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A Political Economy of Food Security: Analysis of the "US Model" of Agriculture
Abstract: The United States is among the most food secure countries in the world, so much so that US citizens face the opposite problem of obesity and related diseases to having too many calories. Yet, there are surprising vulnerabilities to US food security embedded in the political economic structure of agribusiness-government-consumer chain, not to mention critical ecological vulnerabilities. Political economic vulnerabilities include the asymmetrical distribution of 1) simple calories and 2) critical nutritional components to calories where "food deserts" and "food swamps" exist among communities where children may have their only meal at school. This meal is subsidized through the US Department of Agriculture and supplied by a very few large corporate interests and stabilized by legislative support for heavily processed food rich in fat. This corporate-legislative-agency iron triangle in US food politics favors high yield productivity, simplification and homogeneity, and still results in food insecurity for more than 49 million people. This paper analyzes the "choke points" in the US Food system that sheds light on the overall global food system inasmuch as both the food that the US produces and the political economy it has exported are globally important. Chokepoints include water use, monoculture, oligopolistic corporate agents, climate change, and inequality. Each are explained as mechanisms that create food security vulnerabilities both for the US and any country or system that adopts the US model.
Keywords: Food Security, Agriculture, Political Economy, Inequality