Transitioning to a Sustainable Food System with IPES

In an exciting development, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) has adopted a set of 10 principles to guide the transition to sustainable food systems. This builds upon their May 2015 publication and first report The New Science of Sustainable Food Systems: Overcoming Barriers to Food Systems Reform.

IPES on food systems
IPES on food systems (from IPES first report May 2015)

Launching the 10 principles earlier this week, IPES-Food co-chairs Olivier De Schutter and Olivia Yambi said: “The shift to sustainable food systems is urgently needed. But this urgency must not lead us to rush headlong into solutions that resolve one problem while worsening another.”

Olivier de Schutter at the ARC2020 Good Food Good Farming conference Brussels February 2015
Olivier de Schutter at the ARC2020 Good Food Good Farming conference Brussels February 2015

“We must think in terms of food systems as a whole, paying attention to the dynamics and power relations underpinning them, and seeking systemic levers of change.”

The 10 principles include 5 principles to shape the sustainable food systems of the future, and 5 principles for the types of knowledge and analysis that are required to support this transition.

A truncated version of the ten principles is below

Holistic & systemic. Hunger, obesity, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, the pressures on smallholder livelihoods, cultural erosion, workforce exploitation and other problems in food systems are deeply inter-connected.
Power-sensitive. Analysis of food systems must not ignore the differential power of actors to influence decision-making and to set the terms of debate for reform
Transdisciplinary. Knowledge must be co-produced with farmers, food industry workers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and other social actors and movements who hold unique understanding of food systems
Critically engaged. Producer organizations, retailers and other actors in food chains must be fully engaged in defining and developing sustainable food systems
Independent. Science and knowledge cannot be made to fit within the parameters set by dominant actors
Sustainable in all dimensions. Sustainability must be the benchmark of food systems reform, and must include environmental, health, social, cultural and economic dimensions. Sustainable food systems must deliver diets that are nutritious, affordable and culturally acceptable, and must provide food security without compromising the ability of future generations to do so
Diverse & resilient. Food systems must be fundamentally reoriented around principles of diversity, multi-functionality and resilience.
Democratic & empowering. Decision-making in food systems must be democratized in ways that empower disadvantaged actors and help to realize the human rights of all, including the right to food
Socially & technologically innovative. The transition to sustainable food systems requires complex and holistic change processes in which social innovation plays as big a role as technological innovation, and extends to food distribution and retail practices, as well as modes of production.
Adequately measured. New indicators of progress must be developed in order to capture the benefits of equitable, resilient, diverse, nutrient-rich food systems in ways that productivity growth, net calorie availability and other existing measures do not.

These ten principles are distilled from their first report, published in May 2015. This focused on The challenge “to produce a joined-up picture of food systems and their political economy, and to do so in ways that reach across the scientific disciplines, and reach beyond the traditional bounds of the scientific community.”

The report points out that “initiatives at the science-policy interface have struggled to capture the totality of food systems”:  “sustainable  intensification” and  “food security” are signalled out as two. A more holistic approach, one engaging political economy and practitioners, all the while encompassing a broad approach to sustainability is emphasised:

Sustainability must also be defined in all of its  dimensions, in line with the emerging definition of sustainable diets that are: protective and respectful of biodiversity and  ecosystems, with optimal use of natural and  human resources supportive of food and nutrition security culturally acceptable accessible, economically fair and affordable nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy, for  present and future generations.

We in ARC2020 find much of this exciting. This approach to sustainability chimes especially well with the idea of Food Sovereignty, which we have covered extensively. And the thinking, as outlined in the ten principles and the report on sustainable food systems, the areas of emphasis and consideration, the priorities, is very much in harmony with our approach to agroecology and our roadmap for agri-food policy towards 2020.

Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 185 Articles
DR. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activité professionnelle. Il peut néanmoins admirer par la fenêtre de son bureau les mésanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchés au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cœur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisés, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant à la communauté. Les jours où il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant également des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne également des cours sur le Master en coopératives, agroalimentaire et développement durable à l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majorité de son temps de travail à l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date à laquelle l’Irlande a assuré la présidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est là qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce à sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommé rédacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des médias sociaux, aide à définir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois même rédige un article pour le site web.  À l’époque où on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, où il a aidé des ONG irlandaises de commerce équitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – à raconter leur histoire.  Il se peut que ces jours-là reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de préférer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilités de bénévolat dans la communauté dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.