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Food is no longer produced and eaten in one place. Instead, it has become transformed into a commodity which is bought, processed and sold (and often bought, processed and sold, again and again) in an industrialised and globally embedded system. This system is facing a number of crises—for the environment, for producers and for consumers—resulting in and from vulnerabilities to shocks and stresses at numerous points in this complex system. However, not only do these crises arise from dysfunctions within the food system, they are attributable to wider determinants. At the micro level, issues such as household resources, the health status of householders and level of education will impact on access to food and individuals’ abilities to fully utilize that food. At a macro level, drivers such as environmental change, biofuel demand, trade and market structures, emergent technologies, urbanisation and social protection policies all have an impact on food and nutrition security (FNS) (Pieters et al., 2013). Consequently, the current situation is one in which FNS cannot be guaranteed for all and food and nutrition insecurity has, in recent years, increased even in development countries. This is exemplified by the fact that almost 11% of people in the EU are living in food insecurity (Loopstra et al., 2015).
Although the European Union (EU) officially supports a systemic sustainable production and consumption approach, actual EU policies appear to have been immune to this principle. This is arguably due to a conflation of ‘agricultural policy’ with ‘food policy’. This is problematic because while the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) forms a corner stone of all EU policies it has been criticised as inadequate for tackling food system sustainability. This is primarily due to its neglect of other aspects of the food system such as environmental and climate change concerns, as well as perspectives on healthy diets. In reality, the food we eat is derived from a system which is shaped by a range of distinct policies—including those on agriculture, food safety, public health, trade, environmental protection and employment—developed in silos, in isolation from each other. These policies have emerged incrementally in parallel with CAP but to date, there has yet to be a single, integrated systems-wide food policy in Europe to tackle FNS as a systems-wide challenge.
It is for this reason that TRANSMANGO sought to develop recommendations for policy to foster food and nutrition security in Europe and our main recommendation is for the design of an EU-wide food policy. TRANSMANGO findings point out that in order to achieve this there is clear need for:
- more integrated and systemic thinking about our food systems across the environmental, community, economy, social and health policy fields;
- the addressing of a range of interconnected vulnerabilities which have led to widening gaps between food sustainability and food security at all levels (individual, household, social class, local, regional, national);
- expansion of the range of interested stakeholders and ‘policy community’ players who regard the food question as central to their mission.
These findings translate into five strategic recommendations detailed in the following sections. The first recommendation is the most general in its message and those which follow are more specific. In addition, the first recommendation (the need to recognise food and nutrition security as a systems-wide challenge) is inherently embedded in Recommendations 2-5. Although these policy recommendations address primarily European policy actors and certainly require further concretisation at national, regional and local scale, it is believed that as a whole these represent a set of critical ingredients for moving towards a more comprehensive and consistent food policy in Europe.
The TRANSMANGO consortium formulates 5 policy recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: Address the multi-faceted nature of contemporary food and nutrition security vulnerabilities by developing a comprehensive and integrated food policy for Europe which recognises these challenges as systems-wide
- Recommendation 2: Incorporate broad social justice aims into food policy-making
- Recommendation 3: Alleviate and mitigate persistent policy fragmentation
- Recommendation 4: Stimulate and substantiate integrated capacity-building
- Recommendation 5: Recognise and embrace Europe’s diverse food contexts