Another call for papers: Post-neoliberal food transitions

We are looking for papers for a session at the XXVI European Society for Rural Sociology Congress (http://www.esrs2015.eu/WG2 )

The session is: Post-neoliberal food transitions

 Co-conveners: Jessica Duncan [1], Damian Maye [2], Egon Noe [3], Markus Schermer [4]; Discussant: Gianluca Brunori [5]

1: Wageningen University, Netherlands; 2: University of Gloucestershire; 3: Aarhus University; 4: University of Innsbruck; 5: University of Pisa

There is growing recognition that neoliberal food system models, dominant since the late 1970s, may no longer be ‘fit-for-purpose’. In this regard, ‘business as usual’ responses are being seen as no longer able to deal with increasingly complex sets of food system pressures (e.g., climate change, peak oil, food security) and a new ‘post-neoliberal’ paradigm of food system governance is arguably starting to manifest. This paradigm recognises the need to enact more ‘radical’ changes across food system practices and is made visible through a number of new initiatives that have emerged with the aim to re-organise and re-embed food practices and markets into wider social relations. These practices span from agro-ecological approaches on the producer side and to new dietary practices on the consumer side.

From this starting point, this working group will examine recent food system practices through multiple lenses, including post-neoliberalism, transition and post-normal science. It questions:

  • How is the dominant food system developing rules, regulations and actions to respond to new challenges and greater complexity?
  • Which types of niche activities are emerging to support a transition towards food-related practices that are more just and sustainable?
  • How do neoliberal arguments such as individual responsibility, local substitutions to former welfare state schemes, or the replacement of public by private regulations correspond to arguments focused on civic virtues like fairness and solidarity?

This session will bring together researchers from across the social sciences to present and interrogate a range of food-related transitions. We invite the submission of abstracts that engage with one or more of the following themes:

  • (Post)neoliberal food systems and discourses
  • Post-normal science and food chains
  • Theories of innovation, complexity, social practice, resilience, transition
  • Methodologies for assessing food chain performance
  • Food system transitions in rural, urban and/or rural-urban contexts
  • Global, national, regional and local food chain dynamics
  • Sustainable intensification
  • Sustainable diet
  • Agro-ecology, food sovereignty, smallholders, family farms
  • Territorial agri-food initiatives
  • New partnerships and governance arrangements between food chain actors
  • Arguments and visions endorsed by stakeholders in “transition arenas”

Participants are asked to reflect on whether these practices and models are compatible with the neoliberal ordering of the mainstream food system, whether they can, and should, exist alongside or in opposition to the current ordering, or have the potential to alter it substantially.

CALL FOR PANELS ON FOOD GOVERNANCE

Together with a colleague  I am organising a section at the ECPR general conference, Montreal 2015 ( http://www.ecpr.eu/Events/EventDetails.aspx?EventID=94)

We welcome panel and paper proposals (until 10 November  2014) that are based on the section description below.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me: jessica.duncan@wur.nl

Cross-Disciplinary Issues for Food Policy and Governance: Challenges and Opportunities

Food has proven to be a complex, even wicked, policy issue which encompasses multiple policy domains. The call for a more integrated food policy away from mono-disciplinary focus on agricultural, international development, or health is  increasing. Food policy integrates nutrition and public health, agriculture, environment, ethics and social justice, trade, ecology, spatial planning, climate change, water management, and energy and therefore needs the analysis of all policy domains involved, as well as cross-policy domain research. The interconnectedness of  relevant policy domains means that food represents a policy challenge as well as a governance challenge at all levels (i.e., local, national, international, multinational). As such, it requires not only the setup of cross-boundary governance arrangements between traditional institutions and administrative competences, but also the analysis of possible gaps between institutions, deadlocks, miscommunication and/or lack of coordination.

Food policy and governance issues cross different levels and scales: from global discussion about food security, to local water management issues; from acute problems to looming catastrophes  in the distant future. All these interconnected linkages and cross-overs pose many challenges to state actors, civil society, and the private sector.  In this section we will to explore the variety of issues that arise when working towards integrated food policies.

We welcome panel and paper proposals that analyse cross-policy and governance issues in the field of food and agriculture. We are looking for proposals that address participatory governance for food security, integrated systems approaches for food governance, local governance arrangements for sustainable food systems, or food governance in a changing geopolitical context.

