Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 103–121 | Cite as

Food: From Commodity to Commons

  • Gunnar Rundgren


Our food and farming system is not socially, economically or ecologically sustainable. Many of the ills are a result of market competition driving specialization and linear production models, externalizing costs for environmental, social and cultural degradation. Some propose that market mechanisms should be used to correct this; improved consumer choice, internalization of costs and compensation to farmers for public goods. What we eat is determined by the path taken by our ancestors, by commercialization and fierce competition, fossil fuels and demographic development. Based on those, governments and the food industry are the choice architects who determine what we eat; consumer choice plays a marginal role. Using market mechanisms to internalize cost and compensate farmers for public goods has been proposed for decades but little progress has been made. There are also many practical, ethical and theoretical objections to such a system. The market is not a good master for a sustainable food system. Instead we need to find new ways of managing the food system based on food as a right and farming as a management system of the planet Earth. The solutions should be based on relocalization of food production and de-commodification of food and our symbionts, the plants and animals we eat.


Food Ecosystem services Consumer choice Markets Commodification 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GrolinkJärlåsaSweden

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