What do policy and food systems researchers have to say about using policy and scientific advice in transforming food systems? Food systems are complex systems and it can be difficult to ensure success and avoid trade-offs. However, taking a systems view is rarely enough to avoid this. In the context of uncertainty, science does not always provide clear answers. How can we move forward? In this piece, Abigail Muscat reviews some of the latest research on policy solutions and presents three key lessons for driving sustainable change. She argues we should avoid the traps of ignoring unacknowledged assumptions, ignoring multiple viewpoints and sticking to a singular framing of food systems.
2021 is a big year for sustainability policy, with several major climate conferences on the horizon. In the run-up to this autumn’s COP26 and UN Food Systems Summit meetings, we’re sitting down with some of the world’s leading sustainability scholars to get their perspective on what these conferences can achieve and how the public can push for better sustainability outcomes. In our first interview, we spoke with Professor Sir Charles Godfray, director of the Oxford Martin School.
If you grow tomatoes on your balcony, keep a basil plant on your windowsill or try out home hydroponics – you’re participating in urban agriculture. From pot plants to more intensive subsistence farming within urban boundaries, urban agriculture can reduce food miles from farm to table, cut carbon emissions and fight food poverty; offer avenues to more local employment and improve the health and wellbeing of city residents; and protect biodiversity, from plants to bees and birds.
Professor Vaclav Smil has made a career of digging into the numbers behind sustainable development and environmental challenges. We reached out to him to talk about the challenges of food system change, the effects of COVID-19 on meat prices, and what we as consumers can — and can’t — do to push for a more sustainable food system.
It’s a term that comes up a lot in sustainability discourse – we talk about the sustainability of food systems or about the pressure they put on planetary boundaries. But what exactly are ‘food systems’?