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This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Do we have a choice between the global and local food systems and culture? How far can we influence food policy and food traders? What happens when modified genes spread to unaltered crops? We invite individual stories from around the world so that we can understand the pressures and opportunities that prevail. Ian Christie outlines the remit of the debate in his introductory article, Food: what we eat is who we are.
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Mazí Mas, “with us”

Women have played a seminal role in keeping food cultures all over the world alive. Nikandre Kopcke discusses her inspiration for setting up a pop-up restaurant which showcases the culinary talents and diverse cultural heritages of migrant women in London.

Why are so many children in the UK going hungry?

More children in UK rely on food aid than ever before.  What chance of tackling the complexities of poverty if the government is not even working to prevent children from going hungry?

The new food movement: politics and pleasure

The emergent movements around the politics of food are a vital component of debates on the planet’s future, says Geoff Andrews.

The price of food: ingredients of a global crisis

A worldwide increase in the price of basic foods is provoking anger and despair in many of the world's poor countries. Both analysts and policymakers are attempting to rise to the challenge of understanding the reasons for the trend and what can be done, reports Heidi Fritschel.

The dumping-ground: Africa and GM food aid

Unequal power relationships in the world economic system mean that hungry Africans often have no choice but to eat genetically-modified food. Patrick Mulvany argues that food aid policies can be driven by the commercial policies interests of rich nations rather than the interests of the most vulnerable people.

GM Canola on the Prairie: gene patents, farmers' rights

Can a 73-year old Canadian farmer’s legal challenge to biotechnology giants succeed in altering global rules on patent law?

In praise of wine

The litmus test of a healthy, civilised life, the convivial route to harmony between people and nations: Frank Ward glimpses a better world in the mirror of a wine glass.

Absinthe: demon drink

When alcohol is imagined as evil, absinthe, the legendary 19th century French drink of the mad and bad, plays the role of the devil. Why its links with social unrest and sexual deviance?

A drunken kiss, and then farewell

A combination of pagan roots, national traditions, and modern attitudes has shaped the Scottish New Year celebration called Hogmanay. Without the myths, is it any more than an inebriated street party?

A problem with drink?

Britain’s city and town centres float on a sea of alcoholic excess. After years of promoting the benefits of the “leisure economy”, can its public policy help restore alcohol to its truer place as a lubricant of life and laughter?

Ireland's alcoholic curse

Irish people’s high alcohol consumption has been transformed in the public mind from a cultural trait into a major medical and social problem. How did the country’s drinking culture acquire its harder, violent edge?

GM: Africa's opportunity

The marketing and developing of GM crops across Africa is intensely controversial. But in an interview with Sophie Jeffreys and Ian Christie of openDemocracy, Walter Alhassan argues that African farmers have little to fear from biotechnology when it is correctly monitored, and much to gain.

Biotechnology against food security: the choice for Africa

From Zambia to Ghana, African countries have very different attitudes to the application of biotechnology to food production. In a context of systemic inequality, the process raises key issues of good governance and global justice as well as science. Can the new technology be used to address poverty and advance sustainability, or will it be a means of increasing global corporate control?

Small is dangerous? Schumacher, science, and social development

The promise of micro-technology as a tool of social progress is balanced by fear of its use to reduce freedom and widen global divisions. The benign if flawed vision of E.F. Schumacher still holds lessons for how a better social application of science can serve the interests of the world’s poor and the planet’s sustainability.

Biotechnology: the case for sustainability

Many environmentalists see biotechnology solely in terms of threat and danger. This is short-sighted, says John Elkington of SustainAbility. The challenges of the 21st century – climate change, poverty, disease, demography – make biotechnology a potentially valuable tool. The question is: can it be used in ways that sustain democracy and public trust?

Marketing GM: the making of poverty

Marginal farmers in India find it difficult enough to ensure a modestly sustainable life on existing patterns of land ownership and seed availability. But when manipulative marketing strategies introduce GM seeds, cash dependency and debt, their poverty becomes a cruel trap.

