Agriculture  |  Publications  |  17.07.2011

Re-framing the great food debate: The case for sustainable food

A report from the New Economics Foundation which sets out a notion of sustainable food which could serve as the basis of an agenda for action with the objective of re-orienting the food system so that its explicit objective is to enhance well-being, and as such is both fairer and greener.

It is now apparent that the notion of ‘sustainable food’ has important advantages over local food for framing the next phase of the debate. The report defines sustainable food as food associated with high levels of well-being, social justice, stewardship and system resilience. A focus on sustainable food is particularly attractive because it provides a basis for a holistic approach to the challenge of re-making the food system. Issues around well-being, social justice, stewardship and system resilience arise throughout the food system – in production, processing, manufacture, transportation, retail, preparation and waste disposal – and for producers, workers and consumers, whether they are located in the EU or abroad.

The final section of this report argues that the notion of sustainable food can serve as the basis of an agenda for action with the objective of re-orienting the food system so that its explicit objective is to enhance well-being, and as such is both fairer and greener. The proposition underlying this agenda for action is that the transition towards more sustainable food must go hand-in-hand with fundamental changes in where and how we live and work, our family and neighbourhood interactions and consumption patterns. In the coming years, these changes will be driven by three main factors: the imperative to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; peak oil; and the increasing realisation that well-being, social justice and security are ill-served by an economic system that caters to a privileged few while placing huge burdens on the poor and on the world’s ecosystems.

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