Knowledge for better food systems

The political economy of agricultural and food policies

This book, by Johan Swinnen, examines the economic winners and losers of government interventions in the food system.

Publisher’s summary

Food and agriculture have been subject to heavy-handed government interventions throughout much of history and across the globe, both in developing and in developed countries.  Today, more than half a trillion US dollars are spent by some governments to support farmers, while other governments impose regulations and taxes that hurt farmers. Some policies, such as price regulations and tariffs, distribute income but reduce total welfare by introducing economic distortions.  Other policies, such as public investments in research, food standards, or land reforms, may increase total welfare, but these policies come also with distributional effects.  These distributional effects influence the preferences of interest groups and in turn influence policy decisions.  Political considerations are therefore crucial to understand how agricultural and food policies are determined, to identify the constraints within which welfare-enhancing reforms are possible (or not), and finally to understand how coalitions can be created to stimulate growth and reduce poverty.

 

Reference

Swinnen, J., 2018. The political economy of agricultural and food policies. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Read more here. See also the Foodsource resource What are the possible unintended consequences of changing diets?

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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