Suggested panels:

Panel 1: Participatory governance and food policy
Panel 2: Governing at the Nexus
Panel 3: Integrated Systems Approaches for Food Governance/ Global Environmental Change and Food Systems
Panel 4: Future Challenges for Food Governance
Panel 5: Local governance arrangements for sustainable food systems
Panel 6: Food Governance in a Changing Geopolitical Context

Mapping the state of play on the global food landscape

I spent the last two days in Waterloo, Ontario at an incredible workshop called “Mapping the state of play on the global food landscape”.  It brought together academic and civil society experts on ten key themes:

  • State of the world food system
  • Progress on the right to food
  • Global food trade
  • Corporate role in food and agriculture
  • Food sovereignty
  • Genetic resources and agricultural biotechnology
  • Land grab and agrarian reform
  • Financialization in the food system
  • Sustainable food systems and global environmental change
  • Global food governance in an era of crisis.

Still buzzing from the great conversations and debate. This was my dream conference. Amazing people, lots of discussion lasting from morning to night and great food.

There was also a lot of work! Each of us (3 per theme)  was asked to develop a brief and presentation that answers 3 questions on the past, present and future of our themes. I presented on the final theme an ended up not using the PowerPoint presentation I had developed. I figured it would be good to share. So, here is the presentation that never was:Towards ecological food security

There will be an output from the workshop and I will certainly share that when it becomes available.

 

Debating sustainable intensification

I follow the work of the Food and Climate Research Network quite closely. They have a great newsletter that includes updates and also commentary. A few days ago, we received notice of a New Paper: Putting back meaning into sustainable intensification. Today, in the weekly alert, we received this reply from Peter Stevenson, Compassion in World Farming.

It articulates very clearly some of the concerns that I, and many others, continue to have around the idea of intensification. As I begin to work with colleagues on the concept of ecological intensification, I am struggling to articulate these concerns and make sure that they are addressed from the outset. Perhaps the weight of the word “intensification” is too heavy but I also think that it addresses an aspect of farming that we cannot ignore and which  needs to be done in an ecologically sustainable way.

Here are Peter Stevenson’s reflections:

I welcome this paper’s challenge to the concept of ‘sustainable intensification’.  Tara suggests that the problem lies not so much with the principles underpinning SI, but with  the name itself – the negative baggage that the word ‘intensification’ carries around may be simply too heavy.  I think the problem lies both with the principles and the word.

Tara has sought in a number of papers to broaden the SI concept.  However, the essence of the concept does put a one-sided focus on production and quantity leaving too little space for consideration of consumption and nutritional quality.  In addition, the SI concept reinforces the erroneous belief that in order to feed the anticipated world population of 9.6 billion we need a huge increase in food production.  We already produce enough food to feed 11 billion or more people but around half of it is lost or wasted post-harvest or at retail and consumer level or by being fed to animals.

While academics seek to give a nuanced scope to SI, many policy makers (ab)use SI to justify a primarily productionist agenda with little consideration being given to whether, in a particular context, yield increases are genuinely sustainable.  Intensification is rarely sustainable and the pairing of these words can mislead policy makers into thinking this chimera is readily achievable.  In practice, enhanced yields are often pursued through monocultures and increased use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.  This will increasingly undermine the critical natural resources on which agriculture depends thereby diminishing the ability of future generations to feed themselves.

Moreover, the term SI has become seen by policy makers as a goal in itself rather than as simply a policy instrument for achieving the real objective of food security.  Increased food production cannot, of itself, provide food security.  To achieve genuine food security we need to develop a food and farming model that eschews the over-reliance on productionism that is inherent in the SI model and instead:

·         uses resources more efficiently

·         focuses not on yield (in tonnes per hectare) but on the number of people actually fed per hectare of cropland

·         enhances soil quality, uses water sparingly without polluting it, avoids expansion of cropland into forests and grasslands, and restores biodiversity and ecosystems

·         provides healthy, nutritious food and reduces the contribution of poor diets to non-communicable diseases

·         improves the productivity of small-scale farmers in the developing world in ways which match well with their circumstances; this should not entail the introduction of industrial farming as this excludes participation of those farmers living in deepest poverty.

We do need to replace SI with a new term.  How about ‘feeding people sustainably’?  This encapsulates the core objective of achieving food security and allows balanced consideration of both production and consumption elements.

