Decolonisation of our Food System

Josie Farrar
July 9, 2022

A few weeks ago, I spent an evening at a community farm in south London. When I arrived, the volunteers were socialising and eating pizzas with the farm’s produce and running around with beetroots on spoons (new party game folks!). There was something so refreshing about seeing a group of people gathering to celebrate their time and efforts on an agricultural grassroots project. The small holding is run as a non for profit agroecological farm. This is based on the principals of avoiding the use of pesticides, practicing crop rotation, encouraging the growth of biodiversity, and using local supply chains.


Agriculture accounts for at least a quarter of global emissions and it lies central to the climate solution. In recent years, media has focused on the impact of individual diets on the climate crisis, yet our failing food system is more crucially an indication of poor farming practices, food poverty and systemically unjust structures. Ultimately, our food system is a result of colonial industrialisation where increasing yields in the short term for economic growth were prioritised over the future of our planet and the care of its people. Systems of supremacy have destroyed the way we deal with land and silenced the traditional practices of Indigenous communities. Indigenous people make up 5% of world’s population and protect 80% of its biodiversity.


One of the first issues we inflicted was separating animal and plant farming, contributing to poor soil health, loss of biodiversity and an ill-functioning ecosystem. In the 1950s the ‘Green Revolution’ (not very green) encouraged the large-scale increase in use of pesticides, monoculture, and water consumption. It eradicated many indigenous varieties of rice, millets, and lentils in the global south, favouring the monoculture of wheat and maize.


Our food system is desperately in need of decolonisation, yet students aren’t even being taught about the years of colonial history which have founded systemically unjust structures, let alone the problems with conventional agriculture.


In GSCE biology I remember being taught that genetically modified crops and routine antibiotics would increase food security. Technological fixes like GMOs only seek to give more power to large companies and function as a plaster to temporarily continue high yields. But our soils can only survive this exploitation for a certain time. There was never a mention of the importance of soil and microbiology in relation to the production, quality, and health of our food. This is yet another example of where the curriculum lacks an appreciation of the genuine issues and solutions to the roots (quite literally!) of the climate crisis. The solutions to our fractured food system lie with changes in education, policy, and attitude not artificial technologies. You cannot solve a complex, problem through one technological solution.


Students need educating appropriately on the issues holding the problems and solutions to climate change.