Development of Organic Farming in Europe at the Crossroads: Looking for the Way Forward through System Archetypes Lenses

Recently a TRANSMANGO article has been published in Sustainability. It has been written by our colleagues Natalia Brzezina and Erik Mathijs together with Katharina Biely, Birgit Kopainsky, Joost Vervoort and Ariella Helfgott.

Over the last several decades, policymakers and stakeholders in the European Union (EU) have put considerable effort into increasing the adoption of organic farming, with the overall objective of its sustainable development. However, the growth of the organic sector has come with many challenges that jeopardize its sustainability. The question then is how to move organic farming in Europe forward and at the same time capitalize on its potential contribution to sustainability? Organic farming in the EU is a highly complex and dynamic food system and as such this question cannot be answered in isolation using a one-dimensional mind-set and tools of the past. In this paper, we use three system archetypes—Limits to Growth, Shifting the Burden and Eroding Goals—to sharpen our ability: (1) to analyze and anticipate difficulties in the development of organic farming in the EU under the current policy measures; and (2) to find effective ways to address these difficulties. A system archetype consists of a generic system structure that leads to unintended behavior over time and effective strategies for changing the structure into one that generates desirable behavior. The analysis reveals that in order to move forward, policymakers and stakeholders should reemphasize fundamental solutions rather than quick fixes that often generate unintended consequences. Specifically, Limits to Growth shows us that the leverage for moving organic farming out of the niche does not necessarily lie in increasing subsidies that push engines of growth, but rather in anticipating and managing its limits arising from, for instance, market dynamics or intrinsic environmental motivation. In turn, Shifting the Burden brings to attention how easily and unnoticeably the EU’s organic farming system can become dependent on third countries thereby undermining its own sustainability. Finally, Eroding Goals highlights that is it important to continuously improve regulatory standards based on an external frame of reference, as otherwise organic farming in the EU will continue on its trajectory towards conventionalization.

More details ? Please follow this link.

Starting up a Common Food Strategy in Europe

by : Natalia Brzezina, KU Leuven

On the 9th of February, the TRANSMANGO Consortium organized a European policy workshop entitled “Towards a Sustainable and Resilient Food and Nutrition Security in Europe (FNS)”. A number of high level experts from across different areas of the European food system gathered in Brussels to formulate building blocks of a Common Food Strategy for a more coherent landscape of EU policies allowing innovative food practices to thrive and lead to sustainable and resilient FNS. In addition with this workshop our ambition was to start up a long-term platform fostering the Common Food Strategy and offering a unique space for different EU actors to interact with social innovators throughout Europe and to work together on concrete solutions for European food system challenges.

The workshop itself was a highly interactive participatory meeting that consisted of four consecutive sessions, namely: (1) formulation of recommendations to tackle food system challenges in a coherent way, (2) examination of the recommendations in terms of impact on local practices and confirmation with their design principles and (3) check of the robustness of the recommendations the eight TRANSMANGO scenarios at the European level.

The starting point for the workshop were the following five most pertaining challenges of the European food system: (1) persisting food insecurity among vulnerable groups, (2) rising prevalence of obesity and other food-related diseases, (3) substantial food losses and waste, (4) deteriorating natural resources and (5) mounting pressure on human resources. These challenges are influenced by a wide variety of policy frameworks including agriculture and rural development, health and food safety, environment, employment and social affairs, international trade and many more. The interconnectedness of the different policy frameworks increases the risks of inconsistencies, i.e., interventions in one area that undermine efforts in another. Thus before the workshop we identified the inconsistencies through interviews in which we asked the experts to identify the current policies that aim to address and/or that unintendedly aggravate the five systemic challenges. Based on the results, during the first session the experts formulated key recommendations for effectively tackling the systemic challenges and at the same time overcoming the existing inconsistencies.

The second session started with a presentation of the extensive and diverse TRANSMANGO research on local food practices. The local practices ranged from new approaches to regional food governance, initiatives that create new links between consumers and producers, to city-level strategies for urban agriculture in the context of circular economy and many more. This research has led to formulation of the following five key design principles:

  • Re-enforcing food entitlements of traditional and newly emerging vulnerable groups

Example: the case of FNS in remote areas in Spain identifies that private entrepreneurship (food vendors) and not just food assistance can address the problem of access to food

  • Re-connecting sustainability and health

Example: Provisioning or procurement of balanced, fresh and nutritional food to school children does not only serve to nourish children better and healthier, but also to provide small farmers a market; an outlet for their food.

  • Re-linking food systems that foster urban-rural synergies

Example: The Voedselteams and Community Supported Agriculture cases in Flanders specifically aim to re-connect production and consumption through active involvement of consumers in the design of the food provisioning system. This can take the shape of among others sharing risks and through self-harvesting in the case of CSA.

