The political economy of food system transformation: pathways to progress in a polarized world

The current structure of the global food system is increasingly recognized as unsustainable. In addition to the environmental impacts of agricultural production, unequal patterns of food access and availability are contributing to non-communicable diseases in middle- and high-income countries and inadequate caloric intake and dietary diversity among the world’s poorest. While the need to transform food systems is widely accepted, the policy pathways for achieving such a vision often are highly contested, and the enabling conditions for implementation are frequently absent. Moreover, transformation implicitly requires reforms that depart from the status quo, which will generate resistance from those groups that stand to lose the most. These dynamics are examined in detail in a new book co-edited by Danielle Resnick and Johan Swinnen on The Political Economy of Food System Transformation: Pathways to Progress in a Polarized World, published jointly by IFPRI and Oxford University Press. The book emphasizes that the viability of reforms requires joint consideration of both the complexity of local, national, and global food systems and the increasingly polarized political and institutional contexts in which food policy decision-making occurs.

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