Category Archives: Food Policy

Inclusion and diversity amidst convergence

In this short video lecture, Jessica Duncan reflects on how the global food sovereignty movement manages the contradictory goals of inclusion and diversity and why categories – like women and youth –  matter, until they do not.

This links to recent publications (available open access):

Duncan, J. Claeys, P. et al. (2019) Scholar-activists in an expanding European food sovereignty movement. Journal of Peasant Studies.

Claeys, P.  & Duncan, J. (2019) Food sovereignty and convergence spaces. Political Geography. 75:102045.

Duncan, J. & Claeys, P. (2018) Politicizing food security governance through participation: opportunities and opposition. Food Security. 10:6 1411-1424

Claeys, P.  & Duncan, J. (2018) Do we need to categorize it? Reflections on constituencies and quotas as tools for negotiating difference in the global food sovereignty convergence space. Journal of Peasant Studies

Constituencies in 500 words


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Constituencies are broadly defined as groups of people with shared interests (Oxford English Dictionary 2017). In the global food sovereignty movement (GFSM), the concept has been used to identify and distinguish between groups of people with distinct identities and lived realities, but also distinct roles and responsibilities.

Constituencies typically designate distinct groups of food producers, such as pastoralists, fishers, indigenous peoples, agricultural workers or small-scale farmers. The term constituencies is also used to designate other actors in the movement such as women’s and youth organizations or NGOs.

Over the last 20 years, constituencies have become a key organizing feature of the GFSM. Our research shows that the creation of constituency categories has facilitated two main goals of the GFSM: alliance-building and effective direct civil society representation in global policy-making spaces.

Identities are at the heart of constituencies, which are essentially identity-based groups (or sectors). For example, the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina has been able to shape a strong political identity of small-scale food producers as peasants (Desmarais 2008). A lot of spaces and processes in the GFSM require representatives of different organizations to identify which constituency they belong to, and to participate in specific discussions for that constituency only. This is the case, for example, of the Civil Society Mechanism to the CFS or the Nyéléni Europe Forum. Constituencies are often associated with closed or separate spaces, that enable specific identities to come together, organize and gain visibility. Concerns are often raised about the fact that creating separate spaces around identities may weaken or fragment movement but our research shows that it is precisely because it has been able to cultivate and protect diverse identities that the GFSM has been able to flourish, grow through alliances, and speak as one.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that most actors in the GFSM have multiple and hybrid identities that cut across constituencies. Constituencies, like identities, overlap. This is particularly true for the Women and Youth constituencies, but to some extent for the Indigenous Peoples and Pastoralist constituencies as well. This explains why a lot of actors in the GFSM may not necessarily know which constituency to join, or to which they ‘belong’. When this is the case, it is useful to think of one’s first political identity. i.e. to prioritize some aspects of one’s identity for the sake of effective participation.

Constituencies, together with regions and organizations, are one important source of diversity in the GFSM. Constituencies are made of organizations with different goals, priorities, identities and ideologies, that operate in different cultural, religious, political and economic contexts. Some constituencies have more power or influence than others. It is therefore important to facilitate the interaction between different constituencies to avoid the consolidation of power of one group over the other. Quotas that establish the relative weight of the various constituencies, and protect difference, are an effective way to address this.

Scholar-activists in an expanding European food sovereignty movement

A short video summary of our article that analyzes the roles, relations, and positions of scholar-activists in the European food sovereignty movement. In doing so, we document, make visible and question the political dimensions of researchers’ participation in the movement. We argue that scholar-activists are part of the movement, but are distinct from the affected constituencies, put in place to ensure adequate representation of key movement actors. This is because scholar-activists lack a collective identity, have no processes to formulate collective demands, and no mechanisms for inter-researcher and researchers-movement communication. We reflect on whether and how scholar-activists could organize, and discuss possible pathways for a more cohesive and stronger researcher engagement in the movement.

Read it here:

Towards a Common Food Policy for the EU

IPES-Food has just released a report arguing for a Common Food Policy for the European Union:. The report proposes a “direction of travel for the whole food system, bringing together the various sectoral policies that affect food production, processing, distribution, and consumption, and refocusing all actions on the transition to sustainability.”

The report provides 4 reasons why a common food policy is required:

1. INTEGRATION ACROSS POLICY AREAS: A Common Food Policy is needed to put an end to conflicting objectives and costly inefficiencies.

2. INTEGRATION ACROSS GOVERNANCE LEVELS: A Common Food Policy is required to harness grassroots experimentation and align actions at EU, national, and local levels.

3. GOVERNANCE FOR TRANSITION: An integrated food policy can overcome short-term thinking and path dependencies in a way that sectoral policies cannot.

4. DEMOCRATIC DECISION-MAKING: A Common Food Policy can revive public participation in policymaking, reconnect citizens to the European project, and reclaim public policies for the public good.


