The 2005–8 food crisis was a shock to political elites, but in some respects the situation was normal. Food policies are failing to respond adequately to the squeeze on land, people, health and environment. Strong evidence of systems failure and stress, termed here New Fundamentals, ought to reframe twenty-first century food politics and effort. Yet so far, international discourse is too often narrow and technical. The paper suggests that 2005–8 reinforced how the dominant twentieth century productionist policy paradigm is running out of steam. This assumed that producing more food would resolve social problems. Yet distortions in markets, access and culture remain. At national and international levels of governance, despite realization of the enormity of the challenge ahead, there is still a belief in slow incremental change.