Resilient or Transformative? Contemporary Food Systems within an Evolving Policy Landscape

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X). This special issue belongs to the section "Landscape Ecology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2023) | Viewed by 13791

Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
1. Iteras–Research Centre for Sustainability and Territorial Innovation, 70125 Bari, Italy
2. Department of Civil Engineering Sciences and Architecture (DiCAR), Polytechnic University of Bari, Via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: urban sustainability; ecological planning and evaluation; civic engagement in urban policy making; sustainable land use, urban sprawl, and soil sealing; open spatial data science and policy; urban and environmental commons, social innovation, and urban regeneration; urban food policy; climate change adaptation and spatial planning; strategic environmental assessment
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Via E. Fermi 2479, 21027 Ispra, VA, Italy
Interests: ecosystem services; land use science; spatial planning; agriculture; agri-environmental indicators

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Faced with ever-growing world population and rising urbanization rates, contemporary food systems are expected to yield increasing produce of better quality, while their ability to deliver on resource efficiency and distributive equity is being constantly put into question. The very notion of the food system calls into play the many intertwined activities related to the production, processing, distribution, sale, preparation, and consumption of food, and requires an interdisciplinary and pluralistic understanding of economic dynamics, ecological processes, and social practices.

The ensuing frictions spur responses as diverse as calls for degrowth and conscious consumption, innovations in precision farming, sustainable agricultural intensification, or a more fundamental systems redesign following agroecological principles. Food and agriculture have taken a central role in sustainable development because they help focus on selected social practices and economic sectors while retaining a far-reaching integrative power. With respect to the sustainability discourse, these features of food are reflected, among many other processes, in the water–food–energy nexus approach, in the UN Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals (especially Goal 2 “Zero Hunger” and Goals 12 and 15) and in the EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy – adopted in 2020 along with the new Biodiversity Strategy to underpin the new Green Deal.

Underlying most inquiries and policies on the role of food systems is the idea that they must be radically transformed if they are to progress towards sustainability. However, at the same time, a deeper awareness of the uncertainty that affects long-term planning scenarios is gaining ground, and crises of diverse nature are drawing increasing attention to more reactive properties of socioecological systems of the like of adaptative capacity and, more recently, resilience. Hence, there is a perceived need to ensure that key social processes, economic activities, and ecological functions endure and persist in the face of shock, stress, or shifts. The challenges to be faced are as diverse as climate change, last decade’s financial crisis, and the contemporary health emergency triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, food systems find themselves in the uneasy position of being blamed for not changing fast enough to redress their current unsustainability while, at the same time, they are the target of key prevention, preparedness, and emergency policies to avoid disruption in food production and distribution, i.e., to maintain food systems as much as possible in their current configuration.

Another pivotal aspect of food systems is that they feature a marked territorial component. Not only do agricultural areas compete with other potential land uses (e.g., built-up land or forests), but each food system entails different farming practices and landscape arrangements which significantly affect the capacity of agricultural landscapes to be net consumers or suppliers of ecosystem services. Valuable cultural landscapes in different areas of the world are the result of long-lasting farming practices embedded in specific food systems, now often under threat from land abandonment or excessive intensification. Following the global reach of food value chains, changes in one component may trigger significant territorial transformation in other – even remote – parts of the food system, e.g., the increasing demand of fashionable foods in world cities can alter rural livelihood and land use patterns in the Global South. On the other hand, the viability of local food networks and alternative value chains may critically depend on innovations in territorial governance arrangements at regional and national levels.

Against this complex background, the aim of this Special Issue is to gather valuable contributions that would advance knowledge and learning on sustainable food systems and practices by investigating the role of both well-established policies (e.g., agricultural policies, rural development programs, spatial strategies) and innovative initiatives (urban food policies, climate adaptation plans, etc.) – with special regard to the implications for land use change, agroecosystem management, landscape conservation, and territorial governance.

Papers submitted to this Special Issue could therefore focus on the following topics, as well as on other relevant issues: 

- The handling of spatial and territorial aspects in contemporary urban food policies (e.g., as developed in the framework of the 2015 Milan Urban Food Policy Pact), both at a local level and within global food supply chains (e.g., telecoupling);

- The protection and enhancement of agroecosystem services in spatial and landscape planning and related policymaking processes;

- The links between food poverty in highly industrialized countries and food insecurity in less developed countries (for instance, in terms of land grabbing or food justice);

- The interlinkages between redesign of agroecosystems according to more ecological principles and the broader spatial organization and territorial planning of communities and regions;

- Critical reflections on, or examples of applications of, socioecological concepts with an explicit spatial component of the like of green and blue infrastructure to support local food systems;

- The synergies and conflicts between new resilience- or climate adaptation-oriented planning approaches and rural development programs;

- The revival of local food security strategies in industrialized countries (addressing, among other issues, agriculture’s economic vulnerability and land abandonment in contrast to land take and soil sealing);

- The integrative potential of food-centered territorial visions in spatial planning as compared to more articulated (e.g., the water–land–energy and food nexus) or all-encompassing frameworks (including the UN Sustainable Development Goals). 

