Eating is so essential that we tend to forget how it has shaped the world. It was Europe’s appetite for spices that funded Christopher Columbus’ expedition and fueled the colonisation of the Americas, much of Africa and Asia. The globalisation of food was fully achieved in the 20th century. Sugar, coffee, cocoa, bananas became everyday food for a growing urban population. Farmers around the world started to produce for a global market rather than for their region. Today, a week’s worth of food for a family in Brussels will likely contain products from every continent. Yet we have never been further and more ignorant about what is really in our plates and how modes of production can affect both our society and the planet.
Simply put, farming has become akin to an extractive industry, looking to maximise production with little regards to the surrounding ecosystem, while food processing and retail industries have bet on convenience, taste (salt and sugar) and consumer convenience to drive their profits. This has resulted in conventional farming being one of the main drivers of deforestation, soil erosion and Co2 emissions. Unfortunately, food products that have become global market commodities have tended to be consolidated around the exploitation or displacement of the poorest farmers, the degradation of the environment and poor conditions to workers all along the value chains.
In this 10th edition, the Alimenterre film festival (10th to 14th October in Brussels) can shed some light to these problems and suggest alternatives. There is something there for everyone: from the impact of different industries on the environment to the plight of displaced farmers and the exploration of resistance movements.
So check out the programme and head to the beautiful Cinéma Galeries to discover the limits of our current model and the uplifting alternatives that are growing from engaged citizens’ seeds.