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The Value of a Food System
Polly Ericksen, Beth Stewart, Jane Dixon, David Barling,
Philip Loring, Molly Anderson and John Ingram
Food systems, food security and global environmental change
The challenge is significant: enhancing food security without further compro-
mising environmental and social welfare outcomes. The nature and direction
of many food system trends suggest that meeting this challenge will be daunt-
ing (see Chapter 1; and Ericksen, 2008). Highly connected commodity
markets affect the global environment and food security. Solving problems of
food insecurity and loss of ecosystem services must therefore be based upon
understanding complex interactions among multiple processes. Systems-based
approaches are needed to help deliver this understanding.
Food security: A complex outcome
Food security is the outcome of multiple factors, operating at household up
to international levels. It depends upon not only availability from production,
but a suite of entitlements that enable (or protect) economic and social access
to food. Thus historical famines have occurred where supply was not the issue,
but rather poverty, conflicts or an inadequate social contract to protect people
from hunger (Devereux, 2000; Maxwell, 2001). Poverty has long been asso-
ciated with under- and malnutrition; the ability of individuals to obtain
adequate nutritional value from food is also now embedded in definitions of
food security. So as Box 2.1 exemplifies, evaluating whether or not food
security exists for given households or communities requires analysis of mul-
tiple social, economic and political factors, as well as purely agronomic issues.
Complex food systems
Food systems include a range of activities from planting seeds through to
disposing of household waste. As explained by Maxwell and Slater (2003)
and others, the nature of food production and consumption transformed in
the late 20th century, and more sophisticated analytical lenses are needed
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to comprehend both how food makes its way from ‘field to fork’, and how to
frame policy that corrects for the negative social and environmental outcomes
of food system activities. Agriculture is no longer the primary income gener-
ating (or labour employing) activity in food supply chains globally and in
many developed countries. Processing and packaging and distributing
and retailing activities have grown. However, many developing countries
still do depend upon agriculture for economic growth. Processes of economic
Box 2.1 Misreading the 2005 Niger food security crisis
In 2005, a serious food security crisis occurred in the agricultural areas of Niger.
The failure of the national government and the international relief community to
prevent the crisis makes the case an important one for food security theory and
practice. In 2004, Niger experienced a drought, followed by a reduction of its per
capita staple grain (millet and sorghum) production of 12 per cent as compared
to the ten-year average (Aker, 2008). Millet prices were 25 per cent higher than
the ten-year average. In November 2004, the international community early warn-
ing system (USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network, FEWS NET, see
Boxes 10.4 and 11.6; and FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System,
GIEWS) began issuing messages of concern, and the national government issued
a request for 78,100 tonnes of emergency food. Yet by June 2005, an estimated
2.4 million Nigerians were affected by severe food shortages, with more than
800,000 of these classified as critically food insecure (Aker, 2008). A number of
factors are thought to have contributed to this. One is that the international early
warning systems are more focused on production shortfalls from weather anom-
alies than on tracking market signals; in addition, these systems are plagued by
delays and disagreements (Clay, 2005). Second, as Niger regularly reports global
acute malnutrition levels of between 14 and 20 per cent, the development com-
munity considers this to be normal, and so paid little attention (Harrigan, 2006).
But perhaps the most overlooked factor was the role that grain markets in Nigeria
play in both affordability and availability of staple grains in Niger. The price of
cereals was far too high by July 2005 (30,000 CFA, ca. US$60, for a 100kg sack)
for the average household to afford to make up for production deficits. This is
because the price of staple grains in Nigeria, upon which Niger depends for about
75 per cent of its millet and sorghum imports, were at record levels from June to
August 2005, at the height of the hungry period in Niger (Aker, 2008).
Compounding this, many local areas experienced production failures (over 25 per
cent of departments had greater than 50 per cent failures; Aker, 2008). The
chronic levels of poverty and malnutrition in Niger leave almost no buffer capac-
ity for households when price shocks arise (Harrigan, 2006). Interestingly, 2009
was another year of poor agricultural production in Niger, yet FEWS NET and
ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid department) were already track-
ing high food prices, low livestock prices and low wages in early 2010,
demonstrating a more comprehensive assessment of food security (Investor
Relations Information Network,, accessed 28 January 2010).
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globalization have connected commodity markets and food security outcomes
across geographies and over time (von Braun and Diaz-Bonilla, 2008). Much
more agricultural production is traded than 30 years ago. Food-price shocks
in one country or region have ripple effects elsewhere. In order to assess sus-
tained and equitable access to food security, appropriate research approaches
need to be capable of capturing the interlinked relationships that comprise a
food system. These include the biophysical resources which make food pro-
duction possible, the resource-use demands of food processors and retailers,
and consumer behaviour, including food preferences, preparation and intra-
household distribution patterns. Such a comprehensive approach will also
contribute to understanding the multiple ways in which food systems interact
with global environmental change, and the consequences of these interactions
for food security.
Global environmental change and feedbacks to
ecosystem services
Food systems contribute to global environmental change (GEC) through sev-
eral processes. The most basic is land-use change that occurs when land is
cleared for agriculture, or converted from cropping to pasture, or replanted
with trees, or when natural mangroves are replaced with aquaculture ponds.
These land-use changes themselves drive changes in biodiversity, surface and
subsurface hydrology, and nutrient cycles. The addition of fertilizers intro-
duces further changes in nutrient cycles (see Box 1.1). As documented in a
number of studies (e.g. Tilman et al, 2002; De Fries et al, 2004; Cassman et
al, 2005), many of the change processes associated with producing food have
increased food availability at the expense of key ecosystem services. As dis-
cussed in Chapter 1, other food system activities also contribute to changes in
atmospheric composition. These feedbacks from food systems to GEC
processes pose a real dilemma for future food security, especially given the
increasing demand for food from a diminishing natural resource base
(Godfray et al, 2010).
The GECAFS ‘food system’ approach
The Global Environmental Change and Food Systems (GECAFS) project set
out to foster research on ways to enhance food security without further
degrading ecosystem services. This required a broad framework to compre-
hensively describe all of the activities, processes and outcomes involved in
modern food systems and all possible interactions with GEC. Ericksen (2008)
built upon the original GECAFS Science Plan to elaborate one such frame-
work, shown in Figure 2.1a.
