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Rethinking Food and Agriculture - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128164105, 9780128164112

Rethinking Food and Agriculture

1st Edition

New Ways Forward

Editors: Ammir Kassam Laila Kassam
Paperback ISBN: 9780128164105
eBook ISBN: 9780128164112
Imprint: Woodhead Publishing
Published Date: 18th October 2020
Page Count: 476
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Given the central role of the food and agriculture system in driving so many of the connected ecological, social and economic threats and challenges we currently face, Rethinking Food and Agriculture reviews, reassesses and reimagines the current food and agriculture system and the narrow paradigm in which it operates.

Rethinking Food and Agriculture explores and uncovers some of the key historical, ethical, economic, social, cultural, political, and structural drivers and root causes of unsustainability, degradation of the agricultural environment, destruction of nature, short-comings in science and knowledge systems, inequality, hunger and food insecurity, and disharmony. It reviews efforts towards ‘sustainable development’, and reassesses whether these efforts have been implemented with adequate responsibility, acceptable societal and environmental costs and optimal engagement to secure sustainability, equity and justice. The book highlights the many ways that farmers and their communities, civil society groups, social movements, development experts, scientists and others have been raising awareness of these issues, implementing solutions and forging ‘new ways forward’, for example towards paradigms of agriculture, natural resource management and human nutrition which are more sustainable and just.

Rethinking Food and Agriculture proposes ways to move beyond the current limited view of agro-ecological sustainability towards overall sustainability of the food and agriculture system based on the principle of ‘inclusive responsibility’. Inclusive responsibility encourages ecosystem sustainability based on agro-ecological and planetary limits to sustainable resource use for production and livelihoods. Inclusive responsibility also places importance on quality of life, pluralism, equity and justice for all and emphasises the health, well-being, sovereignty, dignity and rights of producers, consumers and other stakeholders, as well as of nonhuman animals and the natural world.    

Key Features

  • Explores some of the key drivers and root causes of unsustainability , degradation of the agricultural environment and destruction of nature
  • Highlights the many ways that different stakeholders have been forging 'new ways forward' towards alternative paradigms of agriculture, human nutrition and political economy, which are more sustainable and just
  • Proposes ways to move beyong the current unsustainable exploitation of natural resources towards agroecological sustainability and overall sustainability of the food and agriculture system based on 'inclusive responsibility'


Students, academics, professionals, researchers, educationalists, activists, service providers and decision-makers in the public, private and civil sectors, extension staff of development agencies, staff of international and national development and technical assistance agencies

Table of Contents

Laila Kassam and Amir Kassam
1. Setting innovation free in agriculture
Rupert Sheldrake
2. Agriculture planted the seeds of alienation from nature
Jim Mason and Laila Kassam
3. Political-economy of the global food and agriculture system
Philip McMichael
4. Neo-colonialism and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition: A gendered analysis of the development consequences for Africa
Mark Langan and Sophia Price
5. The myth of a food crisis
Jonathan Latham
6. Animal Ethics as Critique of Animal Agriculture, Environmentalism, Foodieism, Locavorism, and Clean Meat
Robert C. Jones
7. A food system fit for the future
Tony Juniper
8. Why change the way we grow, process and consume our food?
Hans R. Herren
9. Two paradigms of science - and two models of science-based agriculture
Colin Tudge
10. Paradigms of Agriculture
Amir Kassam and Laila Kassam
11. Soil health and the revolutionary potential of Conservation Agriculture
David R. Montgomery
12. Climate change adaptability and mitigation in Conservation Agriculture
Emilio Gonzalez
13. Will gene-edited and other GM crops fail sustainable food systems?
Allison Wilson
14. Sustaining agricultural biodiversity and heterogeneous seeds Patrick Mulvany
15. Healthy diets as a guide to responsible food systems
Shireen Kassam, David Jenkins, Doug Bristor and Zahra Kassam
16. Knowledge systems for inclusively responsible food and agriculture
Robert Chambers
17. Social movements in the transformation of food and agriculture systems
Nassim Nobari
18. Alternatives to the global food regime: Steps towards system transformation
Helena Norberg-Hodge
19. Co-creating responsible food and agriculture systems
Vandana Shiva
20. Towards inclusive responsibility
Laila Kassam and Amir Kassam


No. of pages:
© Woodhead Publishing 2020
18th October 2020
Woodhead Publishing
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

About the Editors

Ammir Kassam

Amir Kassam OBE, FRSB, PhD, is visiting professor in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading, UK.

Affiliations and Expertise

University of Reading, UK

Laila Kassam

Laila Kassam PhD is a development economist and has been working in rural development since 2003, and is a co-founder of Animal Think Tank.