 

Global Governance: What lessons from the CFS and its reform?

Over the last couple of days I was attending a workshop titled:  Global Governance: What lessons from the CFS and its reform? 

CFS: Committee on World Food Security
CSO: Civil Society Organization
CSM: Civil Society Mechanism 

The workshop, which targeted researchers, was hosted by CIHEAM, IDDRI, CIRAD and INRA and held at the IAMM Campus in Montpellier. It is expected that the meeting organizers will develop an output document of sorts so I won’t discuss the outcomes of the workshop but I will share the presentation that I gave. Click here: CSO Impact on the CFS

I received interesting feedback. Many were surprised that I was not more critical of the CFS and CSM process. Indeed, I have criticisms and concerns but my academic interest in the CFS is focused more on process and interactions between CSOs and the rest of the CFS than on the internal dynamics of the CSM. I believe that the CSM needs to be accountable to itself and to the CFS but that I am not the appropriate person to critique the CSM.

Second, people commented on the value of contextualizing the inclusion of CSOs as participants in the CFS. There are assumptions made that the inclusion of CSOs as participants in the CFS came out of the crisis and that such a process can be scaled out to other multinational contexts. I make the case that because of a long history of CSO engagement in the CFS the space had been created to facilitate negotiations for their participation and that this history needs to be taken into account when thinking of replicating the mechanism.

I also talked about a cycle of awareness and enthusiasm related to the CFS that is enhanced through CSO engagement. This sparked some interest, or at least recognition in the meeting. The idea is simply that through their engagement CSOs create awareness (e.g. through network and media communication), they experienced initial success which served to increased enthusiasm. In turn, this increased awareness both at the civil society level and at the political level. What I mean by the latter is that through engagement in debate, civil society challenge governments who in turn had the need to prepare more effectively for the negotiations. Part of this preparation included greater communication with technical staff in the capitals. This has the effect of increasing awareness about the CFS.

Similarly, we can develop a  cycle for academic enthusiasm and awareness. This was alluded to although not discussed explicitly.

Related to this, there were calls from speakers coming from within the UN system to move beyond the focus on the CFS process as a governance exercise/experiment and to reflecting instead on the impact of these governance processes. The call is a valid one but one that fell a bit on the deaf ears of the political scientists and sociologists whose interest and expertise is indeed governance processes!

 

New Food Security and Related Reports

Well,  turns out the first year of lecturing and doing research is far busier than I could have possibly imagined. Busy though it is, it is also pretty great. The courses I get to teach are interesting (at least to me, and hopefully also my students),  and the networks of researchers I am engaging with are endless and endlessly interesting.  At least there is never a dull moment!

To kick off a revival from a long period of absence, here are two new food security documents that may be of interest to some:

  1. UK House of Parliament: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee – Report on Food Security
  2. High Level Panel of Experts of the Committee on World Food Security report on ‘Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems’   

Happy reading!

Future of EU Food Safety and Nutrition Policy

From: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/foodlaw/future_en.htm

The provision of safe, nutritious, high quality and affordable food to Europe’s consumers is the central objective of EU policy, which covers all stages of the EU food supply chain, “from farm to fork”. Its standards and requirements aim to ensure a high level of food safety and nutrition within an efficient, competitive, sustainable and innovative global market.

However, a series of emerging challenges and risks could put the currently successful European food system under severe stress. These challenges include:

  • demographic imbalances,
  • climate change, resource and energy scarcity,
  • slowing agricultural productivity,
  • increasing concentration of the supply chain,
  • price volatility,
  • changing diet trends, and
  • the emergence of anti-microbial resistant strands.

Foresight analysis on “Delivering on EU Food Safety and Nutrition in 2050 – Scenarios of future change and policy responses” is a first step of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers’ Foresight Project for future food policy development.

The project aims to provide insight and guidance for future policy-making and the research which underpins EU policy in this area by identifying the:

  • critical challenges to EU food legislative framework;
  • future evolution of the challenges (in years 2020, 2030 and 2050);
  • impacts of current challenges on EU’s food legislative framework;
  • potential critical changes in the current framework necessary to maintain the prevailing high standards.

Click here to read the report: Foresight analysis on “Delivering on EU Food Safety and Nutrition in 2050 – Scenarios of future change and policy responses”