Food: Development, Political Economy, and Environment

Fall 2016 quarter

Taught by

Why are there 795 million people in the world without enough food - even though agricultural output has almost doubled in the last half century? What explains the concentration of the vast majority of the world’s hungry in developing countries? How does financing and speculation affect agricultural commodity and food prices across the globe? Do alternative forms of energy affect food and agriculture production and prices? Can non-conventional small-scale methods of agriculture feed the world? In this program, we'll use questions like these to guide our study of the economics, politics and environmental impacts of the modern industrial food system.

This program will offer an introductory examination into the issues of food, distribution, policy, and hunger from a political economic perspective. We will survey and compare food and agriculture issues in both industrialized and developing countries. Using economic concepts, we will look to provide an analytical understanding of these issues. Topics such as hunger, agricultural policy, food distribution, food sovereignty, food security, food aid, biotechnology and the Green Revolution, as well as other related themes will be explored throughout the quarter.

In addition to studying and critiquing the existing system, we will spend significant time exploring more sustainable alternatives to mainstream methods of food production, distribution and consumption. Students will learn to apply economic theories studied in class to specific aspects of the food system and undertake an independent project on an alternative to mainstream food production.

Students will be assigned weekly readings in addition to guest lectures and films. Assignments will include problem sets, weekly papers, and a research-based term paper in which they integrate and apply class material to a particular country. Students will also be asked to do in-class presentations and present their work in an end-of-quarter symposium.

Program Details

Fields of Study

agriculture cultural studies economics environmental studies history international studies political economy political science

Preparatory For

agriculture and food policy, international development, non-governmental organizations, community-based advocacy, public policy, history, cultural studies, economics, and political economy


Fall Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


2016-11-17Fee cancelled.
2016-08-26New fall opportunity added.