Food security politics and the millennium development goals

Philip McMichael*, Mindi Schneider

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


This article reviews proposals regarding the recent food crisis in the context of a broader, threshold debate on the future of agriculture and food security. While the MDGs have focused on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, the food crisis pushed the hungry over the one billion mark. There is thus a renewed focus on agricultural development, which pivots on the salience of industrial agriculture (as a supply source) in addressing food security. The World Bank's new 'agriculture for development' initiative seeks to improve small-farmer productivity with new inputs, and their incorporation into global markets via value-chains originating in industrial agriculture. An alternative claim, originating in 'food sovereignty' politics, demanding small-farmer rights to develop bio-regionally specific agro-ecological methods and provision for local, rather than global, markets, resonates in the IAASTD report, which implies agribusiness as usual 'is no longer an option'. The basic divide is over whether agriculture is a servant of economic growth, or should be developed as a foundational source of social and ecological sustainability. We review and compare these different paradigmatic approaches to food security, and their political and ecological implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-139
Number of pages21
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes

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