This paper, co-authored by Jeroen Candel of TABLE, reflects on how to improve the interface between science and policy in the global food system. It discusses the recent finding of a European Commission report that there is a gap in the global food systems landscape for a platform that integrates and coordinates food systems knowledge, and questions how such a platform might operate effectively.
The paper stresses that knowledge on food systems comes from many valid sources, not just science, for example Indigenous and local knowledge systems, but that it is difficult to ensure equitable treatment because of inequities between stakeholders. Any new platform must ensure inclusivity, otherwise it could “risk promoting a narrow and regressive understanding” of food systems.
Global food systems governance relies on more than just scientific input, say the authors. Coordination between different governance bodies is also important. One suggestion is that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity should include targets for food systems sustainability. The current fragmentation of food governance means that any new food knowledge platform would have to carefully consider which governance processes and audiences it would engage, to ensure that its outputs actually support positive change in the food system.
Food systems require urgent transformations to meet multiple demands of food and nutrition security, justice, livelihoods, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. These transformations require knowledge on the multiple dimensions of food systems (e.g., production, trade, consumption, culture, human and animal health, livelihoods and employment, food waste, and environmental sustainability), as well as a mechanism to translate these insights and analyses into governance processes. Drawing on the role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in global climate policy, an equivalent platform has been proposed to support food system transformations (1). These calls have gained momentum in the context of the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit (FSS) (2). We reflect on the science-policy landscape for food systems and discuss requirements for and challenges of a science-policy platform, focused on addressing social, cultural, and political dimensions of food and challenges in food systems governance.
Turnhout, E., Duncan, J., Candel, J., Maas, T.Y., Roodhof, A.M., DeClerck, F. and Watson, R.T., 2021. Do we need a new science-policy interface for food systems?. Science, 373(6559), pp.1093-1095.
Read the full paper here. See also the TABLE explainer What can be done to shift eating patterns in healthier, more sustainable directions?