Our food and agricultural systems have undergone tremendous change in the 20th century. Less common now are the pastoral ways we imagine, like the image found in a bucolic farm advertisement. Agriculture has beome thoroughly industrialized and increasingly globalized. A plentiful supply of cheap fossil fuels help power mechanization, produce fertilizers and pesticides, and lengthen distance from farm to plate. The result has been a carbon-intensive food system that keeps prices cheap while large retailers and processors extract value from farmers at increasing margins. The result of this transformation is an agri-food system that has done well in terms of productive capacity to feed many people but that causes considerable environmental burden and brings along its own problems in terms of poverty and food distribution.
This third volume in the SAGE Series on Green Society lays out the contours of the field of agri-food studies. It draws on scholars working in the fields of political ecology, rural sociology, geography, and environmental studies to paint a picture of the past, present, and future of agriculture and food. It provides readers with a basic understanding of the institutions, practices, and concepts to identify what is and is not a "green" food. Because food is so intimately connected to our daily lives, the food system offers perhaps the most promise to make change in a sustainable direction. What a sustainable and green food system would be like is still an open question. There are many unresolved issues about what policies would help realize it and what kinds of tradeoffs we face in deciding which paths to choose. Green Food: An A-to-Z Guide provides people interested in food and agricultural systems the basic analytical and conceptual ideas that explain why our food system looks the way it does, and what can be done to change it.