Affiliations and Expertise

Animal Think Tank, Lancaster, UK


"It may be surprising to see agriculture being held responsible for many of the perils that mankind has brought upon itself and the planet. The editors’ aim is to reassess and reimagine the food system. In their own words, this requires ‘uncovering the historical, ethical, economic, social, cultural, political and structural drivers and root causes of unsustainability, degradation of the agricultural environment, destruction of nature, shortcomings in science and knowledge systems, inequality, hunger and food insecurity, and disharmony’ and, also, ‘past and present efforts towards sustainable development, including food security and production, and whether these efforts have been and/or are being implemented with adequate cultural responsibility, acceptable societal and environmental costs, and optimal engagement to secure sustainability, equity, and justice for all throughout the whole system.’ Knowing that everything is connected to everything else and appreciating the place and responsibility of Society, the editors draw upon keen observation of the operations of agriculture in the field and upon social and environmental justice movements to elaborate the concept of inclusive responsibility as a philosophical foundation for a better food system. Their concept encompasses agro-ecological sustainability based on planetary boundaries; valuing quality of life, biocultural diversity, equity and social justice; and the health, well-being, sovereignty, dignity and rights of farmers, consumers and other stakeholders, as well as of nonhuman animals and the natural world. Surely, we can also get out of it again without a revolution of human nature but with a series of big steps and little ones. Some of the big steps that can be taken in liberal, democratic, capitalist societies are: leave fossil fuels in the ground; stop ploughing, better still, don’t disturb the soil at all; don’t broadcast poisons, they are indiscriminate and hang around for a long time; drastically reduce animal farming; and stand up to corporate bullies. As the editors argue (chapter 20), Inclusive Responsibility!" --International Journal of Environmental Studies

"This unique and outstanding book is treasure trove of knowledge and discusses ways and urgency of changing to and implementing new paradigms related to recovery, resilience, and rebuilding food
systems to tackle new as well emerging land challenges and elevated environmental risks and impacts. The editors have gathered eminent authors and world-leading scholars to deal with these issues and propose more holistic approaches and schemes for transforming agricultural and food systems, revitalising livelihoods, and expanding awareness across scales and actors. The book reviews with great pertinence and momentum the historical and philosophical development of tunnel conventional agriculture and associated socialisation and sectorisation policies, innovation, and social movements. Multiple approaches are drawn from the different chapters exploring a range of interconnected challenges, complex subjects and socio-ecological arrangements related to agriculture, food, biodiversity, and ecosystems. The book claims for a system and radical change in food systems and agriculture space but also in policy/decision-making processes. It set the pillars for a new nature and ecology-based direction and explore integrated and inclusive vision for promoting innovative food systems that can fill the sustainability gaps left by conventional “modern” agriculture while spurring progressive benefits and synergies for society and economy. The book is highly inspirational debating and discussing wide-ranging of thoughts, landmark experiences and innovative ideas and solutions to drive forward to future of agriculture and food systems. Progress toward sustainable food systems has been addressed in all aspects and considering major priorities. The book is a rallying call to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture. The book insists on new business models that may bend with traditional knowledge to stimulate increased sustainability and stronger development and economy. It discusses the dilemma between ecology, capitalism, and new agricultural economy. The authors have given plenty of space for discussing political, ethics, financial investments and values around modern/industrialized agriculture and its development as they also addressed issues related to controversial roles of international organizations in affecting policies and social contexts (and relations) of production, consumption, and regulation of food. The authors have also discussed and analysed food systems and regimes and their changes and transformation over time and contexts and special attention was given to ethics, sustainability and efficiencies of animal agriculture and animal-based diets. The book asked and shed the lighted on important changes that are happening and forecasted in the global food system and scenarios for achieving and improving sustainability and resilience. The book is presented in inspiring but persuading ways to launch debate and spark discussion on transition to food system models that are just, ecological, durable, and regenerative. In fact, the food systems should be considered as solutions rather than problems (or drawbacks) to global changes. The book is presenting real farming (mainly based on agroecology and conservation agriculture) as opposed to intensive or factory agriculture as feasible options that can support and propel such models (and solutions) within planetary boundaries while dealing with root causes of unsustainability and vulnerability of agricultural/food systems. The book did a special emphasize on conservation agriculture, also called the fifth revolution, due its revolutionary impacts on soil health build-up and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The book also underlined the importance of localization (as opposed to globalization), biodiversity, local seeds and plant-based diet pattern for responsive health and nutrition security. An intense examination and discussion were given on industrial green revolution impacts (achievements and failures) and capacities of real farming to satisfy food security and its pillars and defeat climate and environmental change. The book examines knowledge systems and the changes in mindsets, behaviours, believes and reflexivity of farmers (and stakeholders) but also their heresies as they shift in paradigms and practices. The book is highly recommended for academicians, researchers and writers in agricultural sciences and food studies and agri-food economy and policies but also to policy and opinion makers and advisers." --Research Director – INRA Morocco

