Ryan Isakson

Ryan Isakson

Associate Professor
Human Geography and IDS
(416) 287-7345


Ryan Isakson holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Broadly, he is interested in the political economy of international development, with specific focus upon agriculture, rural livelihoods, and food provisioning in Latin America.  He has conducted research on market development, peasant livelihoods, and the cultivation of agricultural biodiversity; market-led land reform; agri-food certification; payments for environmental services; and the contemporary ‘flex crops’ boom.  His current foci are (1) farmer vulnerability and the financialization of agri-food provisioning, and (2) the impacts of oil palm expansion upon food entitlements and water quality in northern Guatemala.  He teaches three courses for the International Development Studies program: (1) The Political Economy of International Development (IDSB01), (2) The Economics of Small-Enterprise and Microfinance, and (3) The Political Economy of Food.


2014    “Food and Finance: The Financial Transformation of Agro-food Supply Chains.”  The Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(5): 754-782.

2014    “Maize Diversity and the Political Economy of Agrarian Restructuring in Guatemala.”  Journal of Agrarian Change, 14(3): 347-379.

2014    “Towards Understanding the Politics of Flex Crops and Commodities: Implications for Research and Policy Advocacy,” TNI Think Piece Series on Flex Crops and Commodities, No. 1.  Transnational Institute: Amsterdam (with Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Jennifer C. Franco, Les Levidow, and Pietje Vervest). 

2011    “Market Provisioning and the Conservation of Crop Biodiversity: An Analysis of Peasant Livelihoods and Maize Diversity in the Guatemalan Highlands.”  World Development 39(8): 1444-1459.

2009    “No Hay Ganancia en la Milpa: The Agrarian Question, Food Sovereignty, and the On-Farm Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity in the Guatemalan Highlands.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 36(4): 725-759.

* Awarded the 2009 – 2010 Krishna Bharadwaj and Eric Wolf Prize for an outstanding article by a young scholar