Andhra Pradesh: the land is ours

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, local farmers are under pressure to embrace a future of large-scale monoculture producing crops for the global market. But the farmers themselves, especially women, are convinced that traditional practices and knowledge are the best guarantee of their livelihood and food security.

GM crops: the voice of Canadian farmers

One voice is too often missing in the debate about genetically-modified (GM) foodstuffs – that of experienced, practical farmers themselves. In a wide-ranging interview with Sophie Jeffreys and Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy, three Canadian farmers explain why they think it is time to bring the GM rollercoaster under control.

Poland and the CAP: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

As the European Union initiates widespread reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Krzysztof Mularczyk tells the sorry tale of Poland’s failure to prepare its huge agricultural sector to meet the challenge of accession. Is Poland set to benefit from the new CAP?

Does the CAP fit?

The European Union’s common agricultural policy is coming under sustained attack from all sides. Should it be scrapped, or reformed? An insider from the office of the commissioner for Agriculture for the EU explains some of the principles of reform – decoupling, degressivity, modulation – and argues that the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) emerging from the Doha Development Round, will lead to a fairer, and sustainable, Europe wide policy.

India: facts, lies and GM potatoes

The GM potato, far from being the answer to India’s food security as has recently been argued, would displace the richest source of traditional protein in the sub-continent’s diet. Rather, it would intensify the problems already being suffered by the country’s small producers as a result of trade liberalisation policies.

Africa's arsenal: the sustainable village

Africa needs a radically different vision of its future from that on offer from the developed world. It should look to the Songhai Centre, where Godfrey Nzamujo has built that most realisable utopia, a sustainable African village.

GM and the intensification of farming

The argument over genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) needs to be seen in the context of wider agricultural policy. In itself, the technology is neutral and may even have possible benefits. But the use of GMOs by farmers tied to the distorting economics of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will only intensify the latter’s disastrous environmental impact. Rather than ban GMOs, it would be better to reform the CAP and tax agrochemicals.

Biotechnology and hunger

The food security, life-chances and freedom of African farmers can be immeasurably improved by the greater use of biotechnology – as is already evident in China. Scientific research, terms of trade, and global politics still present obstacles, but the direct choices of poor farmers themselves will resolve this passionately contested argument.

Ending African hunger: GM or agro-ecology?

Where Gordon Conway champions biotechnology as a solution to hunger in developing countries, Liz Orton offers a radically different vision of agriculture for Africa – sustainable, low-tech and founded on local knowledge.

Eating the world: the philosophy of food

Food is meaning not just nourishment, ritual not just consumption, ceremony not just act, familial and social relationship not just individual ingestion. But profound and increasingly global changes in the way people eat have eclipsed these truths. In a provocative essay that seasons deep learning with wine, wit, and warmth, Roger Scruton toasts the plenitude of a fully human culture of food, and warns of the dangers attending its loss.

Food and the politics of humanitarian access in Iraq

Before the Iraq war, around 60% of the country’s people depended on the World Food Programme. The UN and other agencies need to make huge and sustained efforts to meet their needs in the post-conflict situation. Food assistance, long the subject of high politics in Iraq, is likely to remain a key area of dispute as nation-building evolves.

Hard Tack

The effort of coordination required to feed the ranks in war creates its own culture of humour and memory. The Commander of the United States Navy’s Medical Corps offers a consumer’s guide for the hungry soldier in the field.

Food: what we eat is who we are

Food, the daily ingredient of human survival, raises deep questions of politics, economics, the environment, and culture. Ian Christie introduces the Ecology & Place theme’s new debate on this most universal yet intimate of themes.

Swedes do it better

“My cow wants fun” said the writer of children’s books - and people listened. The head of the Federation of Swedish Farmers explains how her country’s history and culture planted the seeds of an ethical food system.

Silent spring and living landscape

Foot and mouth is an alarm call. But are the British already reaching for the sentimental snooze button? A Welsh smallholder challenges walkers, townies and consumers to wake up, as well as farmers.
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