Thursday, 10 December 2009 by Dr Maytel
Within popular agro-food debates, agro-food products are either maligned as artificial, large-scale, industrial, exploitative, environmentally destructive and bad for one’s health, or celebrated as natural and organic, local, artisanal, socially and environmentally responsible and seasonal. Likewise trade structures for agro-products suffer blatant oversimplification. Conventional trade is deemed global, hegemonic, disembedding, and fraught with commodity fetishism that conceals true social relations of production and trade, while alternative trade or local trade is conflated with quality, safety, equality, fairness, provenance and de-commoditisation. The degree to which most people in their everyday lives are confronted with such sharply opposing choices is questionable, as Gudeman (2001: 12) points out, most of us use different modes within an economy daily, buying some products from a supermarket and others from local traders or farmers, and further still growing some produce ourselves or receiving products through networks of reciprocity and gifts. Although this is not to discount the experiences of those living at the extreme ends of agro-food systems – the purported food deserts of industrial suburbia or autarchic farming communities eking out a living in remote hinterlands - it is perhaps mainly for arguments sake that the tyranny of these extremes are presented to emphasise specific ideological positions within agro-industrialisation debates. For the majority, however multiplicity and ‘impurity is the rule’ in procuring daily sustenance (Callon in Morgan et al, 2006: 18)
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