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Publication | 19 January 2021

Making Better Policies for Food Systems

Bioeconomy

The growing demand for a more holistic “food systems approach” to policy making is based on the realisation that there are potential synergies and trade-offs between food security and nutrition, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability. However, making better policies for food systems not only requires overcoming disagreements over facts, but also requires dealing with diverging interests and differing values.

This report contributes to making better policies for food systems by focusing on three sets of questions: What has been the actual performance of food systems around the world, and what has been the role of policies? How should policy makers go about designing policies that are coherent across different dimensions such as food security and nutrition, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability? What are common factors complicating the task of achieving better policies, and what can be done about them?

Chapter 1 describes the main expectations and achievements of food systems in terms of the “triple challenge” of food security and nutrition, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability.

Chapter 2 gets to the heart of food systems approaches. It asks how policy makers can design coherent policies when faced with multiple objectives and multiple possible policy instruments where both synergies and trade-offs exist.

Chapter 3 discusses the role of disagreements over facts, diverging interests, and differences over values.

Case studies on the seed sector, the ruminant livestock sector, and the processed food sector provide an in-depth discussion of how these sectors can contribute to addressing the triple challenge, what kinds of synergies and trade-offs exist, and what kinds of policy processes have been used in different countries.

The report concludes that making better policies for food systems not only requires a rigorous understanding of how the world is, but also a shared view of how the world should be. The process thus inevitably involves not only facts, but also interests and values. Robust and inclusive policy processes are needed to balance these diverging interests and to overcome value differences, while avoiding policy capture by special interests.