The urgent need of food system transformation

During the autumn, we have started Mistra Food Futures and we are now almost four months into the programme. All work packages have successfully started, the programme board has had its first meeting and we have a principal communication plan in place.

The overarching vision of Mistra Food Futures is to create a science-based platform to enable transformation of the Swedish food system into one that is sustainable (in all three dimensions: environmental, economic and social), resilient and that delivers healthy diets.

We are ambitious in our vision. That is also absolutely necessary. Abundant scientific evidence of global environmental change exists to say that we are at a critical point in time. Societies need to transform so they can function in ways that are more sustainable (in all three dimensions) and resilient.  This is also necessary for living up to global commitments such as the Paris climate agreement and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Food and agriculture is central in this transformation with tight links to all of the 17 goals.

While challenges are global, the Swedish food system is no exception to the need for change and there is a general agreement about the need for a transform into a sustainable and resilient system. However, we do not know much about how this can be done. This is where our Mistra Food Futures comes into the picture; here we focus on how the Swedish food system can transform into a system that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and resilient and that delivers healthy diets.

Transforming a food system is really a challenge in itself. And to develop knowledge about how the system can be transformed is also a considerable challenge. Such knowledge cannot be produced within single, well-defined academic disciplines or by single actors in the food system. The challenges are far too demanding and integrated. I would even go as far as saying that it would be naïve to think that this type of knowledge can be produced by single disciplines or by single actors. Instead, we need to work together across organizational boundaries, across scientific disciplines and with systemic perspectives. This is exactly what we do in Mistra Food Futures.

Our programme is organized to focus on a set of interrelated focus areas:

  1. identify and set targets,
  2. diagnose status quo and identify plausible pathways and likely barriers to achieve these targets,
  3. develop strategies to turn barriers into leverage points for system transformation,
  4. develop sustainability indicators to monitor progress
  5. develop measures and strategies to reach net-zero greenhouse gas agricultural systems and to reach sustainable value chains beyond agriculture and
  6. develop measures and strategies for promoting continued change and innovation to enable new norms and rules and consolidation into a new food system paradigm

Mistra Food Futures will lead to a number of different types of deliverables. Beyond scientific publications and presentations, results will be communicated in popular science articles, press releases and here at the blog. So make sure to check our website regularly to stay updated!

By Helena Hansson