grassroots mobilisation, participation, and inclusion is to the point, likewise the discussion of politics on a national level.
But then there is also the question of the international theater in which a food democracy is to be implemented, and how its current structure could be changed in order to bring about the end to food control.

Indeed, thinking about the possibility of a genuine food democracy, has to entail connecting many different areas of social life together. To give but one practical example of this. Issues of food control and food democracy are connected to many diverse factors inclusive of the dynamics of current global ecological crisis in general, and global warming more specifically, both negatively impacting on food production. If, however, we do not change the economic and developmental patterns that nurture this crisis, our chances of implementing food democracy are, to my mind, very slim indeed.

View other works commented by Nikolai Jeffs  ››

Other comments

No comments yet

Curators comments

This work has been commented by 2 editor(s):
Daniel Marcus Nikolai Jeffs go to comments ›

Entry details


Food Democracy-opinion essay

Concept author(s)

Noor sabha

Concept author year(s) of birth



United Arab Emirates

Competition category

critical writing

Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description