Ecology of food systems
The ecology of food systems is an approach that encompasses agroecology and the way we consume food by taking into account the interdependencies between the environment, food and supply chains. Based on holistic approaches, such as “One Health”, this interdisciplinary approach, currently being developed, identifies the interdependencies between issues and processes taking place at different spatial and temporal scales.
By analyzing the relationships between ways of producing and consuming food, this approach helps us rethink the design of food systems to meet environmental challenges (climate, biodiversity) and health challenges (chronic non-communicable diseases and infectious diseases). It shows how agroecological farming based on biodiversity in soils and landscapes, and healthy sustainable food based on a more plant-based and varied diet containing fewer pesticide residues and ultra-formulated or ultra-processed foods, are interconnected.
This ecology of food systems thus leads to the simultaneous design of: i) agricultural systems based on soil health and ecosystem health, promoting species diversity and crop-livestock associations, and practices that are least harmful to biodiversity in terms of tillage, crop protection, and the management of inputs and water; ii) a balanced diet based on dietary guidelines and promoting gut microbiota diversity; iii) a reorganization of supply chains in order to meet the interlinked challenges of food and the environment, with regard to the collection of agricultural products, their processing and distribution, the reduction of waste and the development of a circular economy. The ecology of food systems also encompasses social and ethical dimensions in line with the objectives of sustainable development.
By simultaneously promoting the health of living beings (individuals and communities) and their habitats (soil, landscape, planet), the ecology of food systems allows the sustainable management of resources and maintenance of the commons (air, soil, water, biodiversity) that are affected by agriculture and food habits.
References to explore
Francis, C., Lieblein, G., Gliessman, S., Breland, T.A., Creamer, N., Harwood, R., Salomonsson, L., Helenius, J., Rickerl, D., Salvador, R. and Wiedenhoeft, M. 2003. Agroecology: The ecology of food systems. Journal of sustainable agriculture, 22(3), pp.99-118. https://doi.org/10.1300/J064v22n03_10
Gliessman SR. 2018. Defining agroecology. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 42, issue 6, pp 599–600. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2018.1432329