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Approaching food systems today as a global pharmakon can help advance an Environmental Humanities response to the risks and unknowns of food. Whether it is the difficulty fish have in distinguishing microplastics from plankton, or the trouble humans who live in urban food deserts have finding fresh edibles, food in the early twenty-first century carries unprecedented threats of undernourishment, toxicity and death alongside its promise of life. Paradoxically, the ethics and politics emerging in response to the pharmakon of food may not always involve attempts to purify or certify it “free” of social and environmental ills. One alternative is to tell stories about “food-power” that highlight the agency of other species within a relational ontology that reveals human control, including efforts to control for food safety, to be a fiction. On their own, stories of food-power cannot confront the “power to devour” through which some humans assert their exceptionalism and domination. Gutsy struggles against food injustices by colonized and Indigenous people also show that food is neither an object nor a subject but a multispecies relationship protected through both story and action.
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