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The right to food is a basic human right recognized by the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25).  Despite 60 years of tireless efforts by the international community, however, “food security remained a broken promise for millions, especially in rural Africa and Asia”, said Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food.  


“Last year [2005], 852 million people were severely undernourished, up 11 million from 2004.  An estimated 320,000 were at risk for starvation in war-torn Darfur, and 12 per cent of the population, in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, suffered from severe hunger.  Worldwide, a total of 6 million children, under the age of five, died every year, from malnutrition and related diseases.”



The above statement illustrates that food is one of the most pressing global issues today.  Our everyday relations to food need to be grounded in relation to environmental, geographical, and historical contexts.  


This course explores the making of the global agro-food system and its role in shaping international relations of food and transformation of agrarian societies from a multidisciplinary perspective. We focus on political economy questions relating to who are the winners and losers from contemporary patterns of global economic change. This includes the analysis of relevant conceptual approaches to these questions (including international trade, comparative advantage, food regime theory, regionalism, economic governance, development and post-development, etc) as well as close examination of the key institutions (WTO and WB) driving these changes. In so doing, this course aims to develop the ability to think critically about how and why our everyday relations to food (from production to consumption) have dramatically transformed over the last century and how this transformation affects the environment.  


This course is divided into three main themes:

   1) The study of international structures of food trade, production, and consumption.

          > What role does agriculture play in domestic and international politics?

          > What is the global food regime? 

          > Who sets the rules? 

   2) The evaluation of impacts of the global food systems on the Global South

       (in particular, smallholders of agricultural land).

          > Why is world hunger still pervasive despite repeated efforts by the international community?

          > Does world hunger originate from not producing enough food?

          > Does trade liberalization help eliminate world hunger?

   3) The shift of our focus to food security, agro-food supply chains, and alternative farming.


In sum, we think about not only how our food gets to our table but also what alternatives exist for the future of agriculture. 

Offered by the the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Sophia University

Course code: POL 355

Instructor: Takeshi Ito

For more information on this course:

Environmental Politics of Agriculture Syllabus 2020

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