, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 309-319

Breaking new ground in food regime theory: corporate environmentalism, ecological feedbacks and the ‘food from somewhere’ regime?

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Abstract

Early food regimes literature tended to concentrate on the global scale analysis of implicitly negative trends in global food relations. In recent years, early food regimes authors like Harriet Friedmann and Philip McMichael have begun to consider the sites of resistance, difference and opportunity that have been emerging around, and into contestation with, new food regime relations. This paper examines the emerging global-scale governance mechanism of environmental food auditing—particularly those being promoted by supermarkets and other large food retailers—as an important new dynamic in our understanding of the politics and potentials of food regimes. Commencing with an examination of Friedmann’s corporate environmental food regime, two key dynamics are identified as being pivotal in the rise and decline of global-scale regimes: securing social legitimacy for food relations and the importance of ecological dynamics in global food relations. By extending McMichael’s notion of ‘Food from Nowhere’ versus ‘Food from Somewhere’, the paper interrogates the emergence of a cluster of relations that comprise ‘Food from Somewhere’ and examines whether this cluster of relations has the potential to change some of the constituent ecological dynamics of food regimes. These ecological dynamics have historically been problematic, amply demonstrating Marx’s metabolic rift as the early food regimes solidified relationships between ‘ecologies at a distance’. By using socio-ecological resilience theory, ‘Food from Somewhere’ is characterized as having denser ecological feedbacks and a more complex information flow in comparison to the invisibility and distanciation characterizing earlier regimes as well as contemporary ‘Food from Nowhere’. The conclusion of this article is that while ‘Food from Somewhere’ does provide one site of opportunity for changing some key food relations and ecologies, the social legitimacy of this new form of food relations does rely on the ongoing existence of the opposite, more regressive, pole of world food relations. The key question for resolving this tension appears to be whether new food relations can open up spaces for future, more ecologically connected, global-scale food relations.