Special Issue "Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 October 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Aled Jones
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Global Sustainability Institute, Faculty Science and Technology, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge, CB1 1PT, UK
Tel. +1223 698931
Interests: sustainability science, complexity, systems dynamics, food conflict, climate change, resilience, water-energy-food nexus
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Providing adequate and affordable food for everyone, everywhere, is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, with increasing complexity within the global food system including complex supply chains, financing, and governance alongside environmental pollution, water scarcity, and climate change, how do we best understand food systems? Are there different approaches that offer new techniques to better manage and monitor these globally complex systems? This Special Issue will bring together papers that address new methods and approaches to understanding the global food system and its impacts. This will include better scientific methods for analysing risk, metrics to capture progress, and governance proposals to manage change. Papers that explore and outline new opportunities and threats that emerge through the transition towards a more globally sustainable food system are also welcome.

Prof. Aled Jones
Guest Editor

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 papers will be 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. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly 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 1700 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

  • food systems
  • environmental sustainability
  • systems science
  • governance and sustainability
  • sustainability metrics

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Regional Ethnocentrism on the Food Market as a Pattern of Sustainable Consumption
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6408; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226408 - 14 Nov 2019
Abstract
The paper aims to assess the level and predictors of regional ethnocentrism on the market of regional food products in the context of sustainable consumption. The study contributes to the theory of consumer ethnocentrism by extending our knowledge about its regional dimension. Regional [...] Read more.
The paper aims to assess the level and predictors of regional ethnocentrism on the market of regional food products in the context of sustainable consumption. The study contributes to the theory of consumer ethnocentrism by extending our knowledge about its regional dimension. Regional ethnocentrism is the preference for products originating from the consumer’s region. I conducted a survey in a representative sample of 1000 inhabitants of Poland with the use of the CAWI (Computer-Assisted Web Interview) methodology. Regional ethnocentric consumers were characterized by a significantly more favorable attitude to regional food products compared to the rest of the sample. In a multiple regression model, the following eight statistically significant predictors of the regional ethnocentrism were identified: the importance of brand and retailer trust on the food market; the importance of quality signs in regional food purchases; opinion that insufficient marketing constitutes an important barrier to the development of the regional food market; buying regional products in shops owned by producers, rather than large distribution networks; frequency of purchasing regional products as a tourist; and national ethnocentrism on the regional food market. These predictors are strongly related to the three major pillars of sustainable development—economic, social, and ecological. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
Open AccessArticle
Food Purchasing Decisions and Environmental Ideology: An Exploratory Survey of UK Shoppers
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6279; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226279 - 08 Nov 2019
Abstract
Environmentally and ethically conscious food purchasing has traction with British consumers. We examined how broad environmental worldviews related to shoppers’ ratings of the importance of various shopping criteria, including recognition of eco-labels, by surveying 502 shoppers from the city of Sheffield, England. Environmental [...] Read more.
Environmentally and ethically conscious food purchasing has traction with British consumers. We examined how broad environmental worldviews related to shoppers’ ratings of the importance of various shopping criteria, including recognition of eco-labels, by surveying 502 shoppers from the city of Sheffield, England. Environmental worldviews were measured using the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scale. Responses to the scale split into two dimensions reflecting the scale’s origins: the Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP) and NEP subscales. Subscription to the NEP (ecocentric values) was associated with greater importance ratings of nutrition & health, animal welfare, the environment, Fairtrade, seasonal, local and organic criteria. Subscription to the DSP (anthropocentric values) was associated with greater importance ratings of quality, taste, safety, price and convenience criteria. Notably, subscription to DSP values was the only predictor of eco-label recognition score in a multivariate model. These results indicate that the NEP scale should be considered as two subscales. The results suggest that campaigns to increase consumers’ environmental awareness in order to encourage environmentally driven food shopping are likely to motivate only consumers disenchanted with technological and anthropocentric development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Technology-Driven Transition in Urban Food Production Practices: A Case Study of Shanghai
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 6070; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216070 - 01 Nov 2019
Abstract
The continuing decline of arable land per person and global human population growth are raising concerns about food security. Recent advances in horticultural technology (i.e., growing using light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, hydroponics, vertical farming, and controlled environments) have changed the ways in which [...] Read more.
The continuing decline of arable land per person and global human population growth are raising concerns about food security. Recent advances in horticultural technology (i.e., growing using light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, hydroponics, vertical farming, and controlled environments) have changed the ways in which vegetables can be produced and supplied. The emerging technology makes it possible to produce more food using fewer resources, independent of the weather and the need for land. They allow bringing agricultural practices inside urban built up spaces and making horticultural production an integrated part of the daily life of urban residents. However, the process and consequences of this technology-driven transition on urban planning and development are hardly understood. This paper uses the theory of multi-level perspective (MLP) on sustainability transitions and actor–network theory (ANT) to explore this technology-driven transition and its adoption in urban planning and development. The high-tech horticulture zone development in Shanghai was used as a case study. The results show the importance of both social (i.e., policymakers and planners) and material (i.e., technologies and policy documents) actants in the transition of the sociotechnical regime. Furthermore, the transition toward sustainable urban horticulture practices requires the simultaneous preparation of supportive and compatible spatial development, agricultural and sustainable development policies, and adequate policy implementation and evaluation tools to increase the competitive strength of innovative practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Fish is the Preferred Animal-Source Food in the Rural Community of Southern Bangladesh
Sustainability 2019, 11(20), 5764; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205764 - 17 Oct 2019
Abstract
Increased intake of animal-source foods (ASFs) is crucial to tackle multiple nutritional challenges in Bangladesh, and contribute to achieving targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Qualitative and quantitative data were collected to assess current ASFs intake behaviors and preferred ASFs, among three [...] Read more.
