In this bi-monthly post, we highlight key resources, insights, and contributions that span the field of food governance. Far from comprehensive, it reflects the resources that we have come across and found valuable. If you have something for us to highlight, please get in touch (jessica(dot)duncan (at)

COVID-19 and food systems

CCRI. 2020. Covid-19 and sustainable food systems: a shared learning resource

Library of resources related to food systems and COVID-19.  Covers topics including: Uncertainty, pragmatism and the futilities of control; Post-normal pandemics;  Modelling, social science and animal health links;  Contexualising Coronavirus Geographically; and more.


The Club of Rome. 2020. A System Change Compass: Implementing the European Green Deal in a time of recovery

The report is centred on a System Change Compass: this describes the transformations required to change the drivers of our socio-economic system. It focuses on economic development as the main driver of increasing natural resource extraction and consumption. Linked to the Compass are 30 necessary policy orientations at the system level. These orientations are not prescriptively detailed; they offer guidance, indicating the direction to follow. Additionally, we introduce a new system-based logic founded on societal needs – unlike the sectors conventionally used to describe the economy. We outline 8 economic ecosystems, following the example of ecological ecosystems and functioning within the safe operating space of our planetary boundaries. The economic ecosystems are designed to deliver specific resourceintensive societal needs (healthy food, built environment, intermodal mobility and consumer goods) or to support that delivery (nature-based, energy, circular materials, and information and processing). Each has subsystems: a nonexhaustive list of economic opportunities consistent with the Compass orientations and based on an economy founded on societal needs.

IPES-Food and the European Centre for Development Policy Management. 2020. Briefing note: EU trade policy for sustainable food systems

The European Union (EU) has committed to supporting the global transition to more sustainable food systems. As the world’s largest food importer, the EU can use its trade policies and agreements to stimulate and incentivise more sustainable practices by its trade partners. In this brief, we provide specific recommendations on how the EU can do so. Building on lessons from existing initiatives, the EU should adopt sector-specific regulations and sustainability standards to promote imports of sustainable food, and restrict the import of illegally or unsustainably manufactured products. Further, real change can only be achieved if the EU makes sustainable food systems an explicit objective of its free trade agreements, negotiates relevant sustainability provisions in these agreements and monitors efficiently the impact of these provisions on food systems. At the multilateral level, the World Trade Organization and the upcoming 2021 Food Systems Summit can be good platforms for the EU to build alliances with like-minded countries to push for global trade rules that promote sustainable food systems. To be effective, these efforts need to be based on a good understanding of the various ways trade affects food systems. They also need to be based on inclusive consultation involving potentially marginalised food systems actors and civil society representatives, and to be complemented by other relevant policies, including on investment and development cooperation.

Peyraud and MacLeod  (2020) Future of EU livestock: How to contribute to a sustainable agricultural sector?

The physical and financial scale of EU livestock production means that it has far-reaching environmental, economic and social consequences. Livestock production is an important part of the economy and vitality in many regions including some marginal rural areas. Its social importance extends beyond employment; many of the valued landscapes and cuisines of the EU have evolved along with livestock production. It also has negative impacts on the environment, through the consumptions of finite resources (land, water and energy) and the production of physical flows (such as nutrients, greenhouse gases, and toxic substances) that can impact on biodiversity, human health and ultimately the functioning of the ecosystems upon which we depend for food production. Livestock also produces a range of other goods and services.

Scientific Articles

Klerkx and Begemann (2020). Supporting food systems transformation: The what, why, who, where and how of mission-oriented agricultural innovation systems

Agricultural innovation systems has become a popular approach to understand and facilitate agricultural innovation. However, there is often no explicit reflection on the role of agricultural innovation systems in food systems transformation and how they relate to transformative concepts and visions (e.g. agroecology, digital agriculture, Agriculture 4.0, AgTech and FoodTech, vertical agriculture, protein transitions). To support such reflection we elaborate on the importance of a mission-oriented perspective on agricultural innovation systems. We review pertinent literature from innovation, transition and policy sciences, and argue that a mission-oriented agricultural innovation systems (MAIS) approach can help understand how agricultural innovation systems at different geographical scales develop to enable food systems transformation, in terms of forces, catalysts, and barriers in transformative food systems change. Focus points can be in the mapping of missions and sub-missions of MAIS within and across countries, or understanding the drivers, networks, governance, theories of change, evolution and impacts of MAIS. Future work is needed on further conceptual and empirical development of MAIS and its connections with existing food systems transformation frameworks. Also, we argue that agricultural systems scholars and practitioners need to reflect on how the technologies and concepts they work on relate to MAIS, how these represent a particular directionality in innovation, and whether these also may support exnovation.

