Ill Fares the Land: Confronting Unsustainability in the UK Food System through Political Agroecology and Degrowth

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The U.K. food system exhibits strong unsustainability indicators across multiple dimensions, both in terms of food and nutritional insecurity and in terms of adverse climate change, biodiversity, and physical resource impacts. These indices of an unsustainable and inequitable social metabolism are the result of capitalist agriculture and society in general and, more specifically, of neoliberal and austerity policies adopted with vigour since the global financial crisis. The causal, capitalistic, and, latterly, more neoliberal bases of the U.K. food system are delineated in the first section of the paper. These bases are then detailed in terms of their impacts in exacerbating climate change, biodiversity (and resource) decline and loss, and food and nutritional insecurity. The political narratives and policy frameworks available to dissemble, mitigate, or, more rarely, to address (resolve) these impacts are then delineated. It is argued that the only policy framework available that strongly integrates food security (social equity) with ecological sustainability is political agroecology and an accompanying degrowth strategy. The final section of the paper details what political agroecology and degrowth might entail for the U.K. food system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number594
Number of pages39
Issue number5
Early online date29 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


Research for sections of this paper was supported by Research England QR Strategic Priorities Fund.


  • U.K. food system
  • capitalism
  • neoliberalism
  • climate change
  • biodiversity
  • food insecurity
  • political agroecology
  • food sovereignty
  • degrowth


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