Dr. Alessandro Bonifazi
Dr. Carlo Rega
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • urban food policy
  • sustainable food systems
  • territorial governance
  • urban–rural linkages
  • spatial planning

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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23 pages, 3606 KiB  
Article
Linking Flood Risk Mitigation and Food Security: An Analysis of Land-Use Change in the Metropolitan Area of Rome
by Davide Marino, Margherita Palmieri, Angelo Marucci, Mariangela Soraci, Antonio Barone and Silvia Pili
Land 2023, 12(2), 366; https://doi.org/10.3390/land12020366 - 29 Jan 2023
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2364
Abstract
Land consumption and climate change have intensified natural disasters in urban areas. In response to these emergencies under the European 2030 Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals have been established to improve ecosystem protection and increase resilience and adaptation to natural disasters globally (Goal 13 [...] Read more.
Land consumption and climate change have intensified natural disasters in urban areas. In response to these emergencies under the European 2030 Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals have been established to improve ecosystem protection and increase resilience and adaptation to natural disasters globally (Goal 13 “Climate action” and Goal 15 “Life on land”). In order to implement governance tools appropriately, it is necessary to know the relationships among the drivers, the changes in the state of urban ecosystems and agro-ecosystems, and the impact on the supply of goods and services at spatial and temporal scales. In this paper, Land-Use and Land-Cover Changes (LULCCs) in the metropolitan area of Rome have been investigated, with the purpose of detecting the synergistic variations in the supply of the flood mitigation and agricultural production ecosystem services (ES). The methodology is based on a GIS (Geographic Information System) analysis that identifies the transformation processes and permanencies related to land-cover. The variation in flood mitigation services was quantified through the use of the Urban Flood Risk Mitigation Model (UFRM) from the InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) suite, while the variation in agricultural production through productivity coefficients was associated with changes in land-uses. Finally, an analysis of LULC-induced synergies and trade-offs between the two services was performed. The results show a net negative change in ES supply, caused mainly by urbanization at the expense of agricultural land. This decrease in ES supply is not offset by other LULCC transitions. In addition, the analysis of synergies and trade-offs between flood mitigation ES and agricultural production ES (in arable land, orchards, vineyards, and olive groves) shows that the reduction of agricultural land negatively affects both ES. The innovative contribution of this paper lies in setting an integrated methodology that is able to investigate how LULCC influences both hydraulic safety and food security. Findings can be useful to support planning of enhancing the role of agriculture in metropolitan areas. Full article
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13 pages, 736 KiB  
Article
Exploring Agroecology Transition Scenarios: A Pfaundler’s Spectrum Assessment on the Relocation of Agri-Food Flows
by Roc Padró and Enric Tello
Land 2022, 11(6), 824; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11060824 - 31 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1650
Abstract
In response to the climate emergency and other dimensions of the current global environmental crisis, the world is facing an agroecology transition aimed at scaling up the best sustainable ways of farming into circular agri-food territories. No one knows, however, in advance, how [...] Read more.
In response to the climate emergency and other dimensions of the current global environmental crisis, the world is facing an agroecology transition aimed at scaling up the best sustainable ways of farming into circular agri-food territories. No one knows, however, in advance, how they will perform. To explore several feasible, viable, and desirable future scenarios for these agroecological territories, we have developed a nonlinear programming model called Sustainable Agroecological Farm Reproductive Analysis as a bottom-up deliberative tool. In this article, we use it to explore the sustainable degrees of trade openness of these bio-economically circular territories by evaluating the advantages and limitations of conceiving them from an interdependent network of basically self-sufficient areas rather than as autarkic islands. Using SAFRA optimizations in a Catalan case study, applied as a preliminary test, we found that autarkic self-sufficiency would reduce the food supply capacity of the studied territory by one-third. At the same time, however, up to a point, trade openness would face growing problems and barriers to maintaining a circular replenishment of soil nutrients, as well as the landscape diversity required to house enough farm-associated biodiversity needed for other supporting and regulating ecosystem services. These results confirm the conceptual approach of the issue developed by Leopold Pfaundler in 1902, and call for more empirical studies in broader areas conducted together with local farmers and other stakeholders that jointly define boundary conditions, constraints, capabilities, and ranges of fair-trade openness evaluated for a true bottom-up agroecological transition. Full article
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11 pages, 2084 KiB  
Article
Ecologically Intermediate and Economically Final: The Role of the Ecosystem Services Framework in Measuring Sustainability in Agri-Food Systems
by Alessandra La Notte
Land 2022, 11(1), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11010084 - 06 Jan 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2231
Abstract
Ecosystem services can be defined as the ecosystem’s contribution to human activities. According to recent assessments, the agricultural sector is one of the most important economic users of ecosystem services in Europe. To assess, value, and account for ecosystem services related to the [...] Read more.
Ecosystem services can be defined as the ecosystem’s contribution to human activities. According to recent assessments, the agricultural sector is one of the most important economic users of ecosystem services in Europe. To assess, value, and account for ecosystem services related to the agri-food system offers the possibility to measure and investigate how agricultural management practices together with changing environmental conditions can affect ecological resilience. However, the accounting of ecosystem services’ flows needs to be carefully addressed, because the overlapping of services and benefits and the overlapping of what are considered intermediate and final services could create dangerous misunderstandings about the role and importance of ecosystem services in agriculture. This paper reports on the possible accounting approaches that can be used to assess crop provision, as well as their meanings and implications from an ecological to an economic perspective. The results demonstrate that an economic accounting-based assessment of ecosystem services needs to move from an ecological holistic view to a one-by-one disaggregation of ecosystem services in order to avoid underestimates that would ultimately affect the policy perception of the role of ecosystems with respect to the agri-food systems’ resilience. Full article
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17 pages, 3316 KiB  
Article
Comprehensive Food System Planning for Urban Food Security in Nanjing, China
by Taiyang Zhong, Zhenzhong Si, Steffanie Scott, Jonathan Crush, Kui Yang and Xianjin Huang
Land 2021, 10(10), 1090; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10101090 - 15 Oct 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3058
Abstract
Food system planning is important to achieve the goal of “zero hunger” in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2016). However, discussion about comprehensive planning for food security is scarce and little is known about the situation in Chinese cities. To [...] Read more.
Food system planning is important to achieve the goal of “zero hunger” in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2016). However, discussion about comprehensive planning for food security is scarce and little is known about the situation in Chinese cities. To narrow this gap, this study collected and analyzed four medium-term plans and two annual plans for the “vegetable basket project” in Nanjing, China. This study examines the strategies for urban food security in Nanjing to shed light on how the city developed a comprehensive approach to food system planning over the past three decades. The evolution of incremental food system planning in Nanjing provides valuable lessons for other cities facing food security challenges and shortages of financial resources. Reducing food insecurity is an ongoing challenge for the city governments in the Global South and comprehensive planning is a useful tool for addressing the challenge of urban food insecurity. Full article
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Review