At a minimum, a food system includes the set of activities involved in pro-
ducing food, processing and packaging food, distributing and retailing food,
and consuming food (i.e. linking commodity chains to consumers). To analyse
the dynamic interactions among GEC processes, food systems and feedbacks
from food system outcomes, the drivers of these activities and their social,
environmental and food security outcomes are also included. The drivers
comprise the interactions between and within biogeophysical and human
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Source: GECAFS, 2009
Figure 2.1 (a) Food systems, their drivers and feedback; (b) components of
food systems
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environments which determine how food system activities are carried out (see
Chapter 1 for a summary of recent trends). These activities lead to a number
of outcomes, some contributing to food security and others contributing to
environmental and social concerns (see Figure 2.1b). Some drivers also affect
food system outcomes directly (e.g. household income levels or disease status).
There are also interactions between the different categories of food system out-
comes; for example, between regulating ecosystem services and availability
from local production, or between income levels and access to food. Finally,
food system activities and outcomes result in processes which feedback to
environmental and socioeconomic drivers; food systems themselves are driv-
ers of global change.
Food security is a principal outcome of any given food system, although
in many cases food security is not achieved; instead, people are undernour-
ished and face regular hungry seasons, or struggle with a host of
non-communicable diet-related diseases, or spend the major portion of their
income on poor or inadequate diets.
To help analyse the factors underpinning food security, the food security
situation of a given unit of analysis can be explained in terms of three com-
ponents, each of which has a number of elements. Food availability is the
amount, type and quality of food a unit has at its disposal to consume; food
can be available through local production; availability can rely on distribution
channels to get food where it needs to be; and availability depends upon mech-
anisms to exchange money, labour or other items of value for food. Access to
food is the ability to gain access to the type, quality and quantity of food
required, and it can be analysed in terms of the affordability of food that is
available, how well allocation mechanisms such as markets and government
policies work, and whether consumers can meet their social and other food
preferences. Finally, the utilization of food refers to ability to consume and
benefit from food; it thus depends upon the nutritional and social values of
food, and the safety of available and affordable food. Although the food sys-
tem activities have a large influence on food security outcomes, these outcomes
are also determined by socio-political and environmental drivers directly, as
shown in Figure 2.1b. Stability is an important dimension of all these compo-
nents of food security.
The environmental outcomes of food systems include both the stocks of
available natural capital and ecosystem services – this recognizes the signifi-
cant impact that food system activities have on ecosystems (see Chapter 3 for
more evidence). The social welfare outcomes arise because many people rely
on food systems as sources of livelihoods; thus these outcomes include income
and wealth, as well as health status.
The rest of this chapter draws on other systems approaches to looking at
the linkages among food security, food systems and global environmental
change. This is still an emerging area of research, and examples of integrated
analysis are few, both within the major agricultural development and
food security agencies (e.g. the World Bank, the United Nation’s Food
and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)), as well as the academic research
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:26 Page 29
community. GECAFS hosted an international conference in April 2008, and the
publication emerging from that (a special issue of Environmental Science and
Policy in 2009) features some examples of integrated research on food systems
and global environmental change. Many of those authors have contributed to
chapters in this book. Yet as Fresco (2009), Thompson and Scoones (2009) and
Ericksen et al (2009) all point out, the research community still has a long way
to go and the challenges are large.
Theoretical concepts for framing food systems and global
environmental change
Accepting that food systems encompass social, economic and political issues
as well as ecological, acknowledges contributions of different disciplines.
However, in bridging disciplines we must recognize the importance of fram-
ing these systems when devising appropriate management interventions,
development strategies and policies (Thompson et al, 2007). Different fram-
ings or narratives of how food systems function and what the key drivers are
result in very different outcomes being valued and different solutions being
posed. For example, economists will emphasize markets as key to food secu-
rity, climate scientists worry about the greenhouse gas emissions from
intensive agriculture, agronomists emphasize yields, and political scientists
focus on governance arrangements as the solution to undesirable outcomes.
Researchers must acknowledge that food systems serve different ‘functions’ for
different actors, who also value their outcomes differently. This is at the heart
of the tradeoffs inherent to the relationship between modern food systems,
food security and ecosystem service outcomes (Rodríguez et al, 2006; Scoones
et al, 2007); both the framings as well as the specific context influence how
tradeoffs are evaluated and hence policy and other decisions made.
There is a rich and diverse body of literature discussing theoretical
concepts which can enhance the ‘food system’ approach. Concepts elaborat-
ing on how to approach the complexity of food systems, from both social and
ecological perspectives, are discussed initially, followed by discussion of the
evolution of food system studies.
Interactions across scales and levels
Like all complex and dynamic systems, the processes and components within
food systems are highly interconnected. Key to systems or complexity analy-
sis is an emphasis on dynamics, interactions and feedbacks, many of which
occur at multiple levels and scales (Ramalingam et al, 2008; Thompson and
Scoones, 2009). Thus there are many feedbacks among activities, outcomes
and drivers, as shown in Figure 2.1a. Feedbacks arise when social, economic
and political actors respond to changes, as well as when ecosystems respond
to a variety of drivers of change. Although feedback processes are inherent to
coupled social–ecological systems (Carpenter et al, 2001; Holling, 2001), in
food systems feedbacks cause concern because they often have negative and
unintended consequences which are difficult to manage or govern, especially
if they occur across different levels and scales (as they necessarily do in highly
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:26 Page 30
globalized food systems). Of primary concern for GEC research are the feed-
backs from food system activities to ecosystem stocks and services, related to,
for example, land-use and land-cover change, changes in water quality and
quantity, and greenhouse gas emissions. Feedbacks can also be social, as, for
example, people draw down their assets below critical thresholds (after a
shock) and fall into poverty traps (Barrett and Swallow, 2006; Swallow et al,
2009); or when decisions UK consumers make about purchasing air-freighted
vegetables affect the incomes of farmers in Kenya, or changes in international
coffee markets benefit Vietnamese farmers but hurt Central American farmers
(Eakin et al, 2009). In complex systems feedbacks are not predictable or reg-
ular, because unexpected and undesirable outcomes result (Gunderson, 2003).
As most policy is not designed for surprise, unanticipated feedbacks create pol-
icy challenges (see Chapter 20).
A predominant feature of 21st-century food systems is that they are
inherently cross-level and cross-scale. In a key publication, Cash et al (2006)
define ‘scale’ as the spatial, temporal, quantitative or analytical dimensions
used to measure and study any phenomenon, and ‘levels’ as the units of analy-
sis that are located at different positions on a scale (Figure 2.2). GEC and food
security issues span a number of different scales (e.g. spatial, temporal, juris-
dictional, institutional, management) and a number of levels along each of
these. Food systems are inherently multiscale and multilevel (Ericksen et al,
For example, household food security is influenced not only by factors
operating at the local level; district, national and even international factors
(e.g. grain prices) are also very influential. In terms of scales, food systems
span institutional, informational, biophysical and cultural scales, to name but
a few. These cross-level and cross-scale interactions add to the complexity of
interactions and feedbacks, and also mean food systems are complex to
Source: Cash et al, 2006
Figure 2.2 Different scales and levels critical in understanding and
responding to food system interactions
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govern. For example, the commodity price increases of 2007–8 were com-
pounded when some national governments imposed export restrictions to
stabilize domestic prices, as such restrictions prolong international market
failures and high prices (see Chapter 1; and Lustig, 2009). The multiple
perspectives on food system activities and outcomes, along with differences in
power across levels and scales, also means that it is very difficult to agree on
solutions to food system problems, as the debates about biofuels recently illus-
trated. For research and policy analysis, then, it is critical to analyse specific
contexts across the relevant scales and levels (and see Chapter 13).
Globalization has altered many cross-level and cross-scale interactions, in
many cases increasing them in new ways (Sundkvist et al, 2005; Young et al,
2006). Changes in system dynamics or structure may cause fundamental shifts
in their function and outcomes, undermining food security and ecosystem
services in the long term, although enhancing some types of food provisioning
and income (or profit) for certain groups in the short term.
Modifying traditional food systems analysis to incorporate
political and ecological dimensions
A range of researchers concerned with trends in the food industry, con-
sumerism, globalization and political economy of food embraced the concept
of a food system as an analytical tool in order to link the multiple activities
and discuss the political and social dimensions and arrangements (Dixon,
1999; McMichael, 2000; Lang and Heasman, 2004). Some usefully concen-
trate on the behind-the-scenes processes which lead food to be produced and
consumed, and therefore highlight how food security is influenced by these
processes. Such approaches provide insights as to the key points of leverage,
where political pressure might be applied to achieve better food security out-
comes. Explicitly linking outcomes to the activities of producers, retailers and
distributors and consumers is an important research consideration, as food
security results from a complex set of interactions in multiple domains that are
often not highlighted in conventional food chain analysis with their focus
on food yields and flows. There are three conceptually rigorous systems
approaches with capacity for illuminating the interests vested in transforming
food systems to better advance the goal of food security for all, now and into
the future. The more recent of these highlight ecological dimensions.
The commodity systems analysis (CSA), as proposed by Professor William
Friedland (1984), used the relationships surrounding a single commodity as a
departure point. Highlighting the multiple activities of food systems, the CSA
focused on production practices, grower organization and organizations,
labour, science production and application, and marketing and distribution
networks to capture the power dynamics operating with the industrial agri-
culture sector. In 2001, Friedland (2001) modified his original CSA, proposing
three additional foci to better encapsulate the dynamics of globalization and
consumer and community cultures: scale; sectoral organization and the rela-
tionship of the state to the commodity; and commodity culture.
The global production network (GPN) approach builds on the CSA by
acknowledging global interdependency (Henderson et al, 2002). The approach
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:26 Page 32
begins with several principles: first, flows of capital, labour, technology, etc.
are altering the interrelationships between people and food as they cross
national borders; second, vertical integration from production to consumption
is not the only model by which food systems are organized and that the net-
work model, involving horizontal relationships that are more fluid and
multidimensional, is equally valid; and third, the emergence of multinational
firms who have contributed to the ‘uncoupling’ of food from its place of pro-
duction complicate the determination of appropriate regulatory responses
(and see Chapter 18).
The GPN is underpinned by the following key conceptual categories: the
creation, capture and enhancement of value; the sources of power operating
within the networks that are engaged in a variety of value activities (corpo-
rate, institutional and collective); and embeddedness (the territorial and
network nature and reach of the activities). The GPN highlights the impor-
tance of socio-technical systems to any endeavour, including the various
auditing approaches by which social and economic values are enumerated.
Systems including corporate responsibility audit tools, corporate taxation
schemes, lifecycle assessment of commodity inputs–outputs, consumer
research, community focus groups and nutrient profiling are deemed worthy
of scrutiny in their own right because their control influences how food sys-
tems are regulated. In terms of identifying points of leverage, the GPN
highlights temporal and spatial specificity and the difficulty of generalizing
across commodity sectors. The GPN approach lends itself to mapping the flow
of a basket of nutritious food commodities to particular sub-populations.
The food regimes approach, as proposed by Friedmann and McMichael
(1989), shared many of the underlying influences of the CSA but it began with
a world historical perspective and was premised on the interrelationship
between food systems and institutional power systems. The key to the method-
ological approach is how ‘value relations’ (of the type described above) unfold
historically. Thus, it differs from CSA and GPN in not offering a snapshot of
current circumstances but focuses on explaining the undercurrents and turbu-
lences in the present.
In recent work revisiting the utility of the approach, Friedmann (2009)
and Campbell (2009) have independently argued for the collection of data
regarding the transitions in the ecology of agriculture, thereby acknowledging
the linkages between environmental change and food systems. They address
arguments used by ‘alternative’ food movements – peasant, green and slow
food – that there is a need to account for the environmental and social exter-
nalities or consequences created by industrial food systems. They problematize
the audit technologies listed earlier, based on evidence showing that those who
control the technologies are in a powerful position.
Their respective analyses reveal current ‘food crises’ to be largely the result
of the ecological consequences of intensive agricultural production and distri-
bution: the ‘ecologies at a distance’ regime. Foods produced in one part of the
world and eaten thousands of kilometres away make it more difficult for eco-
logical feedbacks to register with decision-makers. For Campbell, a sustainable
food system has the best chance of surviving when ‘social-ecological systems
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:27 Page 33
… can adapt and change in response to critical signals, have the redundancy
or resilience to withstand shock’. The type of research approach then is one
that builds on GPN to incorporate assessments of global–local food system
resilience and ecological feedbacks.
Incorporating ecology into these social and political frameworks remains
a challenge. The key concepts include: the ecological inputs, outputs and
dynamics incorporated in the food production–distribution–consumption
cycle; the cultural politics surrounding both the measurement/audit tools used
and the way that food is thought about (as nutrition, economic good, social
good, a pathway to national health and wealth, etc.); an account of the strate-
gies adopted by multiple actors as they struggle over who gets what to eat and
under what conditions. For food system theorists, a historical account of each
of these factors is vital for illuminating the well-springs of change and where
food system transitions might lead. Developing combined social–ecological
approaches is an important area of work.
Some practical examples of using a food systems approach
In this section, the goal is to illustrate how a more comprehensive food sys-
tems approach can lead to better practice and richer analysis. However, these
are selected cases, as this type of research is still quite new.
Motivating consumer activism
Local food systems (LFSs) have become popular among consumer movements
aiming for a closer connection to where their food is produced and seeking a
lower environmental footprint. The term ‘local’ is in explicit contrast to ‘con-
ventional’ food systems, which in many cases rely on long supply chains in
which the locus of food production is distant from consumers’ homes (see
Chapter 19). Many aspects of a food systems approach are often applied to
LFSs (even if not always overtly), both by those involved in the practice of
creating LFS, and by those studying them. The nature of LFSs, often con-
sumer-led, generally with a shorter distance between production and
consumption, makes this fertile ground for looking past a production-focused
analysis of food systems, typical of much agro-food literature. There have been
strong calls to bring together foci on production and consumption in LFS
thinking (Goodman and DuPuis, 2002), and research attempting to do this
(Selfa and Qazi, 2005; Ilbery and Maye, 2006). A fruitful area of research in
LFSs is an examination of the social relationships between different actors in
the different food system activities, with a belief that these are different to
those in conventional food systems (Jarosz, 2000). Likewise, much LFS schol-
arship thinks about a wider range of outcomes of the food system than just
food availability. Much of the popular and academic literature sets LFSs in the
context of a reaction to mainstream or conventional food systems which are
viewed to have a detrimental effect on social welfare and the environment.
LFSs are examined in terms of these outcomes. Although most literature has
not examined LFSs in the context of food security, there is a body of critical
literature that has examined issues of availability and access; for example,
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Hinrichs (2000) highlighting the way in which LFSs are often firmly situated
in certain socio-economic groups.
One thing LFS literature has been keen to highlight is the complexity of
globalized food systems and their multiple outcomes. Advocating a more holis-
tic view in research, some researchers have warned against a valorization of
the local – the assumption that local necessarily stands in opposition to the
global and thus means better (Holloway and Kneafsey, 2000; Winter, 2003;
DuPuis and Goodman, 2005). Here authors have examined the complex out-
comes of LFSs, highlighting instances where LFSs do not reduce negative social
(Allen et al, 2003; Winter, 2003) and environmental (van Hauwermeiren et al,
2007; Coley et al, 2009) impacts. These studies, by examining case-specific
scenarios, serve to remind those actively involved in creating LFSs of the
importance of attending to the complexity in the outcomes of food systems.
Embodied carbon
Another area where a food systems approach is increasingly being applied in
academia and the policy world is to highlight the resources embodied in com-
modities throughout the production process. Much of this work has
surrounded greenhouse gases, specifically carbon, calculating the total amount
of greenhouse gases produced through the whole supply chain, from farm to
fork, for different commodities. This is often referred to as the carbon foot-
print of a product. More recently the concept has been extended to water,
nitrogen and land-use footprints. For example, Galloway et al (2007) have
developed the MEAT model to calculate the virtual trade in environmental
degradation as meat and the animal feed required to produce it travel the
globe. Such approaches take account of an array of food system activities,
specifically examining the impact of food systems on the environment.
Policy-makers, as well as researchers, are increasingly embracing the idea
of ecological footprints, using life-cycle analyses (LCAs) to calculate the impact
of foodstuffs throughout food production on GEC processes, chiefly carbon
and nitrogen emissions (Garnett, 2009) or uptake of water. Recently, some
researchers have examined the potential impacts of labelling the ‘embedded’
carbon, water or nitrogen in commodities. This is an important area of research
as LCAs are embraced more and more in policy-making arenas (both govern-
mental and non-governmental), having very real effects. Such research echoes
the focus of GPN on the impacts of socio-technical systems on food systems.
Edwards-Jones et al (2009) examine the potential impact of carbon labelling
schemes (reporting carbon footprints to consumers and businesses in order to
inform choices) on the vulnerability of developing countries exporting to the
UK, thereby examining the interaction between environmental and socio-eco-
nomic outcomes. Similarly highlighting the performative nature of LCAs,
Garnett (2009) argues that LCAs need to be considered within a broader
framework that includes, amongst other things, consideration of second-order
effects of production on land-use change and the resulting greenhouse gas emis-
sions – in effect, incorporating the idea of feedbacks into LCAs. These are all
conceptually appealing approaches to making the ‘hidden’ feedbacks more
obvious, but implementing LCAs in practice will be complicated.
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A food systems approach to integrated policy formulation
The institutional framework for a coherent approach to food policy is frag-
mented between different policy sectors. Each policy sector has its own
institutional and regulatory arrangements, and constituency of attentive inter-
ests, often effectively client groups, and its own policy prerogatives and
horizons. Any ‘joined-up’ food policy must traverse agriculture, trade, energy,
industrial, labour, science and technology, health, environment, education
policies and more (Barling et al, 2002; Lang et al, 2009). This list stands at
the national level where the nation state is the primary locus of policy-mak-
ing. But the state has been hollowed out to some extent over recent decades,
with legal authority being ceded upwards to international and regional insti-
tutions and governance regimes, notably the EU, and downwards to more
national–regional and local levels of government (Lang et al, 2001).
Furthermore, there has been a shift from state-controlled governing to more
soft forms of governance where the state effectively enrols private actors, such
as corporations, sectoral groups such as farmers, and civil society organiza-
tions to undertake the administration of policy. In the case of the move of
governance outwards, public forms of governing mingle and merge with more
private forms of governance, providing a more complex policy picture. Food
supply chains see the private setting of standards by industry, corporate retail-
ers and manufacturers, and by civil society organizations (e.g. fair trade,
animal welfare; Barling, 2008). These developments in private governance can
lead the state in terms of providing private regulation over food supply.
Indeed, one of the international or global bodies with authority to police food
standards, the World Trade Organization (WTO), has become concerned that
private standards governing international commerce in food and agriculture
might effectively bypass the international legally-binding rules on food and
agriculture standards and supports (Stanton and Wolff, 2009). These stan-
dards and permitted state supports are set out under the WTO’s Sanitary and
Phytosanitary Standards (SPS), Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), and the
Agreement on Agriculture.
The WTO standards provide a departure point for explaining the nature
of multilevel governance of food policy. The development of the WTO agree-
ments have framed subsequent agricultural support regime reforms in
member states, notable examples being the reforms to the EU’s Common
Agricultural Policy and the EU member states’ farming policies. However,
such changes are contingent and based upon strategic evaluation of the scope
for manoeuvre within these different international regimes, such as the
Agreement on Agriculture. The rules are themselves contested as witnessed in
the current halt to the revision of the Agriculture Agreement and the Doha
Round of trade liberalization negotiations. International regime outcomes are
the result of negotiations and tradeoffs between national states, and associ-
ated interests, as the outcomes of the Global Climate Change Protocols
illustrate (e.g. Kyoto).
Integrating food policy to address effectively the twin challenges of GEC
and food security will take place at these different levels of governing and
across these different policy sectors. Achieving both horizontal and vertical or
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:27 Page 36
multilevel policy integration and compliance is a staggering political challenge.
At the national level policy, priorities will need to shift and institutional means
be set up to ensure such change is maintained and disseminated throughout
the public policy process and the private governance of food supply (Barling
et al, 2002). Conceptually, the notion of global governance suggests that the
framing of policy change is achieved through the establishment of new hege-
monic forms of discourse, such as the recent historical case of trade
liberalization. Integration of policy can be driven by the terms of such a dom-
inant discourse. The growing international consensus to act upon climate
change and the interest in a low carbon economy is a sign of such a possible
shift. The recent food price peak and renewed international attention to the
security and sufficiency of the global food supply is a complementary political
current. However, as observed above, the response to the 2007–8 price hike
crisis was the setting up of national tariff barriers and reduction in exports of
grain so exacerbating the sense of the crisis as national constituency demands
came (understandably) before global coordination. Similarly, there is the pre-
viously cited example of the large-scale planting of biofuels to meet energy
needs, in turn using land needed for food production. The development of a
dominant policy discourse around meeting the demands of climate change,
and food security, will need to continually shape the more particularistic
demands of sectional economic and social interests, and their brokering by the
national states who vote in the international regimes where the directions of
global governance are decided.
Modelling food systems complexity
Many systems analysts stress approaching complexity by looking for patterns
and typologies. Thus holistic frameworks are useful because they help to iden-
tify the full range of interactions, as well as provide an organizing framework
to understand change (Reynolds et al, 2007). For example, proponents of ‘syn-
drome’ approaches to develop multiple typologies of human–environment
interactions in different contexts (Petschel-Held et al, 1999); those who work
on scenarios and models are keen to determine the ‘key’ drivers of food secu-
rity and ecosystem service outcomes (Nelson et al, 2006), or to analyse the key
processes controlling interactions and feedbacks among food system activities,
food security and ecosystem outcomes (Plummer and Armitage, 2007).
Integrated assessment models (IAMs) are the tool of choice for many analysts
looking at the interactions between environmental processes and agricultural
or food security outcomes (Bland, 1999; van Ittersum et al, 2008). As
Schmidhuber and Tubiello (2007) note, however, these models only include
some aspects of food systems, chiefly economic and land use, which misses key
issues for food security and GEC feedbacks and impacts. Chapter 3 reviews
recent global environmental and food security assessments, many of which
have relied on IAMs.
Typologies of food systems can help to collapse their complexity into a
manageable analytical framework, and draw attention to the types of food sys-
tems that show most promise for their capacity to provide particular goods or
services (e.g. sustainable livelihoods, carbon sequestration), or to provide them
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:27 Page 37
in ways that minimize undesirable feedbacks. Typologies are also useful to
show changes in food systems over time, as socio-economic or environmental
drivers favour certain types of food systems and may lead to the expansion of
some spaces in the typology and collapse of others.
The choice of dimensions for food system typologies is critical to their
value. Two obvious choices are the attributes of food security (availability,
access and utilization) or important trends in the development of food systems
(e.g. globalization, increasing use of petroleum products, increasing attention
to multifunctionality). Figure 2.3 shows one possible typology of the food
security space by plotting components of food security against each other.
Food security exists when utilization is high (the entire front face of Figure
2.3), but some food systems may enable high utilization despite low food
access and availability (e.g. when a limited food supply is targeted to people
with the lowest consumption rates). This is done when providing food aid in
complex humanitarian emergencies.
Typologies using current trends as dimensions can assist knowledge dis-
covery for analysts, investors or policy-makers. Dimensions of a food system
typology might include household-level engagement in food production and
consumption; resilience-enhancing properties such as access to and use of
knowledge or technology (e.g. seeds, irrigation, nutrients, extension services);
and the capacity to buffer supply and demand through storage or trade. By
assigning value chains to their appropriate spaces in the typology, the conse-
quences of different policy and investment choices can be clearly shown. While
developing typologies requires careful attention to the dimensions and purpose
of the exercise, their development is likely to be an essential step for analyti-
cal comparison of food systems and clear depiction of the consequences of
different options.
Identifying the real food security issues of concern
Adopting a holistic food systems approach has been valuable in moving dis-
cussions about GEC impacts on food security beyond agricultural production.
This is important to move beyond assumptions that may mask what is actu-
ally going on, especially cause and effect. Thus the approach can be used to
Figure 2.3 Possible typology of the food security space
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:27 Page 38
understand how a given GEC driver transmits through a food system to affect
food security; for example, a flood may have the most important impact on
distribution channels (e.g. in Nepal) rather than on destroying yield. Food
availability is not directly linked to production capacity in many places
throughout, for example, the Caribbean, where much food is imported. Thus
a hurricane which disrupts transport routes from the USA is a major concern,
even if production on a given island is not affected.
In the high-latitude North, a food systems analysis can provide a useful
window for examining the myriad impacts of a changing environment on both
individual and community health and viability. Livelihoods in the North tend
to be tightly connected to climate, weather and ecosystems, having relied for
millennia upon the landscape for food, whether through hunting, herding,
gathering, fishing, small-scale gardening, or a mix of all of the above.
However, the impacts of climate change as currently understood threaten to
undermine the viability of these essential ecosystem services (White et al, 2007;
Hovelsrud et al, 2008; Loring and Gerlach, 2009). In Alaska, for instance, res-
idents have observed changes in the landscape such as landslides and lakes
drying, in some cases resulting in the complete or temporary loss of important
subsistence harvest locations. Many also report that ‘the world is not the way
it used to be’, referring to observed changes to weather and seasonality, and
to the distribution, abundance and migration patterns of fish and game
(Krupnik and Jolly, 2002; McNeeley and Huntington, 2007).
Access to these traditional ‘country foods’ is thus confounded in myriad
ways, and alternatives tend to be quite limited, especially in remote, bush com-
munities not typically connected to urban centres by roads or other
infrastructure (Colt et al, 2003; Goldsmith, 2007; Gerlach et al, 2008; Martin
et al, 2008). Finding that their food needs cannot be met with locally avail-
able wild food resources, many now fill their cupboards with foods of
far-lesser quality and cultural relevance, purchased either from the meagre
selections available at village stores (for those communities with a store) or
from costly periodic provisioning trips to urban supply centres (Receveur et al,
1997; Kuhnlein et al, 2004; Ford, 2008; Loring and Gerlach, 2009).
