Four key words are essential in understanding the changing global food system: power, control, risks and benefits.
The interplay between state and private actors vying to influence the direction of change, and use whatever tools for control they can, is at the heart of the contention for the future control of food. It is one shaped by history and influenced by a changing geopolitics. This interplay has led to the creation of a range of global rules affecting food, agriculture and biodiversity in which those on ‘intellectual property’ or IP are central. These rules come from a system dominated by the interests of the biggest players. Also important are the changing understandings and nature of food security and the pathways to innovation in agri-food systems that are most likely to lead to a just, healthy and sustainable future for all. Developments in food and farming are central to this and are the context in which the political economy of cereal seed systems in Africa is grounded.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 42.4 (2011) Whose Power to Control? Some Reflections on Seed Systems and Food Security in a Changing World