Rayner, Barling and Lang (2008) Sustainable food systems in Europe: policies, realities and futures. Full text available here.
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This is the first time that PHTwitJC has selected a review-type article to discuss, as opposed to a primary research study/ systematic review.We hope to have an interesting discussion on policies for achieving food security and sustainability in Europe and beyond.
About the paper
The authors review food and agriculture policy in the European Union (EU) over a number of decades. A tension is identified beteween the EU ‘s commitment to sustainable development on the one hand, and competitiveness/ economic growth on the other.
The authors present a framework for doing an ecological public health* analysis of policy-making, which is applied to food policy. They suggest that the framework is a ‘simplifying mechanism’ that ensures analytic emphasis on all four domains that influence human existence; whilst acknowledging complexity. The four domains identified are:
1. Material /physical world
2. Physiological world
3. Social world
Environmental, cultural and health ‘frontlines’ of the struggles relating to food policy in the EU are discussed. Marked transitions are identifiable in the economics of food and its place in culture(s). These are related to nutrition and health transitions: the shift towards diets dominated more by processed foods, saturated fats and sugars; and towards a non-communicable disease burden.
Tensions are highlighted, for example, between the types of food production and distribution that are supported; and the EU’s declared position on human health and nutrition, and on sustainable environmental policies. Voluntary self-regulation by producers and retailers of food (in the areas of marketing and labelling, for example) has had mixed results.
The authors argue for integrated food-related policy that must address all the above domains, in order to resolve some of the tensions, and develop in a sustainable way.
Areas for discussion in #PHTwitJC include:
- Is the analytic framework presented clear? Is it applied appropriately?
- Is the argument logically developed and supported with valid evidence/examples?
- What is the main contribution of the article: what new knowledge/ understanding is achieved of the issue?
- What lessons can we take from the article, for public health policy/practice development?
- What developments have their been since the article’s publication in 2008, that might reinforce or challenge the article’s assertions?
* Rayner and Lang’s recently published book on Ecological Public Health (Routledge, 2012) sets out this framework and argument in much more detail.