Mausch et al. 2020. Colliding paradigms and trade-offs: Agri-food systems and value chain interventions

Managing trade-offs for ‘do no harm’ outcomes is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and requires an understanding of impact processes within agri-food systems. However, agricultural programming continues to rely on single point interventions framed by earlier development paradigms at odds with the systemic change goals of the SDGs. The implications of these colliding paradigms are explored using an agri-food systems lens to highlight trade-offs in interventions for pro-poor value chains, nutrition-sensitive value chains and greening of value chains. Analysis reveals problematic assumptions and limited supporting evidence and points to conflicting logics and targets that require societal negotiations about goals and priorities. Steps are outlined to embed a ‘do no harm’ principle in intervention design and evaluation.

Avelino et al. 2020. Translocal empowerment in transformative social innovation networks

This paper contributes to public and academic discussions on empowerment and social innovation by conceptualizing the mechanisms of empowerment from a social psychology perspective, and empirically exploring how people are empowered through both local and transnational linkages, i.e. translocal networks. Section 2 conceptualizes empowerment as the process through which actors gain the capacity to mobilize resources to achieve a goal, building on different power theories in relation to social change, combined with self-determination theory and intrinsic motivation research. Based on that conceptualization, empirical questions are formulated to be asked about cases under study. Section 3 then provides an empirical analysis of translocal networks that work with social innovation both at the global and local level. A total of five networks are analyzed: FEBEADESIS, the Global Ecovillage Network, Impact Hub and Slow Food. The embedded cases-study approach allows an exploration of how people are empowered through the transnational networking while also zooming in on the dynamics in local initiatives. In the final section, conceptual and empirical insights are synthesized into a characterization of the mechanisms of translocal empowerment, and challenges for future research are formulated.


FIAN Belgium. 2020.  Beet the System ! Systèmes alimentaires, nutrition et santé. Reprendre en main notre alimentation !

L’alimentation est un besoin et un droit fondamental qui doit nous permettre un épanouissement physique et psychologique pour mener une vie digne et en bonne santé. Or, la globalisation du modèle agroalimentaire industriel s’est accompagnée et s’accompagne de plus en plus d’impacts négatifs sur notre santé : régimes alimentaires déséquilibrés et ultratransformés favorisant l’obésité et les maladies non-transmissibles ; aliments contaminés et propagation des épidémies ; expositions aux pollutions de l’environnement ; mauvaises conditions de travail des paysan·ne·s et travailleur·euse·s du secteur agroalimentaire engendrant des problèmes de santé ; etc. Par ailleurs le système agroalimentaire industriel est profondément marqué par les inégalités. Les populations les plus marginalisées et précarisées sont affectées de manière disproportionnées par la malnutrition sous toutes ses formes – incluant tant la sous-alimentation que la « malbouffe » et l’obésité. L’insécurité financière n’en est pas la seule cause. Le marketing agressif de l’industrie alimentaire, l’environnement alimentaire, le niveau d’éducation et le contexte psycho-social sont également des éléments déterminants à prendre en compte.

ECVC. 2020. Press Release: Cap Reform: good objectives, insufficient measures

European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) criticises the positions of the European Parliament and the European Council on the post-2020 CAP, which will not be sufficient to overcome the challenges facing farmers, European citizens and the planet. This will make it difficult to meet the objectives of the CAP and, even more so, the objectives of the European Commission in its flagship policies and strategies within the Green Deal.

Food Research Collaboration. 2020. Covid-19 Food Policy – The First Four Months

This Covid Food Policy Tracker captured food policy-in-the-making, as the English government responded to the crisis between March and July 2020. All of the policies collected have been converted into a visual story using the Flourish data visualisation platform.

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