The Common Food Policy vision draws on the collective intelligence of more than 400 farmers, food entrepreneurs, civil society activists, scientists and policymakers consulted through a three-year process of research and deliberation.

Full report is available here

Summary report here

Call for papers: Analytical Approaches to Post-Exceptionalism in Food and Agricultural Governance

Join us at the 2019 General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research in Wrocław, Poland. 

Due to the sensitive nature of the associated public goods (food safety, health, environmental concerns), policy makers have tended to treat the food and agriculture sector with care. But does this sensitivity hinder policy reform, or does it stimulate policy innovation to address novel challenges and concerns? The section uses the concept of post-exceptionalism as a lens to analyse recent developments and trends in food policy and governance.

In the past, agriculture was considered a special economic domain in need of special care. Public policies were aimed to provide affordable food for all while farmers could obtain a steady and sufficient income. The strategic meaning of food, weather conditions and the in-elasticity of demand for agricultural products meant that farming was considered as an exceptional economic sector with exceptionalist industry support and trade policies. However, since the mid-1980s the exceptional position has increasingly come under scrutiny. The externality effects of the farm policies, such as environmental damage and trade distortions, made more people argue that agriculture should be considered an industry operating in a similar fashion to those of other industries.

The puzzle we explore in this section is how post-exceptionalism in agriculture and food policy and politics takes shape and how this phenomenon can the approached analytically and theoretically. The decompartmentalisation, interlinkage with other policy domains, politicisation, internationalisation and reframing of policy issues associated with post-exceptionalism challenge standard analytical and theoretical approaches to studying food and agricultural policy and politics. Moreover, transboundary food-system threats and structural changes in economic systems, such as natural disasters, transboundary diseases, increased migration and urbanisation, facilitate transformations towards more flexible, complex, internationalized and contested patterns of food policy and governance and further substantiate the need for new analytical approaches. This section welcomes panel proposals that study the nature and effects of recent new trends in food and agricultural policies and politics and explore and develop innovative analytical approaches. We are especially interested in the mechanisms that explain how the new food and agricultural policies are shaped and interlink with other policy domains.

Please submit your panel or paper through the ECPR website:

Deadline: 18 February 2019

Contested Boundaries in Food and Agricultural Governance

Jason Taellious Boundary.jpg

The deadline for all Panel and Paper submissions for the 2018 European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) conference in Hamburg is 15 February.

The ECPR Food Policy and Governance Research Network is accepting papers for the  session: Contested Boundaries in Food and Agricultural Governance. Click here to propose a paper (S18 is the food policy session).


Food governance under conditions of globalization and limited resources from the global to the local level is becoming a menacing policy challenge. Related implications affect established policy paradigms within agriculture and food policy, but also policy areas that have long been separated from food and agriculture policy. Organizations that originally dealt with food security policies are reframing their focus to expand to interconnected, separately governed issues, such as climate change. Similarly, civil society organizations and multinational corporations in the food sector are increasingly co-producing public services. These developments challenge established analytical concepts in political science, e.g., the distinction between public and private becomes increasingly opaque through public-private partnerships with ensuing challenges to decision making procedures and the categorization of stakeholders, and to traditional concepts such as accountability, transparency, and representation. Similarly, the boundaries of international regimes are becoming blurred, with, for example, the Sustainable Development Goals merging norms from climate, environmental, food and human rights regimes, setting the scene for future contestation of competences and resources.

This Section welcomes Panels and Papers that critically analyze the re-negotiation of the boundaries in agri-food governance. We are interested in the analysis of these trends. This includes an interest in theoretical reflection on suitable concepts, proposals for new analytical or conceptual frameworks, in-depth and comparative case-studies that explore these shifts and related implications, and proposals for innovative solutions to address negative implications.

We propose Panels that welcome Papers addressing some of the following topics:

The changing roles of actors and agency in agri-food governance systems. 
New actors and agencies are entering agri-food governance systems in response to globalization, changes in international relations, and the limitations of the available resources. The changing international trade patterns and the international treaties, such as the Paris treaty but also Brexit, will change the type of actors and agencies that are involved in the agri-food systems and the way they work together. Some actors will be included who were not involved before and others will lose their seats at the decision making tables. Against this backdrop, this Panel seeks to understand how actors are categorized, how they redefine their roles within the changing food system and who is controlling the categorization. It will also welcome Papers that analyse the implications of these changing patterns of actor networks.

New trends in developing integrated policies.
An increasing number of governments realizes that agricultural policy is not a stand-alone policy domain. It touches upon, among others, health, environmental, and nature policy problems. Contaminated eggs with pesticides is as much a health issue as it is an agricultural problem and the question is, which minister is responsible and which policy arena should take action? Besides, at which level should these type of problems be coordinated: at a central level or elsewhere? Hence, many governments are developing integrated food policies, sometimes resulting in new ministries or intergovernmental coordination mechanisms. This Panel investigates the multi-level dynamics of integrated food policies.

