Towards a third food regime: behind the transformation [Book Review]

Agriculture and Human Values 26 (4):267-279 (2009)
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Food regime theory focuses upon the dynamics, and agents, of change in capitalist food and farming systems. Its exponents have been able to identify relatively stable periods of capital accumulation in the agri-food industries, along with the periods of transition. Recently, scholars have argued that—following a first food regime based upon colonial trade in bulk commodities like wheat and sugar, and a second food regime typified by industrial agriculture and manufactured foods—there is an emerging third food regime. This new regime is one that is lead by global corporations that are profiting from the re-organisation of agri-food chains. The delivery of ‘fresh/healthy’ foods is one manifestation; another is the sale, by supermarkets, of ready-meals and other own-brand products. This paper argues that behind the movement to a putative Third Food Regime are changes to the financial system. ‘Financialisation’—the increased influence of finance capital on the agri-food system—not only provides new opportunities for profit-making by hedge funds and private equity consortia, but also creates a situation in which agri-food companies, including food manufacturers, international commodity traders and supermarkets, may benefit. Supermarkets for example, are moving into banking, and are altering their role as they move from being retailers of products, into the provision of capital. Food regime theory needs to consider what lies ‘behind’ the transformation of food and fibre production, to examine not only the role of finance capital in re-shaping relations up and down the agri-food supply chain, but also investigating the tendency for agri-food capitals to seek profits from financial transactions



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