GLOBAL VIEWS OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS: Civil War and the Devastation of Syria's Food System


  • Rami Zurayk American University of Beirut



Food Systems, War, Food Insecurity


First paragraphs:

It is unfortunate that food and war make such good bedfellows. History is replete with instances of food being used as a weapon of siege or as a tool of control. In our globalized world, the domination of food trade has become an integral part of the modern arsenal. Henry Kissinger's alleged quote, "Control oil and you control nations, control food and you control the people," adequately captures this approach to what might be called "breadboat diplomacy," which was deployed effectively in Iraq's oil-for-food program (Arnove, 2003).

Food is also a major mover of people and, while no one knows if Marie Antoinette really did suggest that the people of France replace bread with cake on the eve of the French Revolution, the message here is quite clear: beware of the hungry masses. As many researchers have suggested (see "Let them eat baklava," 2012), the wave of popular uprisings that continue to shake the Arab world is interwoven with increased world food prices and chronic food insecurity. Food has also been associated with mass displacement and even with genocides. The "scorched earth" strategy essentially implies the removal of the capacity to produce food in order to destroy the fabric of society. One of the earliest such instances comes to us from the Romans, who reputedly plowed salt into the fertile land of Carthage after the end of the Third Punic War in 146 BC. Unable to produce crops, Carthage was abandoned....


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Author Biography

Rami Zurayk, American University of Beirut

Rami Zurayk is professor at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He studied at the American University of Beirut and at Oxford University. His research addresses issues at the nexus of food, landscapes, and livelihoods. He is an active member of Lebanese civil society and a founder of Slow Food Beirut. He can be contacted at

Rami Zurayk portrait



How to Cite

Zurayk, R. (2013). GLOBAL VIEWS OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS: Civil War and the Devastation of Syria’s Food System. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 3(2), 7–9.

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