Jennifer Clapp

Current affiliation:
University of Waterloo

Professor Clapp is a political economist wary of the effect of global trade and the influence of transnational corporations on food security and the environment in the world’s poorest countries.

2013 Trudeau fellow Jennifer Clapp is the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability and professor in the Environment and Resource Studies Department at the University of Waterloo. Clapp’s research focuses on global governance issues at the intersection of food security, the global economy, and the environment. Her current research project examines the politics of incorporating sustainability concerns in global food security governance arrangements. As part of this project, she is researching the sustainability dimensions of international trade and finance as they relate to food security.

Research projects

How would you define yourself?

I see myself as a political economist interested in the relationships between the global political economy, the environment, and the global food system. Specifically, my work seeks to uncover and explain the ways in which international trade practices, transnational corporations, and global financial markets affect both food security and environmental outcomes, especially in the world’s poorest countries. I also seek contribute to a deeper understanding of the way these issues are governed at the international level by explaining the political forces that influence these governance arrangements and by evaluating their effectiveness. I take an interdisciplinary approach to my research, combining insights from political science, international relations, economics, environmental studies and food studies. I disseminate my findings through articles and books for audiences that include academics and policymakers, as well as the general public. I also give public lectures on my research, and I have conducted research for and with civil society organizations as well as international organizations.

What is the public purpose of your work? How does it impact the lives of Canadians?

The public purpose of my work is to raise awareness within Canada and internationally about the ways in which global economic relationships are deeply interconnected with environmental and food security outcomes. It is imperative for Canadians to have a strong understanding of these linkages given Canada’s important role in building global governance arrangements with respect to environment and food security issues, and the impact of those arrangements on Canada. My work also seeks to inform those involved in policy debates concerning these issues, including individuals working in government agencies, civil society organizations, and international institutions. My scholarship aims to provide concrete policy recommendations that will help to improve global governance arrangements to better ensure both food security and environmental sustainability.

Briefly explain one of the most interesting discoveries you have made so far.

My most important work to date has been to help pioneer the academic field of global political economy and environment. This work has helped to draw attention to the complex ways in which the operation and rules of the global economy influence environmental outcomes, including sustainability issues within the global food system. My work has highlighted the role of private actors, alongside states and civil society, in shaping global environmental and food security governance. Building on this base, I am currently conducting research on the role of financial markets and investors in the food system. I am looking at the ways in which changes in financial markets have led to increased speculative financial investments in agricultural commodities and land, as well as the implications of these investments for the politics of both hunger and the environment in the world’s poorest countries.

How will the Trudeau Fellowship help you pursue your work?

The Trudeau Fellowship will enable me to devote more of my energies to research, writing, and engagement with the broader public on these important topics. It will also enable me to host workshops that will bring together a number of scholars and practitioners from across Canada and the world working on similar issues in order to foster research synergies that will help advance knowledge and disseminate research findings.

Jennifer Clapp holds a Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability in the Environment and Resource Studies Department at the University of Waterloo. Professor Clapp received her BA in economics from the University of Michigan and her MSc and PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics.

Throughout her career, Professor Clapp’s research has focused on the global governance of problems that arise at the intersection of the global economy, the environment, and food security. In particular, she has studied how international economic policies can better foster food security and environmental sustainability goals on a global scale. Professor Clapp takes an interdisciplinary approach to her research, combining insights from political science, international relations, economics, environmental studies, and food studies.

Professor Clapp is the author or editor of nine books and over 70 book chapters and journal articles. Her recent books include Food (Polity, 2012); Hunger in the Balance: The New Politics of International Food Aid (Cornell University Press, 2012); Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment (MIT Press, 2011, 2nd edition); The Global Food Crisis: Governance Challenges and Opportunities (WLU Press, 2009); and Corporate Power in Global Agrifood Governance (MIT Press, 2009). She served as co-editor of the journal Global Environmental Politics from 2007 to 2012 and had been the associate editor of the journal from 2000 to 2007.

Professor Clapp received the 2012 Award for Excellence in Research from the Canadian Association for Food Studies and her book Hunger in the Balance was shortlisted for the 2012 Donner Prize. Professor Clapp has carried out consulting work for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations World Food Programme, the Canadian International Development Agency, and Oxfam Great Britain.