  • Re-balancing social-technological engineering

Example: Strongly ICT-based logistical improvements of short food chain initiatives in Belgium and the UK or introduction of personalized electronic food assistance cards in Tuscany.

  • Re-thinking resilience building

Example: Italian and Dutch food entitlement initiatives initially focused primarily on establishing close relations with food waste reduction, but in time also started to interlink with urban food movements and/or urban-rural synergy development and as such increasingly also actively engage

Following the presentation experts discussed their recommendations in terms of the design principles for local practices. Specifically, they considered whether any changes or additional recommendations are needed to support the local practices better.

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In the third session, eight diverse TRANSMANGO scenarios were used by the experts to test recommendations formulated so far against challenging alternative futures. The analysis allowed the experts to assess and increase robustness and feasibility of the proposed recommendations.

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In the closing session as well as along the whole workshop, the experts discusses also the need and form of a Common Food Strategy Platform.

The insights provided by experts in the workshop in combination with the design principles are a basis for European transition pathways that will be quantified using the GLOBIOM model in the context of the eight contextual scenarios.

Outcomes of the workshop and GLOBIOM modelling will feed into a TRANSMANGO Policy Brief outlining the Common Food Strategy. The Policy Brief will be developed between March and October 2017 by TRANSMANGO researchers in a collaborative process with experts assembled within the platform and policymakers at the European level and presented at the final TRANSMANGO Conference taking place on the 1st of December 2017.

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Promising insights into local pathways to food and nutrition security

A major part of the TRANSMANGO project, was the interrogation of locally enacted pathways to address food system vulnerabilities and ensure food and nutrition security. Although food system vulnerabilities have been subject to a variety of global and national interventions, programmes and policies, these have not been able to fully address these challenges.

The starting point for WP6 was the assumption that food systems cannot be understood as uniform. ‘Local’ actors too attempt to address food system vulnerabilities within their locality and in doing so may offer promising and resilient practices. The recently published local food and nutrition security (FNS) pathways reports showcase a rich diversity of practices found at the local level and can serve as insights for policy-makers at EU and local level. The cases have been synthesised in D6.4.

Continue reading “Promising insights into local pathways to food and nutrition security”

A food dystopia: Is Britain sleepwalking into a crisis?

Terry Marsden and Kevin Morgan, Cardiff University

Back to the future?

The historical ability for the UK state to periodically create self-inflicted harm upon its own food system seems to be raising its head again as the country triggers Article 50 to remove itself from the European Union. We should remember that the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, opening up the UK to cheap food imports (based indeed on subsidised imperial preferences to its colonies), in exchange for colonial penetration of its financial and manufacturing interests and sectors, created the conditions for a long- running agricultural and rural depression in the UK, lasting well into the 1930s. That Imperial regime of ‘free trade’ created much harm to the British food system, its rural areas, and indeed shaped a dependent food diet based upon imports from colonies and other Logo_brexit_new_size2.pngEuropean nations (like Danish  Bacon and Dutch eggs and pork). What is ironically labelled as the ‘full English’ breakfast up and down the land derives from the successful import penetration of its component parts from overseas. The decline in our food-based infrastructure was so bad that, by the onset of the 1st World War, Lloyd George had to go ‘cap in hand’ to the likes of Henry Ford to plead concessions on building his tractors on these shores in order to resolve food and rural labour shortages. Even by 1941 the national farm survey found the agricultural situation in a parlous state, even before the U-boat campaign further disrupted food supplies and led to a  period of prolonged public food rationing until 1954. Continue reading “A food dystopia: Is Britain sleepwalking into a crisis?”

TRANSMANGO GAME JAMS

By Ina van der Brug (HKU)
University of the Arts Utrecht (HKU) is organizing a series of game jams throughout Europe for the EU TRANSMANGO project, using games to help spark the imagination of ordinary people, decision-makers, people working in the world of food, students, children and anyone else you can think of. We want to harness the unique potential of games to challenge, to inspire, to engage and help people explore and understand what food could mean in the future, and how it could work. At the end of 2017 during the end event of the TRANSMANGO project the most appealing concepts will be presented. Teams of the Glasgow Gamejam, Florence gamestorm, Utrecht Gamejam and the Brussels gamestorm will present their gameconcepts.
For more information please look at: http://www.jamtoday.eu

Voedsel in 2050

Wetenschapsweek 2016 – Voedsel in 2050

Tessa Avermaete en Tjitske Anna Zwart

In oktober vindt traditiegetrouw de wetenschapsweek plaats. Over heel Vlaanderen maken jongeren kennis met wetenschap. Dit jaar trokken ook wij onze stoute schoenen aan en waagden het om onze deuren open te zetten voor kinderen van de lagere school. Op maandag 25 en vrijdag 28 oktober verwelkomden we leerlingen van de laatste graad van basisschool De Zevensprong. Samen met de leerlingen wierpen we een blik op Voedsel in 2050.

