Contested Boundaries in Food and Agricultural Governance

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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.


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This was originally posted on ILEIA‘s website. It was written by  Stephen SherwoodMyriam Paredes and Alberto Arce who have edited a new book ‘Agriculture, Food, and Social Change: The Everyday Vitality of Latin America’ (UK: Routledge/Earthscan Press). I have co-authored a chapter in this book that I will summarise in a later post.

A great deal of energy has been invested in attempts to influence the thinking in science and government on the problems of industrial food and the benefits of agroecology and food sovereignty. Meanwhile, people everywhere take responsibility for creating the changes they want to see through daily food practices in their families, neighbourhoods and social networks. In addition to organising for ‘resistance’, we call for greater attention to the latent potential in daily living and being, or existence.

A popular ‘trueque’ or barter trade event in northern Ecuador, where people exchange their goods without the use of money. Photo: Colectivo Agroecólogio

We all have a serious problem when people’s most basic activity – eating – undermines their ability to exist. Yet this is precisely what we have achieved with the advent of modern food. Through the pursuit of cheap food as a ‘good’, we have generated a series of unwanted ‘bads’, such as mass destruction of soils and water systems, erosion of agrobiodiversity, and widescale sickness and death by pesticides, not to mention the constitution of two, rampant pandemics: overweight/obesity and global warming/climate change. Fortunately, growing awareness of the contradictions of modern food is sparking lively counter movements.

We challenge the widespread preoccupation over how agriculture, food, and development should be. Instead, we focus on how everyday experience in agriculture and food is. The work of social movements in the Americas leads us to call attention to the forces of change in people’s everyday encounters with food – not as characterised in concept, but rather as embodied in practice. Continue reading “THE VITALITY OF EVERYDAY FOOD”

Understanding Sustainable Food System Transitions: Practice, Assessment and Governance

SoRo Sustainable Food Transitions

I am very pleased to share that a new special issue of Sociologia Ruralis edited by Damian Maye and me is now online: Understanding Sustainable Food System Transitions: Practice, Assessment and Governance.

The Special Issue provides theoretical insights and advancements into sustainability transitions through empirically grounded and informed investigations of food system practices. The papers confirm, following Hinrichs (2014, p. 143), that ‘numerous opportunities exist to forge more productive links between work on food systems change and the broad and growing sustainability transitions field’.

The Special Issue brings together 8 articles grouped together around two themes:

  1.  Examining relations between AFN practices and transition;
  2. Opening up measures and assessment practices for sustainability transitions.

Taken as a whole, the Special Issue advances discussions and thinking on alternative food practices and sustainability, opening up the debate not only on how to identify and analyse ‘alternative food practices’ in Europe, and beyond, but also on sustainability assessment metrics, governance processes and what counts as ‘sustainable’ in sustainability transitions.

Contents of the Special Issue

Understanding Sustainable Food System Transitions: Practice, Assessment and Governance Damian Maye and Jessica Duncan

Theme 1: Examining Relations Between AFN Practices and Transition

Theme 2: Opening Up Measures and Assessment Practices for Sustainable Food Transitions

Amsterdam Symposium on History of Food 2017: Making Sense of Taste

Registration is now open for the Amsterdam Symposium on History of Food 2017: Making Sense of Taste

Friday 17 November – Saturday 18 November 2017
Venue: Aula of the University of Amsterdam

Registration is now open on this website. We kindly invite you to register now. Do you have any questions? Please contact us.

From which angle does a scholar approach the concept of taste? Is it primarily an objective, chemical quality, or should it be considered a product of culture? And are these perspectives wholly incompatible? The physical quality and flavour of food and drink preoccupy molecular biologists, gastronomic professionals, and bon vivants. Chemists, among others, construe classification systems, aspiring to help us understand the complexity and the possibilities of flavour. Mediators and their audiences may oftentimes embrace subjectivity, by detailing their intimate and embodied experience of taste. Neither approach is new: historically, classification systems have had major cultural and religious significance, whereas the conception of ‘good’ food – as opposed to ‘bad’ food – and its application in mechanisms of social distinction is at least as old as class-based societies themselves. Clearly, discussions about taste have always been informed by an array of physiological and psychological experiences, not just our palates.

Open access to special issue: Soy production in South America

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The Journal of Peasant Studies has just published a new Special Issues: Soy production in South America: Globalization and New Agroindustrial Landscapes. The Guest editors are Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira and Susanna B. Hecht.

The entire collection (15 articles) is freely available for a limited time!


Summary of the Issue:

Soy in South America constitutes one of the most spectacular booms of agroindustrial commodity production in the world. It is the pinnacle of modernist agroindustrial practices, serving as a key nexus in food-feed-fuel production that underpins the agribusiness-conservationist discourse of “land sparing” through intensification. Yet soy production is implicated in multiple problems beyond deforestation, ranging from pesticide drift and contamination, social exclusion and conflicts in frontier zones, concentration of wealth and income among the largest landowners and corporations. This volume explores in depth the complex dynamics of soy production from its diverse social settings to its transnational connections, examining the politics of commodity and knowledge production, the role of the state, and the reach of corporate power in everyday life across soy landscapes in South America. Ultimately, the collection encourages us to search and struggle for agroecological alternatives through which we may overcome the pitfalls of this massive transnational capitalist agroindustry.

NEW: Routledge Handbook of Food and Nutrition Security

9781138817197The Routledge Handbook of Food and Nutrition Security has just been published.

The Handbook was edited by Bill Pritchard, Rodomiro Ortiz and Meera Shekar and includes great contributions.

The concept of food and nutrition security has evolved and risen to the top of the international policy agenda over the last decade. Yet it is a complex and multi-faceted issue, requiring a broad and inter-disciplinary perspective for full understanding. This Handbook represents the most comprehensive compilation of our current knowledge of food and nutrition security from a global perspective. It is organized to reflect the wide scope of the contents, its four sections corresponding to the accepted current definitional frameworks prevailing in the work of multilateral agencies and mainstream scholarship.

The first section addresses the struggles and progression of ideas and debates about the subject in recent years. The other sections focus on three key themes: how food has been, is and should be made available, including by improvements in agricultural productivity; the ways in which politico-economic and social arenas have shaped access to food; and the effects of food and nutrition systems in addressing human health, known as food utilisation. Overall, the volume synthesizes a vast field of information drawn from agriculture, soil science, climatology, economics, sociology, human and physical geography, the nutrition and health sciences, environmental science and development studies.

For more information, including a discount code! check out this PDF Routledge Handbook of Food and Nutrition Security (2)