Increased intake of animal-source foods (ASFs) is crucial to tackle multiple nutritional challenges in Bangladesh, and contribute to achieving targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Qualitative and quantitative data were collected to assess current ASFs intake behaviors and preferred ASFs, among three types of households, namely 1. aquaculture intervention (AI); 2. aquaculture non-intervention (ANI); and 3. non-aquaculture non-intervention (NANI) households and children aged 6–59 months, to understand whether intake of ASFs vary by the types of households. Purposive sampling was conducted to obtain a total of 100 households (AI, 50; ANI, 25; NANI, 25). Fish was the most commonly consumed (52.2–61.5%) and preferred (73.9–84.6%) ASF by the majority households, across study groups; although amount (mean ± SD) of intake (g/d/person) by NANI households was statistically significantly lower (NANI, 105.5 ± 53.3; p < 0.001), compared to other two groups (AI, 163.6 ± 64.7 and ANI, 159.6 ± 53). Fish species selection for household consumption was led by taste, health benefits, availability, and price. Pangasius was the first fish species of choice fed to children, due to having fewer small bones compared to other commonly consumed fish species. Dietary interventions to prioritize fish, in targeting increased intake of ASFs among study population, for improved food and nutrition security. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Are Traditional Food Crops Really ‘Future Smart Foods?’ A Sustainability Perspective
Sustainability 2019, 11(19), 5236; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195236 - 24 Sep 2019
Abstract
Abstract: This study attempted to assess the potential of traditional food crops (TFCs) to be ‘future smart foods’ through the lens of sustainability. Our study mainly relied on the primary data collected from farm households (n = 89) in the high mountains [...] Read more.
Abstract: This study attempted to assess the potential of traditional food crops (TFCs) to be ‘future smart foods’ through the lens of sustainability. Our study mainly relied on the primary data collected from farm households (n = 89) in the high mountains of Nepal and the hills of Bangladesh. The study found that farmers are gradually abandoning the cultivation of TFCs. In the last decade, cash crops such as mustard and cardamom in study villages in Nepal (SVN) and fruits and coffee in study villages in Bangladesh (SVB) were adopted to replace TFCs. In overall calorie intake at the household level, TFCs contributed only 3% and 7% respectively, in SVN and SVB. A sustainability analysis showed that TFCs have a huge potential to be ‘future smart foods’ because they are socially acceptable, have high nutritional values (social sustainability), and are key to the agrobiodiversity and resilience of farming systems (environmental sustainability). They also have the potential to improve famers’ income and are more efficient in energy use during production cycles (economic sustainability). To promote TFCs as a sustainable solution for local farming systems and nutrition security, there is the need for a behavior change of both farmers and consumers, respectively, through the favorable policy environment and public awareness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
An Integrated Global Food and Energy Security System Dynamics Model for Addressing Systemic Risk
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3995; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143995 - 23 Jul 2019
Abstract
In 1972, The Limits to Growth, using the World3 System Dynamics model, modeled for the first time the long-term risk of food security, which would emerge from the complex relation between capital and population growth within the limits of the planet. In this [...] Read more.
In 1972, The Limits to Growth, using the World3 System Dynamics model, modeled for the first time the long-term risk of food security, which would emerge from the complex relation between capital and population growth within the limits of the planet. In this paper, we present a novel system dynamics model to explore the short-term dynamics of the food and energy system within the wider global economic framework. By merging structures of the World3, Money, and Macroeconomy Dynamics (MMD) and the Energy Transition and the Economy (ETE) models, we present a closed system global economy model, where growth is driven by population growth and government debt. The agricultural sector is a general disequilibrium productive sector grounded on World3, where capital investment and land development decisions are made to meet population food need, thus generating cascade demands for the energy and capital sector. Energy and Capital Sectors employ a more standard economic approach in line with MMD and ETE. By taking into account the role of financial, real, and natural capital, the model can be used to explore alternative scenarios driven by uncertainty and risk, such as climate extreme events and their impacts on food production. The paper presents scenario analysis of the impact of an exogenous price, production, and subsidies shock in the food and/or energy dimensions on the economic system, understanding the sources of potential cascade effects, thus providing a systemic risk assessment tool to inform global food security policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Roadmapping to Enhance Local Food Supply: Case Study of a City-Region in Austria
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3876; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143876 - 17 Jul 2019
Abstract
Due to the current challenges of climate change, population growth in urban settlements and resource depletion, agri-food researchers have put an increasing emphasis on the sustainability transitions of food systems. In this regard, there has been an increasing interest in the local food [...] Read more.
Due to the current challenges of climate change, population growth in urban settlements and resource depletion, agri-food researchers have put an increasing emphasis on the sustainability transitions of food systems. In this regard, there has been an increasing interest in the local food supply of cities and their surrounding regions, as local food is considered to be a contributing factor toward more sustainable, resilient and just urban food systems. Based on this background, a roadmapping process was conducted to assess the status quo and to identify measures to enhance the local food supply in the city-region of Graz in Austria. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 47 stakeholders, analysed textual materials and calculated food carrying capacities. The obtained data served as input for a series of three workshops, where measures were derived. Our results suggest that cooperation among agri-food stakeholders should be facilitated by local decision makers in order to promote food from regional sources within the target area. Furthermore, smart technologies can help to scale-up local food supply schemes, and to track down food stocks and flows more efficiently. Besides, food policy councils and open food labs can help to incubate food product innovations and to support partnerships among agri-food stakeholders, including local small-scale farmers. In the future, engagement and empowerment processes with local food stakeholders should be addressed to enable transformational processes. Roadmaps can help to initiate such processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Multiplicity of Perspectives on Sustainable Food: Moving Beyond Discursive Path Dependency in Food Policy
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2773; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102773 - 15 May 2019
Abstract
The idea that a sustainable transformation of the food system is urgently needed is gaining ground throughout Europe. Yet, opinions differ substantially on what a sustainable food future exactly entails, and on how this future may be achieved. This article argues that recognising [...] Read more.
The idea that a sustainable transformation of the food system is urgently needed is gaining ground throughout Europe. Yet, opinions differ substantially on what a sustainable food future exactly entails, and on how this future may be achieved. This article argues that recognising this multiplicity of opinions and perspectives in policy making is productive because it creates attentiveness to innovative ideas and initiatives, and may contribute to a broad social support base for policy choices. However, food policy makers may overlook the diversity in perspectives by unreflexively adopting understandings of problems and solutions that are historically dominant in their organisations. In this article, we reveal the usefulness of triggering reflection on such discursive path dependencies amongst policy makers. We do so by presenting a three-fold case study that we conducted in the Netherlands. First, we analytically distinguish five perspectives on sustainable food that feature prominently in the Dutch public debate. Subsequently, we show that only two out of these five perspectives predominantly informed a Dutch food policy—despite intentions to devise a more integrated policy approach. Finally, we discuss the findings of two focus groups in which we discussed our analyses with Dutch civil servants who have been involved in drafting the Dutch food policy. These focus groups triggered reflection among the civil servants on their own perspectival biases as well as on discursive path dependencies in Dutch food policy making. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for the understanding of the discursive politics of sustainable agro-food transformations in Europe. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)