unnamedHoe zal de voedselmarkt eruit zien in 2050? Wat als de opwarming van de aarde een probleem vormt voor onze landbouw? Gaan we dan over 35 jaar onze eetgewoonten veranderen? En wat als technologische vooruitgang het mogelijk maakt om eten via drones aan huis te leveren? Wat als de Belgische bevolking heel snel gaat groeien, bijvoorbeeld door de toestroom van vluchtelingen? Zal dat een invloed hebben op hoe wij eten? Continue reading “Voedsel in 2050”

Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting Boston, April 5-9th 2017

Understanding challenges and opportunities for future food and nutrition security

Bridin Carroll

***EXTENDED DEADLINE***

It is well established that the food system is globally integrated and that this system is subject to a wide range of drivers of change including climate, economic concentration and market structure, financial power, resource competition, marginalization, property rules, geo-political shifts, consumer preferences, consumption patterns and nutritional transition. These drivers of change affect how food flows through this system, at all stages from production to consumption (Yakovleva, 2007; Tansey, 1994). It is important to obtain a comprehensive picture of the effects of these drivers, as well as to systematically assess the vulnerabilities of the food system (pressures, hazards, shocks and stresses), in the context of socio-economic, behavioural, technological, institutional and agro-ecological change. To do so will enhance understandings of the new challenges and opportunities that the food sector will face in the future (Ericksen, 2007; Maxwell and Slater, 2003). Due to the intersectional nature of food –operating in biophysical, socio-cultural, economic, political and technological contexts- food system vulnerabilities should be assessed from a range of perspectives (Sobal et al., 1998; Tansey, 1994). Continue reading “Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting Boston, April 5-9th 2017”

Brexit: Towards building a new consensus for an Integrated Food and Rural Development Policy?

TransmangoJust as increasing calls and debates occur regarding the need for a more integrated and comprehensive Food and Agricultural policy across Europe we now have the Brexit result, which  whilst not changing the urgency for the need  to debate the shape of European policy beyond 2020, certainly adds another dimension and potential ‘opportunity space’ for such developments. Whilst specific instruments and policy programmes might indeed increasingly vary across Europe, this result does not quell the need to debate what sort of founding and common principles upon which such policies should be based.

Here I would like to set out some of the issues and reactions to the Brexit vote for the agri-food policy arena, some of which I presented and discussed at the recent UK Food Research Consortium held at City University, London in July. I also draw upon the recent policy paper we have written, entitled ‘Food Policy and Public Policy’ for the Welsh Minister for Farming and Food [1]. In addition these arguments here draw upon the research and discussions associated with the ongoing (and increasingly policy relevant) EU funded research project, TRANSMANGO [2] . Continue reading “Brexit: Towards building a new consensus for an Integrated Food and Rural Development Policy?”

Draagt Voedselteams bij aan een duurzamer voedselsysteem?

Sinds februari 2014 werkt KU Leuven in twee onderzoeksprojecten samen met Voedselteams: Food4Sustainability en TRANSMANGO. Beide projecten hebben als doel oplossingen te vinden voor een transitie naar een meer duurzaam voedselsysteem. In vorige blogs klik hierhier of hier werden eerdere outputs besproken. Meer specifiek onderzochten we of Voedselteams de capaciteit heeft om bij te dragen aan een transitie naar een duurzaam voedselsysteem in Vlaanderen. In deze blog bespreken we enkele elementen van het antwoord op deze vraag.

Voedselketen
Voedselteams was een van de eerste korte keten initiatieven in Vlaanderen en is sinds haar oprichting in 1996 uitgegroeid tot een vaste waarde in het ‘voedsellandschap’ van Vlaanderen. De organisatie was een van de koplopers in het aanduiden van problemen in de voedselketen, en het laten zien van het belang van het produceren en consumeren  Continue reading “Draagt Voedselteams bij aan een duurzamer voedselsysteem?”

TRANSMANGO game-storm

Doe mee aan de TRANSMANGO game-storm op 22 september van 10.00 tot 16.00 uur bij de KU Leuven!

TRANSMANGO is een onderzoeksproject over voedselzekerheid en, meer specifiek, de overgang naar een duurzamere voedselketen – van productie tot consumptie, en alles wat daarbij, daartussen en daarna komt kijken. Het project kijkt naar de invloed van consumentengedrag op voedselzekerheid. Hoe vangen we veranderende behoeftes van consumenten op zo’n manier op dat alle gevraagde voedsel wel degelijk geleverd kan worden? Er wordt ook gekeken naar beleid. Met welke wetten, regels of sturing zorgen we ervoor dat de hele voedselketen goed om kan gaan met die veranderende behoeftes? Continue reading “TRANSMANGO game-storm”