Globalisation and Food

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Globalisation and regulation of food risks. A theoretical overview.

As globalisation process covers more and more aspects of life and includes food, it becomes increasingly important to develop consistent theoretical perspectives on this process. In this paper I will first identify different theoretical views on globalisation and build on the views of Giddens and Castells to analyse the globalisation of food production and consumption. This will lead to the identification of structural tensions in the regulatory options in this globalising agri-food networks. The concept of agri-food networks is introduced to analyse the tension between global and local regulation of food production and consumption.

1. Introduction.

Regulating the environmental consequences of food production and consumption as well as the safety of food is no longer the sole responsibility of independent national states. The development and implementation of the regulation of food is increasingly influenced by processes in other, sometimes distant, places. Global trade, including food trade, has grown rapidly during the last decades leading to a search for new ways to regulate the impacts on the environment and safety of food production and consumption. Thus the regulation of food is globalising, like many other aspects of people’s lives and understanding the changing practices of regulation needs to based on a consistent social science analysis. There are however different theoretical perspectives on globalisation within the social sciences and I will review them to identify the most promising views to analyse the regulation of food risks. Whereas some theorists see globalisation as an unequivocal process towards a global world economy, others like Giddens and Castells regard it as a much more diverse and contingent process and their views offer more tools for analysing regulation of food risks at the beginning of the early 21st century. However, before reviewing these different theoretical perspectives I would like to summarise some empirical indicators about recent changes in international food trade.

2. Globalisation of food production and consumption. Empirical evidence.

The production and consumption of food has had international aspects for most of the known history of mankind. However, the recent process of globalisation has definitely shaped the scale as well as the structure of international food trade. World trade in agricultural products has grown impressively over the last decade, while simultaneously world market prices for most agricultural commodities have gone down. See table 1.

Table 1: World exports in agricultural products:
(index: 1990 = 100)

|Agricultural products |1992 |1994 |1996 |1997 | |Fruits |1.565.290 |2.833.285 |5.778.681 |8.424.558 | |Vegetables |773.631 |1.452.058 |3.108.964 |4.476.262 |

Source: Friedland, W. (1994), p 215.

The total value of food exports is estimated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be around 442.3 billion dollars in 2000, representing a share of 9% in world merchandise trade and 40.7 % in the world exports of primary products (WTO International Trade Statistics 2001). A few developed countries responsible for 70% of both exports and imports have dominated this trade. See table 3.

Table 3: Top 15 agricultural exporters and importers, 2000

|Exporters |Value ( bn) |Share in world (%)|Importers |Value ($bn) |Share in world (%) | |USA |70.87 |12.7 |USA |66.69 |11.0 | |France |36.52 |6.5 |Japan |62.19 |10.3 | |Canada...
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