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New Left Review I/197, January-February 1993

Harriet Friedmann

The Political Economy of Food: a Global Crisis

International conflict over agricultural regulation continues after more than six years to threaten to destroy the whole Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (gatt), and with it an agreement that greatly extends corporate power relative to national (and public) power. Paradoxically, the deadlock has been caused by a type of national regulation of agriculture whose days are numbered. Even more paradoxically, Europe, cast as defender of the old ways, has committed itself to more basic domestic reform than the United States. Major changes have been initiated in the European Common Agricultural Policy which go further than anyone imagined possible at the outset of the Uruguay Round. [1] Tim Josling (Food Research Institute, Stanford University), ‘Emerging Agricultural Trade Relations in the Post Uruguay Round World’, paper presented at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Rome, June 1992. The choice is not between ‘regulation’ or ‘free trade’, therefore, but between new forms of implicit or explicit regulation. [*] Earlier versions of this essay were presented at Wolfson College, Oxford, the Agrarian Studies Program, Yale University, and the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, and benefited from discussion with participants. I would like to thank Henry Bernstein, Barbara Harriss-White, Geoffrey Kay, Jean Laux, Philip McMichael, and Mary Summers for critical advice and encouragement in revising earlier drafts, and Yildiz Atasoy for invaluable research assistance. It will be published in Food, edited by Barbara Harriss-White, to be published by Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1993.

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