"The book is a holistic review of our current food and agriculture systems, discussing the origins, the
actual problems, and approaches towards a badly needed sustainability of this issue which is determinant for the survival of humans on our planet. In 20 chapters, written by recognized leading experts and brilliant minds in very different areas related to food and agriculture, the book shows the origins of our food culture, the ethics of our behaviour and the positioning of mankind within nature, the influence of religions, and the developments under different economic systems, starting from colonial times towards our actual globalized food chains. It sheds light on the problems of sustainability of the actual food production, the question of production increase to end hunger, the growing problems of non-transmissible diseases caused by overweight and obesity, discussing the well-known problems of environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity and climate change and the interactions of our food systems with these global problems. It also discusses consumer preferences and needed changes for healthy diets, necessary for the environmental sustainability of our production systems as well as from a public health point of view. Specific controverse topics such as genetically modified organisms or the dangers of resistance against antibiotics are discussed in detail. Proposals are given, how the systems could be transformed to achieve overall sustainability, starting from sustainable productions systems such as Conservation Agriculture and ending with sustainable diets based on natural food from plant origin with a focus on local productions. All the topics are discussed with scientific facts and arguments, which makes the book a valuable source of information about many of the discussed topics. Each topic is well researched with abundant references. As the book is discussing controverse issues and questioning many of our actual paradigms, it might appear in some parts radical. However, if we are serious about fighting the problems, which mankind has created with the actual food and agricultural systems, starting with the degradation of soils and ecosystems, the global pollution and loss of biodiversity, ending with climate change and the actual SARS-COV2 pandemic, we need radical change, which will also have to include a rethinking of our actual economic systems, built on endless growth, economy of scale and globalized agro-industrial food systems. Not every detail of the book will be agreeable to everyone, such as the proposal for a strictly vegan nutrition; however, even meat lovers have to admit, that the actual developments of meat consumptions are not sustainable from perspectives of environment, climatic change, food security, nutrition, health and ethics. But in all these issues the book raises interesting questions which need urgent answers. It triggers our thinking, shows new views out of the box, needed to find solutions for the actual global problems. The book does not only question the actual systems showing its problems. It offers solutions, which are all feasible and realistic, although they might involve radical change and sometimes sacrifice. As such the book should be read by any thinking human being as it concerns all of us. It should be read especially by professionals in development and politics, scientists and everyone involved in the actual food and agriculture systems. It is an absolute must to read for policy makers and those, who decide about future of the countries and the planet." --Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

"This new book invites authors to write chapters with wide views on how agriculture should move forward in the future. By doing so it uncovers some of the key historical, ethical, economic, social, cultural, political, and structural drivers and root causes of unsustainability, degradation of the agricultural environment, destruction of nature, short-comings in science and knowledge systems, inequality, hunger and food insecurity, and disharmony. It reviews efforts towards ‘sustainable development’, and reassesses whether these efforts have been implemented with adequate responsibility, acceptable societal and environmental costs and optimal engagement to secure sustainability, equity and justice." --Scoop it!-Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group

"Few people can talk of a globally broken food system, of the urgent need for a global food transformation, of the fact that food alone can destabilise the planet, without getting trapped in a dystopian future. Even if efforts are made to list solutions. Why? Because it is a rare gift to stand solidly rooted in both the evidence of catastrophic risks and the empirical evidence of scalable solutions for health, resilience and equity. Amir and Laila Kassam manage to be stewards of both, a result of their own wealth of knowledge and experience, and the incredible group of assembled co-authors. A book to guide our future on Earth." --Professor Johan Rockström, Professor of Earth System Science at University of Potsdam, and Director Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research

"Our planet is in peril, along with the collective future of ourselves and many other species. Modern agriculture, especially animal agriculture - with its vast use of land, water, fossil fuels, pesticides, herbicides, and greenhouse gas production – bears much of the blame. If we are to have any hope of a future in a clean, green world, enriched by other many living species, we really have to change. Comprehensively researched, and clearly written, Rethinking Food and Agriculture describes both the causes of our current planetary predicament, and provides a clear pathway out of it – should we choose to take it. This highly recommended book should be required reading for all interested in a viable future for our planet." -- Andrew Knight, MANZCVS, DipECAWBM (AWSEL), DipACAW, PhD, FRCVS, PFHEA, Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, & Founding Director, Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester, UK, Adjunct Professor, School of Environment and Science, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia

