Theme 4: Food system governance and the right to food

Sustainable production of food and the (right of) access to food are key principles in food system governance. Governance of food is seen as both a challenge and solution to food security.

Current (inter)national institutional architectures have failed in producing equitable and just access to food and have been unable to democratise values in food security governance. The complexity of the governance challenge, and the increase in number of public and private actors demands greater coordination and coherence across spatial and administrative scales. Special topics to explore this theme include:

Food system governance

The governance of food systems has become a very critical and complex process, that is yet poorly understood and conceptualized. Food systems are not only to produce food, but often also to preserve biodiversity, to fuel economies and to absorb effects of climate change. Food systems are multi-scalar, connecting producers, traders and consumers from different and often distant parts of the world. A wide variety of laws, policies and organisations at different levels and places has emerged to directly or indirectly govern food systems. Research is needed to newly and better conceptualize governance of food systems and to identify rules, practices and arrangements that can help to overcome institutional fragmentation and deadlocked food policies (contact person: Dr Otto Hospes).

Politics and the human right to food

In spite of a growing body of human rights (organisations) and the commitment of nearly all states to the right to food, food insecurity is persistent in different parts of the world. More and more scholars and policymakers recognize that adding or improving human rights law is not very helpful to address this paradox. Our research focuses on the identification of social mechanisms, political strategies and governance innovations that can help to make the right to food, which means that we investigate governance interactions between state and non-state actors in the field of this human right (contact person: Dr Otto Hospes).

EU institutions and policies on food security

Both inside and outside Europe, EU institutions and policies are both applauded and critiqued for their food and agriculture policies. This topic focuses on the agenda-setting, framing and development of new EU food security policies, focusing on actors and decision-making by key EU institutions (contact person: Dr Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen).

Governance of controversial technologies in food

Injections with nano-compounds that ‘manipulate’ our pears, honey is better than sugar, e-numbers that cause ADHD, are but three examples of influential images of processed food (technologies). Engaged citizens, experts, politicians, industry and others defend, develop or despise processed foods in passionate ways. They frame facts and uncertainties in accordance with their values and beliefs. Especially in the age of social media and other internet technologies these images travel across the world, and some become pervasive images. These can hinder or contribute to the responsible development, societal acceptability, and democratic governance of innovative food technologies. In this research-track we aim to better understand and democratize the mechanisms underlying so termed TOFUs (travelling of framed facts and uncertainties). (contact person: Dr Tamara Metze).