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17 pages, 659 KiB  
Review
The Potential of SEA in Fostering European Agriculture Policy and Strategies—Challenges and Opportunities
by Carlo Rega, Maria do Rosario Partidario, Rute Martins and Giorgio Baldizzone
Land 2022, 11(2), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11020168 - 21 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3194
Abstract
Agriculture presents one of the central global pressures on biodiversity and climate. In the EU, the Green Deal, the Farm to Fork, and the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 set ambitious environmental targets, acknowledging the key role of agriculture for their achievement. It is, therefore, [...] Read more.
Agriculture presents one of the central global pressures on biodiversity and climate. In the EU, the Green Deal, the Farm to Fork, and the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 set ambitious environmental targets, acknowledging the key role of agriculture for their achievement. It is, therefore, crucial to integrate such targets in the European Commission’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP 2023–2027 will be implemented through the national CAP Strategic Plans, subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). This presents an unprecedented opportunity to steer agriculture towards sustainability. This paper aims to elaborate the role of SEA in CAP Strategic Plans by identifying the links between the strategies mentioned above and SEA, learnings from previous SEA experience in Rural development programs, and collecting experts and stakeholders’ views on the topic. We maintain that SEA of CAP Plans should adopt a strategic approach rather than an impact-based one. Relying on the Critical Decision Factors, we exemplify how this approach can be applied to the key objective of reducing mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides. We show how SEA could be pivotal in this regard and identify three enabling Critical Decision Factors: knowledge transfer, governance, and the need to bring industries into the forum. Full article
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