Covered market at Brive la Gaillarde. © INRA, Bertrand NICOLAS

Towards more sustainable food supplies

What are the areas for action and research?

DuALIne highlighted certain areas of research, ranging from the consolidation of data (on consumer behaviour, the impacts of losses and waste, the impacts of sharp price rises) to the design of solutions (new sectoral organisations, the reconfiguration of urban food systems, levers for public and private action).

Updated on 02/22/2013
Published on 12/16/2012

Consumers are not willing to pay what will probably be higher prices for more sustainable food supplies. © MAITRE Christophe
Consumers are not willing to pay what will probably be higher prices for more sustainable food supplies. © MAITRE Christophe
Consumers are not willing to pay more

In terms of actions on behaviour, nutritional information policies will only be effective if this information is validated and consensual over a long period.  Preliminary studies seem also to show that consumers are not willing to pay what will probably be higher prices for more sustainable food supplies, at least in the short term.  Their influence would be exerted more by a tendency to sanction products that do not comply with these criteria.  In any case, these results – which deserve to be confirmed - show that it is necessary to search for economic models that pass on these additional costs in the sector to elements other than final product prices. 

The redesign of agrifood sectors

Future research must characterise new organisational modes for sectors that are more efficient in terms of economic, environmental (water, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, limitations on losses, etc.), energy and social (employment) criteria.  It is therefore necessary to cross these investigations at the technological and economic levels while adopting an integrated vision.  The alternative systems that are currently emerging deserve to be better characterised because their contribution to sustainability has not yet been established scientifically.

Limiting waste

DuALIne highlighted some research areas that differed as a function of the global regions and scales considered.  These were organised around two principal points : a reduction in losses and waste and the use of what today is wasted or lost to human food to the benefit of other uses (animal feed, energy, chemistry, recycling, etc.).  It is also necessary to study how the reinforcement of quality standards might favour waste because non-compliant products are discarded.

Transport and logistics

It is necessary to evaluate the sustainability of different potential scenarios for the reconfiguration of urban food systems.  Research therefore needs to establish a link between food and other dimensions: energy, transport and its infrastructures, urban policies and territorial development, and the spatial organisation of different activities: work, place of residence, supply, leisure.  This research must therefore mobilise a broad diversity of disciplines. 

Governance

Numerous questions were posed.  Which levers for public and private action should be introduced to favour more sustainable systems?  What are the possible options between the two extremes, which are the "over-accountability" of consumers and systematic recourse to the regulation of supply?  How can territorial dynamics and industrial logistics be articulated?  In this context, it may be possible to study the impact of local government on the emergence of local food systems. 

Impact of price volatility

It is important to analyse the impact of price volatility on food security, not only in terms of rural producers and urban consumers, but also regarding all food systems (and notably the transfer of prices from international to internal markets).  It is also necessary to assess the resistance to major events of different food systems, and identify methods to manage these situations.  In this respect, a scientific foresight study on the determinants, characteristics and numerous consequences of variations affecting raw materials (quantity, quality and prices) merits consideration.