Review

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Open AccessReview
Opportunities for the Adoption of Health-Based Sustainable Dietary Patterns: A Review on Consumer Research of Meat Substitutes
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4028; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154028 - 25 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This article reviews empirical research on consumers’ adoption of meat substitutes published up to spring 2018. Recent meat substitutes often have sustainable characteristics in line with consumers’ concerns over aspects of healthy food and the environmental impact of food production. However, changing lifestyles [...] Read more.
This article reviews empirical research on consumers’ adoption of meat substitutes published up to spring 2018. Recent meat substitutes often have sustainable characteristics in line with consumers’ concerns over aspects of healthy food and the environmental impact of food production. However, changing lifestyles with less time for cooking, any transition from a strongly meat-based to a more plant-based diet depends on the successful establishment of convenient meat substitutes. This article reviews the growing body of research on meat substitutes. These research articles were classified into five different stages in line with the innovation-decision process of: knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation and confirmation. The research was analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively, with results suggesting that although health, environmental and animal welfare aspects can persuade consumers and influence their decision to try a meat substitute, the appearance and taste of those meat substitutes are crucial factors for their consumption on a regular basis. However, there still remains a gap in research articles focusing on the regular consumption of meat substitutes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Approaches to Complex and Sustainable Food Systems)
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