"Many people are now rethinking where their food comes from. From the standpoint of human health, the welfare of animals, or environmental health, current systems could not be worse, and this book is the very welcome light at the end of the tunnel. Rethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward takes an optimistic and practical approach to fixing a system gone awry. I heartily recommend it." -- Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC

"An absolute powerhouse! Cogent and compelling, Rethinking Food and Agriculture is transcendent in synthesizing broad and seemingly discrete aspects of the global food system to create a foundation for positive, structural change. Insights and nuances abound in this paradigm-shifting collection that uniquely and urgently insists on the inescapable interconnectedness of human, nonhuman, and planetary wellbeing, and then culminates with the much-needed concept of "inclusive responsibility." I found myself energized (even a bit awestruck) by the depth and breadth of Amir and Laila Kassam’s research and the top notch experts they assembled. This book is a true treasure and a new addition to my favorites list." -- Dawn Moncrief, Founder and President of A Well-Fed World

"All life on this planet is in danger. One important part of the solution is thinking urgently about how we produce and consume food. This new book is a hugely welcome, timely and eye-opening contribution to help shape the thinking and actions needed to really make a difference. Education plays such an important role in bringing about real change; this wonderful new book will be a hugely rich resource." -- Professor Joy Carter CBE DL Cgeol FGS, Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester, UK

"…a wonderful contribution to the science and philosophy supporting the urgent need to transition to a non-violent vegan food system and restore a right relationship with ourselves, other species and nature." --James O’Donovan, Vegan Sustainability Magazine

"Amir and Laila Kassam have assembled a diverse and highly articulate team of specialists in food-related matters who all share a common concern that most of the elements of our ‘modern’ food management systems – from production to consumption and waste - are non-sustainable and seriously damaging to both natural resources and human health. They also are boosting the processes of climate change and, in many cases, they involve the exploitation of labour and cause suffering to animals.

The Kassams acknowledge the complexities of food management but make a powerful case for combining changes in the dominant agricultural production paradigm and in eating habits in ways which are already proving valid in many parts of the world. They call for speeding up the global shift away from any form of tillage and heavy dependence on high-input arable crop production by the widespread adoption of the principles of Organic Farming and Conservation Agriculture. And they appeal to all of us as consumers to make big cuts in eating meat and to shift towards vegetarian diets – ideally to a whole food plant-based or vegan food system.

Going forwards hand-in-hand, these two sets of changes alone will put an end to most of the harmful effects now attributable to our current food systems.

This book provides ample evidence that changes in both these directions are gathering pace, driven mainly by farmers and consumers acting in their own interest while also creating important public benefits – for instance through reducing the pace of climate change through raising levels of carbon storage in farmed soils, and by improving the quality of the human diet, thereby reducing the pressure imposed by nutrition-related illnesses on public sector health services. If governments reward the main actors through paying them fairly for their generation of such public goods, this could greatly speed up the transition to more sustainable food systems. But, as the Kassam’s argue, this will only come about through a decentralisation of power in food systems management that puts producers and consumers, rather than corporate interests, in the driving seat. --Andrew MacMillan, Former Director of FAO’s Field Operations Division and co-author of "How to End Hunger in Times of Crises – Let’s Start Now

"This book shows the need for a system change with uncommon breadth and detail, and describes ways toward a more sustainable and equitable state of the agriculture and food system. In an introduction and 20 independent but linked chapters the two editors and 22 invited authors document the prevailing capital- and profit-driven food and agriculture system. They describe its several causes and structural drivers and its effects: the inequality, widespread hunger and food insecurity, and the severe cumulative damage to the natural environment with increasing likelihood of ecological, economic, social and human disaster. They contrast this with a more inclusive, agroecology-based world view, describing more benign agricultural production paradigms, already followed on parts of the agricultural land, and several ways of transformation to sustainable, more equitable food production, distribution and consumption systems. The book advocates a rapid transformation of the food and agriculture system: changing from large-scale monocropping of mainly livestock feed –with high energy and chemical inputs– to smaller-scale, more diverse production of food and other crops in a biodiverse environment; and encouraging people away from current industrial high-meat, high-additives diets to more diverse, more plant-based diets. Several chapters include local or regional examples of successful transitions. The core of the book looks to me like the struggles between a tyrant and the populace: the few extremely rich persons and the small number of tightly connected very large corporations actively, often under the radar, trying to block any changes toward the many, often small- or medium-scale, more long-term oriented, more ecologically and socially operating systems that might reduce their wealth, power or dominance." --Robert Brinkman


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