Food Democracy: Towards Sustainable Food Features

By Dr Oliver Vodeb

It is impossible to think about sustainability without putting food at the center of our discussions. Food is our most intimate relation to nature, and while essential for our living, we have let corporations and profit interests largely determine our food culture.

In the era of privatisation of everything, basic human needs get colonised through corporate strategies. The food system- production, distribution, representation and consumption of food- becomes a machine, which excludes people from participation.
Big corporations are putting exclusive copyrights on seeds- the very source of life. Seeds as public knowledge bank were cultivated through centuries in a close relation between human and nature.

Predictions show that because of unsustainable commercial farming the amount of food produced at the end of the century will be 50% of what we produce now. Currently more than 30 % of food is thrown away right away after harvest just because it does not look in a particular way and 200 000 people could be fed for a year just with the food that is thrown away by European airlines in one year. As world population numbers are rising, food will become the biggest issue of survival and geopolitical dominance very, very soon.

The consumption is to a big degree preconditioned as well. Our desires to achieve pleasure with food are in many ways the product of the prevailing food related libidinal economy- the way society organises desire. Food is designed with great effort and so are its representations.

With the strategic use of sugar, salt and fat, food is having the chemical effect of drugs. But addictive relations to food are designed by advertising too- in many cases food advertising even promotes behavioural patterns, which resemble to illicit drug cultures and food itself is more and more being designed to be a drug-delivering device.

My research has been focusing on what can communication/design and art do in order to contribute to FOOD DEMOCRACY. In 2013 we have initiated the global Memefest, the festival of Socially responsive communication, design and art on the theme of Food Democracy. Memefest is interested in the development of public communication for social change. Results of the many responses from 25 countries can be seen here.

A series of what we call extradisciplinary workshops has been addressing the issue in local Brisbane, Australia, where we have worked with the Aboriginal activist group, the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy and have developed public interventions in support of Food Democracy:

We are currently working on a book titled FOOD DEMOCRACY, Critical Lessons in Food, Communication/Design, Art and Theoretical Practice, which will be published in 2017 by Intellect Books UK.

In our technological world and the society of the mediated spectacle, communication, design and art must play a crucial role in our food futures. In order to do so, new innovative and socially responsive approaches to public communication as well as education will be crucial.

Dr Oliver Vodeb: Research, writing / theory. PhD Sociology of (visual) communication, University of Ljubljana. Based in Melbourne, Australia.