Where next for Integrated Food Policy?
This Panel proposes to ‘zoom out’ from the policy-making process, and adjust the focus towards previously under-explored themes and their potential role as enablers of policy integration. Examples of less-obvious enablers to foster connectedness might include: interdisciplinary research; integrated evidence; pedagogical developments; the role of values; or addressing the disconnects between non-governmental actors – such as business and civil society – in the policy process. The Panel therefore calls for Papers which offer conceptual and empirical insights into both new lenses for study and more pragmatic solutions to support integrated food policy, both within and beyond the direct realm of policy-making, which might improve its chances of success.

• Trends in organizational cross-overs of food, energy, health and agriculture.
Food, health, energy, and agricultural policies are heavily regulated policy domains that involve different levels of government, from the global WTO trade regulations and the EU directives, to the environmental inspection agencies operating at the local level. Regulating food, for instance, involves organizations that belong to different policy arenas such as food safety authorities and environmental inspection agencies. This Panel focuses on related organizational and regulatory challenges. Which organizations are involved, how do they cooperate and how could cooperation be improved?

• Normative divides in agri-food governance. 
Agri-food governance has long been based on apparent consensus around basic norms. However, under the influence of globalization and the prospect of scarce resources at global level, new normative divides appear along multiple lines, in particular between different levels of governance, between multiple international regimes or between political parties. The contributions to this Panel will analyze how multiple interdependent relations within and among societies produce new normative divides and lead to contestation over norms and ideas at different regulatory levels. The Panel invites Papers that address in particular the following questions: How do new ideas, norms and discourses challenge and affect agri-food governance systems? Do conflicts over norms strengthen or weaken the capacities of agri-food governance systems? How does norm contestation affect the locus of political authority to formulate, disseminate, and represent future visions of effective, equitable and fair agri-food governance systems? And what are appropriate democratic measures to settle conflicts over norms and ideas?

• Sustainable food governance as a wicked problem. 
From a consumers’ perspective food security is not very complicated. Food is a physical need and we will fight over it when we are hungry or migrate to greener pastures. At the same time, however, the governance of sustainable food is one of the most complex, if not, wicked governance tasks of governments and societies at large. Establishing and maintaining food security in a sustainable way is a multidimensional challenge where tasks and responsibilities are widely dispersed between both private and public actors and where activities are highly interdependent from each other. In this way, the governance of food is a complex multi-disciplinary, multi-value, multi-multi-level, and multi-actor activity. This Panel explores new theories to analyse and govern with these interdependent problems and solutions.

Peasants negotiating a global policy space

Imgeborg's book

Interface, a journal about social movements, has published a new review of Ingeborg Gaarde’s book Peasants negotiating a global policy space: La Vía Campesina in the Committee on World Food Security (Routledge 2017).  The review was written by Maria Vasile.

I have copied a few paragraphs below, but encourage you to read the entire review, the book, and the rest of the Interface issue on Social movement thinking beyond the core: theories and research in post-colonial and post-socialist societies, available  here. 


Peasants negotiating a global policy space – La Via Campesina in the Committee on World Food Security by Ingeborg Gaarde is an important contribution to research exploring how social movements launch into different levels of activism, engaging in global politics, while continuing to partake in local and national struggles. By looking at the international peasant movement La Vía Campesina, the author challenges dominant theories of social movement institutionalisation, predicting that social movements’ access to institutions and internationalisation results in processes of centralisation, bureaucratisation, de-radicalisation and cooptation (e.g. Tarrow 1998; Tilly 2004).

More particularly, Gaarde analyses how La Vía Campesina creates a space for smallscale producers and other rural people to participate in UN global policy-making processes related to food and nutrition security, namely the 2009 reformed Committee on World Food Security (CFS). By analysing how the members of La Vía Campesina organise their participation in practice, she argues that the movement managed to develop complementary local-global strategies, and that internationalisation allowed for greater consolidation both in terms of cross-border alliances and internal linkages.

Overall, the book represents an important contribution to literature on global food security governance but also on grassroots movements’ engagement in policymaking processes more generally. By reporting on the ways in which La Vía Campesina links local struggles to a global policy space, Gaarde provides a
comprehensive analysis of challenges and synergies arising from peasant’s
engagement in multi-site governance. These synergies are important both for
internal reflexivity and strengthening of the movement, as well as for advocating for enhanced democratic control in governance arenas. Above all, such participation is beneficial for improving the general quality of discussions and achievements in the policy space.

Gaarde’s study is also a methodology lesson on how to analyse social movements, as she reports on innovative research methods, discusses the difficulty of getting close to rural activists and the importance of trust building. Based on her experience, the author invites us to further reflect on potential and challenges of scholar-activist relations for producing knowledge in favour of social movements’ struggles.

Happy reading!

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