Sustainable Scotland
Sustainable Scotland

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Sustainable Scotland

3.2 Global food trade

The global trade in food is seen to be associated with negative environmental impacts and is often considered unsustainable. The globalisation of food has also led to the development of global food brands. However, despite the threat of globalised food cultures, local food and an interest in local produce and recipes seems to be fairly strong.

  • Are local food networks and the re-emergence of local specialities (sometimes fused with other cuisines — French/Italian/Indian) simply a form of resistance to global food markets, or are they part of the globalisation process?
  • Do we recognise the importance of our local food suppliers and local dishes in the face of the homogenisation of food cultures, or are locality and specialism something that global food cultures allow us to appreciate more fully?

For example, research on local food markets in the West Highlands has found that the local food economy, is almost entirely dependent on the consumption of local food by tourists. The re-emergence and recognition of the importance of local food, and local food economy, is related to global tourism and marketing (Macintyre, 2005). What is interesting about this example of the West Highlands is the way that wider social and economic changes in the way we distribute, store and consume food are having effects that we might not expect on the agricultural community and rural consumers. On one hand the reach of large multinational (global) companies and the movement of food around the world appear to be eroding the connection between the producers of food and local markets. On the other hand a new local food market has emerged that is dependent on an aspect of those global processes, the free movement of people.

One of the inherent contradictions within our connections with the wider world (understood as the fluid and free movement of goods, services and peoples around the globe) is that while it can (and sometimes does) make everywhere seem familiar and the same — same shops, same food, same films — it also allows places and people to communicate their distinctiveness and difference. Potentially, it also means that dispersed and marginalised groups can communicate and come together and (in some cases) market their difference. These connections mean that globalisation also helps to support and nurture difference, including distinctive local cuisines and local food cultures.

Activity 5

You have now been given a few examples of the different ways that globalisation shapes our lives.

Look back at the notes you made in your learning log in Activity 4 and see if you would now like to change any of the terms.

  • Which terms would you like to change?
  • Why would you like to change them?
  • What would you add?
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