Knowledge for better food systems

Tara Garnett: Three perspectives on sustainable food security

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett has a new paper published in the Journal of Cleaner ProductionIn it, she looks at the very different ways in which stakeholders conceptualise the food sustainability problem and what constitutes a desirable ‘solution.’  She argues that these different views are underpinned by different values and ideologies and shows how different stakeholders select and interpret the evidence from life cycle assessment (LCA) to argue their positions.  

It concludes by saying “Values matter, and they cannot be ignored if progress is to be made. Everybody wants ‘sustainability’ and an end to hunger but not everyone has the same vision of what the solution – the good life - might look like. The ethical perspectives people bring to the food sustainability problem influence both their use of the evidence and the solutions they propose and these often lead to stakeholders arguing at cross-purposes, the result being conflict, or inaction. Greater understanding of what underlies the different approaches to the food sustainability problem can help shed light on why stakeholders disagree, where there are genuine misunderstandings, and where common ground among them may be possible and ways forward agreed.”

Abstract as follows

Achieving food system sustainability is a global priority but there are different views on how it might be achieved. Broadly three perspectives are emerging, defined here as: efficiency oriented, demand restraint and food system transformation. These reflect different conceptualisations on what is practically achievable, and what is desirable, underpinned by different values and ideologies about the role of technology, our relationship with nature and fundamentally what is meant by a ‘good life.’ This paper describes these emerging perspectives and explores their underlying values; highlights LCA’s role in shaping these perspectives; and considers how LCA could be oriented to clarify thinking and advance policy-relevant knowledge. It argues that more work is needed to understand the values underlying different approaches to the food sustainability problem. This can shed light on why stakeholders disagree, where there are genuine misunderstandings, and where common ground is possible and ways forward agreed.

Citation: Garnett T., Three perspectives on sustainable food security, Journal of Cleaner Production, 2013, Doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.07.045

You can read the article in the Journal of Cleaner Production here or download a pdf here

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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