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A legal inquiry into hunger and climate change: climate-ready seeds in the neoliberal food regime

Saab, Anne (2015) A legal inquiry into hunger and climate change: climate-ready seeds in the neoliberal food regime. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores the issue of hunger in the context of climate change. In particular, it investigates the role that international law plays in finding ways to tackle hunger. The research focuses on one particular adaptation strategy to climate change that has been proposed, namely ‘climate-ready seeds’. Climate-ready seeds are genetically engineered for resistance to abiotic stresses, such as drought, and intended to increase food production in the face of climate change. This research presents narratives of climate-ready seeds that expose different perspectives on whether these seeds can contribute to solving the problem of hunger. The specific example of climate-ready seeds is seen as a reflection of the ‘neoliberal’ food regime. While the exploration of the role of international law focuses primarily on climate-ready seeds, the conclusions are also relevant for food regime theory more broadly. I study the role of law in discourse on climate-ready seeds through the fields of climate change adaptation law, intellectual property law (particularly seed patents), and human rights law (especially the right to food). My main argument is that, while law is often invoked as part of the solution to climate change-induced hunger, there is little attention for the role that law plays in framing the problem. How hunger is framed as a problem determines the solutions available to solve it. Ultimately, this inquiry investigates the contribution of international law in framing hunger in the context of climate change as a problem. The analysis is based on the identification of five fundamental assumptions underlying debates on climate-ready seeds. I argue that a great deal of critical attention is directed at corporate patent rights on seeds; much less consideration is given to fundamental questions about hunger and how to eradicate it Finally, I apply the conclusions about the role of law in debates about climate-ready seeds to the neoliberal food regime. My broader argument is that global food relations as understood through food regime theory must consider the role that law plays in creating and reinforcing a certain way of thinking about hunger in the context of climate change. Without addressing the framework of assumptions on which the current food regime is based, it will be difficult to truly change global food relations and formulate alternative ways of combating hunger.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Anne Saab
Library of Congress subject classification: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Marks, Susan and Humphreys, Stephen

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