Depolarizing Food and Agriculture: An Economic Approach, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Depolarizing Food and Agriculture

An Economic Approach, 1st Edition

By Andrew Barkley, Paul W. Barkley


196 pages | 26 B/W Illus.

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Many issues in food and agriculture are portrayed as increasingly polarized. These include industrial vs. sustainable agriculture, conventional vs. organic production methods, and global vs. local food sourcing, to name only three. This book addresses the origins, validity, consequences, and potential resolution of these and other divergences.

Political and legal actions have resulted in significant monetary and psycho-social costs for groups on both sides of these divides. Rhetoric on many issues has caused misinformation and confusion among consumers, who are unsure about the impact of their food choices on nutrition, health, the environment, animal welfare, and hunger. In some cases distrust has intensified to embitterment on both sides of many issues, and even to violence. The book uses economic principles to help readers better understand the divisiveness that prevails in the agricultural production, food processing and food retailing industries.

The authors propose solutions to promote resolution and depolarization between advocates with seemingly irreconcilable differences. A multifaceted, diverse, but targeted approach to food production and consumption is suggested to promote social well-being, and reduce or eliminate misinformation, anxiety, transaction costs and hunger.


"For authors in the 'dismal science' of economics their results are surprisingly optimistic. For a book about the politics of food its content is surprisingly deep and meaningful. This book about political polarization unites people more than it divides them!"F. Bailey Norwood, Oklahoma State University, USA, and author of Compassion, by the Pound and Agricultural and Food Controversies.

"Andrew and Paul Barkley provide a brilliant analysis of the various divisions and tensions that currently characterize modern agriculture. These tensions are put in the context of "polarization," which refers to the process by which opposing views become concentrated and are used to advocate very different beliefs and philosophies about agriculture. These concepts are pervasive in modern agriculture and underlie opposing views about the role of production agriculture, markets, and agricultural policy positions. The book should be an essential addition to the collection of professionals interested in agricultural development and policy. It will also be a very valuable text for use in agricultural economics and sociology classes."Barry K. Goodwin, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, North Carolina State University, USA, and President and Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA).

"When criticized on environmental or nutritional grounds, US farm groups are sometimes tempted to adopt a thickly-armored defensive posture. In this daring book, respected agricultural economists Andrew Barkley and Paul Barkley offer a persuasive alternative. Echoing Schumpeter's vision of creative destruction (naturally), but also drawing on John Stuart Mill and Nelson Mandela (more surprisingly), the authors argue for an open and understanding approach to contemporary food and agriculture controversies, eventually offering hope – as the title indicates – for depolarizing food and agriculture."Parke Wilde, Associate Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, USA, and author of Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction (Routledge, 2013).

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Industrialization and De-Industrialization of Agriculture

2. A Concise History of Agriculture: The Advent of Polarization

3. Markets and Polarization

4. Food Markets and Polarization

5. Creative Destruction and the Cycle of Polarization

6. Industrial Agriculture and Economies of Scale

7. Externalities, Public Goods and Agricultural Subsidies

8. Product Bundling: Bringing Together Divergent Consumers

9. Trade, Globalization and Localism

10. Negotiating Resolution: Game Theory

11. The Future of Food Polarization

About the Authors

Andrew Barkley is Professor and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University, USA. Andrew teaches courses in the economics of agriculture and public policy. His research includes assessment of teaching and learning methods and the economic evaluation of the wheat industry.

Paul W. Barkley is Professor Emeritus, Department of Agricultural Economics, Washington State University and Adjunct Professor, Applied Economics Department at Oregon State University, USA. Paul has made major contributions to the fields of rural (community) development and environmental economics. He is a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

About the Series

Earthscan Food and Agriculture

Earthscan Food and Agriculture
This series includes a wide range of inter-disciplinary approaches to food and agriculture, integrating perspectives from both social and natural sciences. It includes textbooks, research monographs and titles aimed at professionals, NGOs and policy-makers. Authors or editors of potential new titles should contact Hannah Ferguson, Editor (

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Agribusiness
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics