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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #356910

Research Project: Efficient and Effective Preservation and Management of Plant and Microbial Genetic Resource Collections

Location: Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research

Title: When food systems meet sustainability: current narratives and implications for actions

Author
item BENE, CHRISTOPHER - California Institute Of Technology
item OOSTERVEER, PETER - Wageningen University
item LAMOTTE, LEA - California Institute Of Technology
item BROUWER, INGE - Wageningen University
item DE HAAN, STEF - California Institute Of Technology
item Khoury, Colin

Submitted to: World Crops
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/20/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The concept of food system has gained prominence in recent years amongst both scholars and policymakers. Experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds have in particular discussed the nature and origin of the “unsustainability” of our modern food systems. These efforts tend, however, to be framed within distinctive disciplinary narratives. In this paper we propose to explore these narratives and to shed light on the explicit –or implicit- epistemological assumptions, mental models, and disciplinary paradigms that underpin those. The analysis indicates that different views and interpretations prevail amongst experts about the nature of the “crisis”, and consequently about the research and priorities needed to “fix” the problem. We then explore how sustainability is included in these different narratives and the link to the question of healthy diets. The analysis reveals that the concept of sustainability, although widely used by all the different communities of practice, remains poorly defined, and applied in different ways and usually based on a relatively narrow interpretation. In so doing we argue that current attempts to equate or subsume healthy diets within sustainability in the context of food system may be misleading and need to be challenged. We stress that trade-offs between different dimensions of food system sustainability are unavoidable and need to be navigated in an explicit manner when developing or implementing sustainable food system initiatives. Building on this overall analysis, a framework structured around several entry points including outcomes, core activities, trade-offs and feedbacks is then proposed, which allows to identify key elements necessary to support the transition toward sustainable food systems.

Technical Abstract: The concept of sustainable food systems have gained prominence in recent years amongst both scholars and policymakers. Different views and interpretations prevail amongst experts about the nature of the crisis, and consequently about the research and priorities needed to fix the problem. We analyse these different views. We stress that trade-offs between different dimensions of food system sustainability are unavoidable and need to be navigated in an explicit manner when developing or implementing sustainable food system initiatives. We propose a framework supporting the transition toward sustainable food systems.