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The Politics of Food, Farming and Nature

Module titleThe Politics of Food, Farming and Nature
Module codePOL3221
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Professor Michael Winter (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

There is no more fundamental requirement for human beings that than that of bodily sustenance through the consumption of food.  The module will provide you with an understanding of how the nature and content of the food we eat is driven by a range of cultural, economic and political forces. We will start with some history as we seek to explain how the immutable requirement for food has combined with population growth, technological change, and changing consumer demand to shift our relationship with food from the immediacy of hunter gathering or subsistence agriculture to the complexities of the contemporary global agro-food system. We will look at both the empirical evidence of transitional change and the theoretical explanations of food systems and networks developed by social scientists. However our evidence sources will not be confined to social science because, in order to understand the politics of food, we need to understand various natural processes. For example, what does growing food, especially with modern agricultural technology, do to the land and the environment?  How is human hearth affected by the move towards processing and manufacture of food? And in both these cases, and others, how does often contested evidence feed into political campaigns and policy initiatives?  No prior knowledge skills or experience are needed to take this module. There are no pre-requisites and co-requisites, but students are expected to have a general interest in both food and the natural environment.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to provide you with an understanding of how what we eat is both influenced by policy and politics and in turn influences a wider politics of the environment. The module makes use of a wide range of published papers and reports and benefits from the course leader’s direct policy engagement and research commissioned by Government.  While the focus is on the policy and politics of the United Kingdom, many of the issues relate to global trends and pressures.  

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of key issues in the politics of food, agriculture and the environment.
  • 2. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the policy responses to the challenges that arise from these issues.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Locate, use and analyze secondary primary data relevant to the specific issue areas.
  • 4. Place issues discussed in a wider context and deploy critical arguments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate critical and analytical skills through readings, class discussions and presentations.
  • 6. Enhance your capacity to undertake inter-disciplinary and political analysis.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics: 


History of Food Supply and its role in the Formation of Politics 

Food and the State: Twentieth century perspectives 

Contemporary Political Economy of Global Food 

Food and Agriculture: Supply Systems, Pressure Groups and Government 

Food and the Politics of Trade and Aid

Food and the Politics of Identity 

Contested Food: The Politics of Diet and Nutrition 

Contested Food: The Politics of Farming and the Environment 

Contested Food: The Politics of Waste 

The Future for Food: New Policies and new approaches to Food, Farming and Nature


Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study132Reading: 6 hours/week
Guided Independent Study44Following the media: 2 hours/week
Guided independent study80Coursework preparation and completion


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan Max. of 500 words1-4Either oral or in writing

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1403000 words1-3Written
Essay 2403000 words1-6Written
Review Article201500 words4-6Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay 1 (3000 words)1-3August/September reassessment period
Essay 2Essay 2 (3000 words)1-6August/September reassessment period
Review ArticleReview article (1500 words)4-6August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative Reading: 

Carolan, M (2012) The Sociology of Food and Agriculture, London: Routledge.  

Clapp, J. (2011) Food, Polity Press.  

McKeon, N. (2015) Food Security Governance, Routledge.  

Nestle, M. (2013) Food Politics, University of California Press. 

Rayner, G. and Lang, T. (2012) Ecological Public Health: Reshaping the conditions for good health, London: Earthscan. 

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Politics, food, farming, nature.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date