Democratising food: the case for a deliberative approach

Merisa Thompson, Alasdair Cochrane, Justa Hopma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
173 Downloads (Pure)


Prevailing political and ethical approaches that have been used to both critique and propose alternatives to the existing food system are lacking. Although food security, food sovereignty, food justice, and food democracy all offer something important to our reflection on the global food system, none is adequate as an alternative to the status quo. This article analyses each in order to identify the prerequisites for such an alternative approach to food governance. These include a focus on goods like nutrition and health, equitable distribution, supporting livelihoods, environmental sustainability, and social justice. However, other goods, like the interests of non-human animals, are not presently represented. Moreover, incorporating all of these goods is incredibly demanding, and some are in tension. This raises the question of how each can be appropriately accommodated and balanced. The article proposes that this ought to be done through deliberative democratic processes that incorporate the interests of all relevant parties at the local, national, regional, and global levels. In other words, the article calls for a deliberative approach to the democratisation of food. It also proposes that one promising potential for incorporating the interests of all affected parties and addressing power imbalances lies in organising the scope and remit of deliberation around food type.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-455
Number of pages21
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number4
Early online date13 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. We would like to thank Peter Verovšek, Indra Mangule, Hannah Lambie-Mumford, and Matt Bishop from the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Sheffield, and Jennifer Clapp from the University of Waterloo, for their thoughts and comments on various iterations of this article. We would also like to thank the four anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments and suggestions. This work was supported by the HEFCE/University of Sheffield match-funded N8 Agrifood programme.

Publisher Copyright:
© British International Studies Association 2020.


  • Deliberative Democracy
  • Food Politics
  • Food Justice
  • Food Security
  • Global Food System
  • Democratisation
  • Non-Human Animals


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