Towards Sustainable Food: A Contested Transition

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Business book series (BRIEFSBUSINESS)


The aim of this chapter is to show that the socio-technical map (ST-map) can be useful even to analyze the current and future dynamics of feeding: a societal function that feature complex techno-economic dynamics and contrasting political visions. First of all, the ST systems that are relevant for the today provision of food are considered: the global agribusiness system; the traditional and new local systems; the organic system; the fairtrade system. For each of them a supporting network of innovators is identified; all relevant policies—at the global, national and local scale—are also considered. Then, all food ST systems are positioned into a ST-map based on two dimensions. The first dimension is built on five alternative discourses on sustainable food: ‘Food for all’, ‘Healthy food’, ‘Environment-friendly food’, ‘Food as local culture and local development’, and ‘Food that is produced in a fair way’. The other dimension ranks supply chains from simple to complex: complexity of supply chains depends on both the distance covered and the number of steps. The chapter ends with a future analysis of sustainable food. Starting from ongoing changes and from alternative dynamics of ST-systems and networks of innovators, three scenarios are proposed. The ‘Biotech’ scenario results from a two-fold transition involving the global agribusiness system: suppliers of biotechnological inputs respond to the pressure for sustainable agriculture and food security; large-scale retailers integrate the commercial activity of the organic, fairtrade and local systems. The ‘Elite Versus Mass’ scenario features a new network led by elitist large-scale retailers that clusters the commercial activities of the organic and fair trade systems in order to serve the increasing demand for healthy and environment-friendly food. In the ‘Organic’ scenario a new dominant system integrates all the productive and commercial actors who are interested in converting to organic practices and to organic food products; also some large-scale retailers coming from the global agribusiness system join the organic network. In all scenarios the cumulative process between the empowerment of networks and the emergence of supporting policies is stressed.


Food Agribusiness Network of innovators Sustainability transition Socio-technical map Scenario analysis 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DiSEAUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  2. 2.DICEAUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”RomeItaly
  3. 3.DIEMUniversity of GenovaGenoaItaly

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