This trajectory of change, away from traditional foods and towards indus-
trially produced ones, has been described as a ‘nutrition transition’ by some
(Kuhnlein et al, 2004; Popkin and Gordon-Larsen, 2004), and comes at great
economic, physical and psychosocial expense. Near-epidemic increases are
being observed and projected for Type II diabetes, obesity, coronary heart dis-
ease and cancer, as well as for depression, substance abuse, alcoholism
and violence (McLaughlin et al, 2004; Graves, 2005; ADHS, 2006; Segal and
Saylor, 2007; Wolsko et al, 2007). The extent and manner to which these
health trends are directly and indirectly linked to changes in community food
systems, climate-driven or otherwise, still need extensive research and quan-
tification, however, as does the question of whether or not these trends are
duplicated elsewhere in the circumpolar North. The goal is that future
research will identify current patterns and distributions of risk and vulnera-
bility, and strive to understand the many pathways through which
fundamental changes to food systems can undermine individual as well as
02_Food_Security_025-045 10/9/10 10:27 Page 39
community social and cultural and ecological health outcomes, so that com-
munities can themselves understand, plan for and effectively manage these
A holistic approach to describing and analysing food systems allows the direct
linking of ecosystem services to a critical part of human well-being (i.e. food
security). Continuing to document the importance of ecosystem services for
human well-being is still a research priority stemming from the Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment and on the agenda of international conservation organ-
izations (Carpenter et al, 2009). Chapter 3 explores this further, through an
analysis of international global assessments and their take on food systems.
This chapter has discussed the value of using a food systems approach for
understanding not only the consequences of GEC for multiple aspects of food
security, but also how GEC interacts with other drivers of food system activ-
ities and food security outcomes. A systems approach also helps to explain
how food systems drive environmental change and the state of key ecosystem
services. Such research is critical if we are to sustainably feed 9 billion people
in 2050 without sacrificing other aspects of human well-being and ecosystems.
The most important policy implication of a food systems approach from
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tradeoffs between multiple aspects of food security and a range of ecosystem
services (De Fries et al, 2004; Tomich et al, 2005). However, the empirical
databases for such comprehensive analysis across ecosystem and food system
types are insufficient, although the current debates around reducing the car-
bon footprint of food or about biofuels are bringing a renewed sense of
urgency to these issues. Chapter 3 suggests ways to improve such databases
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... Their interactions as well are complex and are affected by a wide range of environmental and socioeconomic factors. Climate change affects food systems to alter food security outcomes (Brown et al., 2015;Ericksen et al., 2010). Changes in determinants of the food system will give rise to differences in food security outcomes because both are interwoven in such a manner that activities involved in the food system lead to direct outcomes in food security and environmental factors (Ericksen et al., 2010). ...
... Climate change affects food systems to alter food security outcomes (Brown et al., 2015;Ericksen et al., 2010). Changes in determinants of the food system will give rise to differences in food security outcomes because both are interwoven in such a manner that activities involved in the food system lead to direct outcomes in food security and environmental factors (Ericksen et al., 2010). Food security itself involves food availability, food access, utilization, and stability. ...
... The relationship between poverty and poor diets may also be related to unhealthy food systems and environments (IPCC, 2014;Gamba et al., 2015). Food production is a significant component of the food system, an essential aspect of food security (Ericksen et al., 2010;Hatfield et al., 2011). The evidence that climate change has affected food production in the food system implies a direct effect on food security. ...
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In recent years, several major drivers such as population growth, shocks, and changing climate have put the world off track to ending hunger, malnutrition, and meeting global food demands. Temperature increase, changes in rainfall pattern, drought, flooding, and the occurrence of pests and diseases negatively impact our food system. The situation seems to be the worst in Sub-Saharan Africa, where farmers are slow in changing their farming practices such as bush burning and deforestation, mainly because they lack the requisite education, information and training necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The question is whether the current food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa can produce enough food in the future to meet the demands of a growing population that is predicted to double by 2050 amid climate change. Food systems need to transform in a sustainable way to limit their environmental impact, contribute to building more sustainable diets and at the same time adapt and become more resilient to climate change. The purpose of this review is to increase the understanding of the nature of climate change's effects on the food system and emphasize the need to adapt science-based technological and innovative approaches to address these challenges. Understanding climate change challenges on food system is pivotal to sustainable food security in Africa.
... To sharpen our theoretical understandings, the research team consulted with individuals from community organizations, representatives from philanthropy, and foundational academic work by scholars in the last two decades (Ericksen et al., 2010;Ericksen, 2008;Ingram, 2011). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has engaged in comprehensive exercises to catalogue what constitutes a food system. ...
... There is constant feedback between the food production value chain and the four highlighted elements that are embedded within it. 3 Food production activities create social, environmental, economic, and political outcomes while also being shaped by these same conditions (Ericksen et al., 2010;Ericksen, 2008). Table 2 presents more detail and explanation for each element of the food system, including descriptions and examples of outcomes. ...
Technical Report
This project focuses on North Carolina and contextualizes the current moment against the historical landscape. The audience for this project is philanthropy. As a group with substantial power, it asks how philanthropy can be a partner to address some of the most entrenched inequities. How, in other words, can philanthropy help create more equity and resiliency in the North Carolina food system?
... The food system encompasses activities involved in producing, processing, packaging, distributing, retailing, and consuming food (Ericksen et al., 2010) that form the basis of the four food security pillars of availability, accessibility, utilization, and stability [GLOPAN (Global Panel on Agriculture Food Systems for Nutrition), 2020]. Undertaking these activities leads to several outcomes that contribute to food security and relate to environmental outcomes (Ingram, 2011). ...
... Given the multifaceted nature of food security, especially in the context of global environmental change (Ingram, 2011), solving food insecurity needs to center on comprehension of complex interactions. Various stakeholders have utilized food system concepts to enhance interdisciplinary work on the twoway interactions between food and nutrition security efforts and global environmental change (Ericksen et al., 2010). However, there is a need to contextualize an integrated food system approach that accounts for interconnected inequalities to ensure food security. ...
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Food system sustainability has been highlighted as one of the major strategies to ensure healthy diets. A plethora of approaches to stabilize food systems have been suggested, including agroecology, climate-smart agriculture, and other forms of sustainable agriculture. However, a disconnect between sustainable production and consumption exists, which may hinder further progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2. This discourse was needed to connect these intersectional perspectives. To meet this need, we bring together the disconnected socio-environmental pillars and show how together they contribute to the food system sustainability agenda. We discuss the complexity of food system sustainability to cater to different geographies, building on evidence from development projects worldwide. We account for factors such as the need to incorporate intersectionality factors, food-system-related policy issues, food waste, food injustice, and undernutrition. While these intersectional inequalities can be solved through various human interventions, policy implementation, and dietary choices, we found that connecting the different policymakers remains a significant challenge for a sustainable food system. We propose implementing specific food system sustainability strategies that will be useful for policymakers and other stakeholders to enable the inclusion of a socio-environmental perspective for food systems that connect agricultural production with consumption.
... • technological, market, environmental, and economic drivers, including stresses and shocks. The actors' activities result in a wide range of social, economic, and environmental outcomes (16,19). Outcomes do not spontaneously change; they do so as a result of the actors changing their activities. ...
Food system resilience has multiple dimensions. We draw on food system and resilience concepts and review resilience framings of different communities. We present four questions to frame food system resilience (Resilience of what? Resilience to what? Resilience from whose perspective? Resilience for how long?) and three approaches to enhancing resilience (robustness, recovery, and reorientation—the three “Rs”). We focus on enhancing resilience of food system outcomes and argue this will require food system actors adapting their activities, noting that activities do not change spontaneously but in response to a change in drivers: an opportunity or a threat. However, operationalizing resilience enhancement involves normative choices and will result in decisions having to be negotiated about trade-offs among food system outcomes for different stakeholders. New approaches to including different food system actors’ perceptions and goals are needed to build food systems that are better positioned to address challenges of the future.
... La designación de la Cumbre como Cumbre de los sistemas alimentarios, es significativa. El concepto de sistemas alimentarios se desarrolló como un enfoque holístico basado en sistemas para dar cuenta de todas las actividades sociales a través de las cuales se producen, distribuyen y se consume [40,41]. Los miembros del CSM promueven el concepto de sistemas alimentarios para enfatizar el papel multifuncional de la agricultura y sus impactos ambientales y sociales. ...
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Este artículo analiza el desarrollo y la organización de la Cumbre de Sistemas Alimentarios de las Naciones Unidas (UNFSS), que está siendo convocada por el Secretario General de la ONU, António Guterres, a finales de 2021. Aunque pocas personas discutirán que los sistemas alimentarios globales necesitan transformación, ha quedado claro que la Cumbre es, en cambio, un esfuerzo de una poderosa alianza de corporaciones multinacionales, organizaciones filantrópicas y países orientados a la exportación para subvertir las instituciones multilaterales de gobernanza alimentaria y capturar la narrativa global de la “transformación de los sistemas alimentarios”. Este artículo sitúa la próxima Cumbre en el contexto de cumbres mundiales sobre la alimentación anteriores y analiza las preocupaciones expresadas por muchos miembros de la sociedad civil. Explica cómo la estructura y las formas actuales de reclutamiento de participantes y compromiso público carecen de transparencia y rendición de cuentas básicas, no logran abordar conflictos de intereses significativos e ignorar los derechos humanos. A medida que la pandemia de COVID-19 ilumina las vulnerabilidades estructurales del modelo neoliberal de los sistemas alimentarios y las consecuencias del cambio climático para la producción de alimentos, ahora más que nunca se necesita un compromiso de alto nivel con los sistemas alimentarios equitativos y sostenibles. Sin embargo, los autores sugieren que el UNFSS, en cambio, parece seguir una trayectoria en la que los esfuerzos para gobernar los sistemas alimentarios globales en el interés público han sido subvertidos para mantener el colonialismo y formas corporativas de control.
... There is a need for approaches that consider the complexity of both the food production system and the described FNS situation [30][31][32]. In this context, horticulture could help addressing the issues described; as it is part of local food production systems in both developed and developing countries, in both urban and rural settings [33][34][35][36][37]. Indeed, horticultural interventions have been proposed to improve the FNS of vulnerable population groups [38][39][40][41][42][43]. ...
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F ood and nutrition security (FNS) is a priority for human development since different facets of malnutrition still prevail in many parts of the world. Home garden interventions (HGI) have been proposed to improve FNS, generally obtaining positive results. This review aimed to evaluate reports of HGI, discussing their characteristics and outcomes in terms of three sustainability dimensions (social, environmental, and economic). A total of 40 papers (n-number of papers) were included, mainly published since 2009. According to literature review, measurement, or discussion of economic (productivity, n=20) and social (diet improvement, n=33) outcomes has taken precedence over environmental ones (agrodiversity, n=15) in HGI's impact assessment (IA). Furthermore, sustainability has not been assessed beyond the continuity of the proposed changes (n=5). Future HGI should apply Systemic-Transdisciplinary approaches with adequate metrics and multidimensional IA methodologies linking FNS and sustainable development. This would allow a contextualisation of the research, establishing the current situation of the study system and identifying precise needs. Also, it would be possible to identify and monitor trade-offs and synergies of the intervention. Such approach would generate a strong body of scientific evidence and awareness of the benefits of a sustainable agricultural system in the prevention and treatment of the double burden of malnutrition (hidden hunger and overweight/obesity).
... There are numerous definitions of the food system (FS) in literature, e.g., [42,43]. One very comprehensive definition states that "a food system gathers all the elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, institutions, etc.) and activities that relate to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, and the outputs of these activities, including socioeconomic and environmental outcomes" [44]. ...
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Temperature fluctuation and abuse in the food cold chain (FCC) is becoming an increasingly crucial factor in the process of food production and for the logistic business, especially in COVID-19 pandemic. The quality of perishable food products depends largely on accurate transport and maintenance temperature. The evidence for temperature-related food waste and loss is extensive. The research problem is thus: how to decrease and control food losses caused by temperature abuse in the FCC and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The primary objective is to propose a framework for real-time temperature measurement protocols supported by passive RFID, IoT and Statistical Process Control (SPC) charts. This method allows not only the signaling of temperature abuse alerts but, in addition to hitherto methods, investigation and mitigation of the causes of process instability of individual FCC links in the future. The secondary objective is to delineate the necessary data sources and ways of their collection and utilization in order to decrease food losses and waste via process stabilization of temperature in transport and storage. As contribution to current literature and practice, we offer an in-depth analysis of threats in the FCC in food transport and storage infrastructure and a solution supplemented by SPC charts and tested in controlled experiments that is practicable from economic and technical standpoints.
Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy lives for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, are nutritionally adequate, safe, and healthy, and optimize natural and human resources. (FAO, 2010). This book takes a transdisciplinary approach and considers multisectoral actions, integrating health, agriculture and environmental sector issues to comprehensively explore the topic of sustainable diets. The team of international authors informs readers with arguments, challenges, perspectives, policies, actions and solutions on global topics that must be properly understood in order to be effectively addressed. They position issues of sustainable diets as central to the Earth’s future. Presenting the latest findings, they: • Explore the transition to sustainable diets within the context of sustainable food systems, addressing the right to food, and linking food security and nutrition to sustainability. • Convey the urgency of coordinated action, and consider how to engage multiple sectors in dialogue and joint research to tackle the pressing problems that have taken us to the edge, and beyond, of the planet’s limits to growth. • Review tools, methods and indicators for assessing sustainable diets. • Describe lessons learned from case studies on both traditional food systems and current dietary challenges. As an affiliated project of the One Planet Sustainable Food Systems Programme, this book provides a way forward for achieving global and local targets, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition commitments. This resource is essential reading for scientists, practitioners, and students in the fields of nutrition science, food science, environmental sciences, agricultural sciences, development studies, food studies, public health and food policy
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The aim of this research brief is to provide information regarding the design of the food system supplying Chennai, and the challenges and potentials to sustainable food system transformation. It starts with an introduction to the geographic and socio-economic situation before moving on to an analysis of the actors, locations and fabric of the food system. A final section proposes a number of recommendations derived from the analysis. This document is based on semi-structured interviews with 52 people, from farmer to researcher, from food initiative or business to policy maker, from food processor to restaurant owner, from seed producer to consumer. In this way, insights about the issue of food system transformation were gained from various angles.
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The empirical evidence in the papers in this special issue identifies pervasive and difficult cross-scale and cross-level interactions in managing the environment. The complexity of these interactions and the fact that both scholarship and management have only recently begun to address this complexity have provided the impetus for us to present one synthesis of scale and cross-scale dynamics. In doing so, we draw from multiple cases, multiple disciplines, and multiple perspectives. In this synthesis paper, and in the accompanying cases, we hypothesize that the dynamics of cross-scale and cross-level interactions are affected by the interplay between institutions at multiple levels and scales. We suggest that the advent of co-management structures and conscious boundary management that includes knowledge co-production, mediation, translation, and negotiation across scale-related boundaries may facilitate solutions to complex problems that decision makers have historically been unable to solve.
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In the years since publication of the first edition of Food Wars much has happened in the world of food policy. This new edition brings these developments fully up to date within the original analytical framework of competing paradigms or worldviews shaping the direction and decision-making within food politics and policy. The key theme of the importance of integrating human and environmental health has become even more pressing. In the first edition the authors set out and brought together the different strands of emerging agendas and competing narratives. The second edition retains the same core structure and includes updated examples, case studies and the new issues which show how these conflicting tendencies have played out in practice over recent years and what this tells us about the way the global food system is heading. Examples of key issues given increased attention include: nutrition, including the global rise in obesity, as well as chronic conditions, hunger and under-nutrition the environment, particularly the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, water stress and food security food industry concentration and market power volatility and uncertainty over food prices and policy responses tensions over food, democracy and citizenship social and cultural aspects impacting food and nutrition policies.
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This article outlines a framework for the analysis of economic integration and its relation to the asymmetries of economic and social development. Consciously breaking with state-centric forms of social science, it argues for a research agenda that is more adequate to the exigencies and consequences of globalization than has traditionally been the case in 'development studies'. Drawing on earlier attempts to analyse the cross-border activities of firms, their spatial configurations and developmental consequences, the article moves beyond these by proposing the framework of the 'global production network' (GPN). It explores the conceptual elements involved in this framework in some detail and then turns to sketch a stylized example of a GPN. The article concludes with a brief indication of the benefits that could be delivered by research informed by GPN analysis.
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“Coming home to eat” [Nabhan, 2002. Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods. Norton, New York] has become a clarion call among alternative food movement activists. Most food activist discourse makes a strong connection between the localization of food systems and the promotion of environmental sustainability and social justice. Much of the US academic literature on food systems echoes food activist rhetoric about alternative food systems as built on alternative social norms. New ways of thinking, the ethic of care, desire, realization, and vision become the explanatory factors in the creation of alternative food systems. In these norm-based explanations, the “Local” becomes the context in which this type of action works. In the European food system literature about local “value chains” and alternative food networks, localism becomes a way to maintain rural livelihoods. In both the US and European literatures on localism, the global becomes the universal logic of capitalism and the local the point of resistance to this global logic, a place where “embeddedness” can and does happen. Nevertheless, as other literatures outside of food studies show, the local is often a site of inequality and hegemonic domination. However, rather than declaim the “radical particularism” of localism, it is more productive to question an “unreflexive localism” and to forge localist alliances that pay attention to equality and social justice. The paper explores what that kind of localist politics might look like.
Conversion of land to grow crops, raise animals, obtain timber, and build cities is one of the foundations of human civilization. While land use provides these essential ecosystem goods, it alters a range of other ecosystem functions, such as the provisioning of freshwater, regulation of climate and biogeochemical cycles, and maintenance of soil fertility. It also alters habitat for biological diversity. Balancing the inherent trade-offs between satisfying immediate human needs and maintaining other ecosystem functions requires quantitative knowledge about ecosystem responses to land use. These responses vary according to the type of land-use change and the ecological setting, and have local, short-term as well as global, long-term effects. Land-use decisions ultimately weigh the need to satisfy human demands and the unintended ecosystem responses based on societal values, but ecological knowledge can provide a basis for assessing the trade-offs.
Systems of people and nature co-evolve in an adaptive dance (Walters, 1986). Resource systems change as people seek ecosystem services, such as the harvest of stocks, manipulation of key structuring processes, removal of geophysical assets or abation of pollutant concentrations. Meanwhile, as humans are becom-ing more dependent on these ecosystem services, the ecosystems become more vulnerable to unexpected events. This process that signals a loss of ecological resilience has been described as a pathology of resource development (Holling, 1995). Complex resource systems are not easily tractable or understood, much less predictable. Nonlinear interactions among multiple variables, scale invariant processes, emergent properties from self-organization and other factors all con-tribute to unpredictability. Yet, even with these inherent difficulties, we continue attempts at making sense for management and other purposes. Due to a growing empirical base of observation, emergent patterns of these systems, including periods of stability and instability, as well as unexpected behavior due to inter-nal and external changes have been revealed (Gunderson, Holling, and Light, 1995; Berkes and Folke, 1998; Johnson et al., 1999). This paper builds on earlier work (Holling, 1978; Walters, 1986, 1997; Gunderson et al., 1995; Gunderson, 1999a) to explore these unexpected be-haviors in managed ecological systems – perceived as surprises and crises. To begin with, the conceptual basis for understanding these nonlinearities, ecologi-cal properties of resilience and adaptive capacity, and analogous properties in institutions are presented. The next section describes a set of different types of surprises, followed by a discussion of how people respond to those different types of surprises. The chapter ends with some tentative propositions on how one might move beyond sense-making and begin to manage for resilience.