Planetary food regimes: understanding the entanglement between human and planetary health in the Anthropocene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Food regime theory (as conceptualised by Friedmann and McMichael, 1989) provides a framework of continued and recurring interest to geographical perspectives in charting the contours connecting agri-food and capitalist political economy. Drawing principally on Marxian regulation theory, the analytical framework of food regime theory outlines three periodised regimes from the starting point of 1870 to the present day. Yet there remains ongoing and unresolved debate as to how we characterise the contemporary third regime—and whether it is a regime on its own specific terms or merely an enduring hangover from the second. I argue that an underacknowledged dimension of attempts to characterise the third regime lies in the conjoined relationship between human and planetary health, which the diagnosis of the Anthropocene encourages us to recognise amidst tumultuous global environmental change. Given food regime theory’s evasive relationship with ecological dynamics within its explanatory framework (Campbell, 2009 an important exception), I suggest that a ‘planetary’ retheorisation of its central contributions is increasingly prescient. In considering the growing tensions and contradictions afflicting the contemporary regime, and using soy as a working example, I work through three central arguments. Firstly, that a planetary retheorisation serves to reveal the way in which planetary dynamics shape social life, enabling—albeit never wholly determining—food regimes. Secondly, that what and how people eat in their dietary practices are of planetary significance, which has been to some degree marginalised within the production-centric analyses of food regime theory. Thirdly, that the conceptual Anthropocene highlights how planetary and human health are intricately and inextricably connected, which food regime theory must better account for. I conclude by proposing that the explanatory potential of the contemporary third regime is being stretched, with contested trajectories and nascent contours raising questions around how we might understand quite what we are living through today.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Early online date14 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jul 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Planetary food regimes: understanding the entanglement between human and planetary health in the Anthropocene'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this