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Newsletter no 37 - The digitalization of the food system

Sunday 15 September 2019, by Manu

The digitalization of the food system

Illustration: Marc Rosenthal - www.marc-rosenthal.com

Today, more than 820 million people suffer from hunger while obesity also continues to increase across the world [1]. Biodiversity in food and agriculture is being eroded at an alarming rate by the destruction of eco-systems [2]. Climate change is accelerating: temperatures this July were the highest ever recorded; glaciers are melting much faster than predicted; and millions of young people are demanding urgent action to address the climate crisis [3].

Meanwhile governments are showing little initiative to change the industrial, fossil-fuel driven food and agricultural system. Instead, a new “silver bullet” is being presented by corporations, governments and international institutions to tackle hunger, malnutrition and climate change: digitalization, which refers to the adoption of information-communication technologies (ICT) and artificial intelligence (AI) into everyday life and across societal activities.

Digital technologies have the potential to be beneficial or harmful depending on the context. Small-scale food producers have their own technologies, innovations and knowledge [4]. However, so do corporations, who seek monopoly controls on technology. Also, digitalization is happening in an era of increasing inequalities, authoritarianism and oppression.

This newsletter presents a synopsis of the digitalization of food, and contains examples of how digitalization affects and is used by communities in different parts of the world. We hope that these articles help social movements to engage in a collective discussion about digital technologies – and particularly how to benefit from them and prevent them doing harm.
FIAN International and Focus on the Global South

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The digitalization of the food system