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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Innovation in Sustainable Food Systems (PGSP11400)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryEnsuring food supplies in a sustainable and equitable manner in the face of climate change driven events is one of the key challenges facing societies in the 21st Century. While often posed as a production led innovation challenge, at least as important are the societal contexts, including changing patterns of consumption. This course considers sustainable food systems and food security from a wide range of perspectives, examining farming as a social practice, as commercial food production, as a contribution and challenge to environmental policy and as an integral part of sustainable and healthy consumption. Innovation is examined in both its scientific and social aspects.

The course consists of an introductory lecture tracing issues around food production from Malthus, through the increasingly complex pressures on food production from environmental considerations, animal welfare, climate change, competition for land use from biofuels, an increasing emphasis on diet and health and the emergence of calls for ¿sustainable intensification¿. The course will then examine different aspects of sustainable food production. In week two, we focus on farmer practices. Scientific knowledge and farmer knowledge need to interact at some point for fruitful knowledge exchange to take place. In this lecture we consider some of the theories of how knowledge flows between the two groups. These ideas are further developed in week three by introducing new aspects of knowledge exchange that involve co-ordinated action by multiple farmers which become increasingly important from an environmental perspectives, such as water catchment management. In week four the focus begins to shift to a stronger production orientation, starting with a focus on farmers and animal products (livestock). Livestock farming involves close relationships between humans and farm animals. In this lecture we explore some of the complexity of the social relationships between farm animals and humans and the implications these have for innovation. Livestock infectious diseases (such as Foot and Mouth Disease) and plant diseases are increasingly the focus of policy and scientific attention. In week 5 we explore disease concerns, impact of outbreaks and attitudes to mitigation practices among farmers. Week 6 begins to focus on scientific innovation, highlighting the tension between innovation for local production and global production, and the role of regulation in shaping innovation, particularly biotechnology. Week 7 examines the role of biotechnologies in agricultural production with a particular emphasis on animal genetics. Week 8 introduces a systems level perspective. Food often moves from farm to ¿fork¿ along complex chains. In this lecture we consider some the features of food chains that have implications on innovation pathways and transformations to more sustainable systems. In week 9, we examine a range of alternative production systems including approaches that focus on ¿quality¿, shortening food supply chains (e.g. farmers markets, community supported agriculture) and emerging novel ways of producing food in and for cities . In the final week (week 10) we focus on sustainable consumption, bringing healthy diets, food miles and food wastage into focus. Where appropriate, mini case studies will be used to explore issues.
Course description The course will be delivered over 10 weeks using a lecture-plus-seminar-discussion format. Each two-hour session will typically consist of a 1 hour lecture intended to signpost major theories, concepts and literature in specific areas of the field; followed by a 1 hour seminar organised around classroom discussion and interactive work.

Weekly Outline

1 Introduction: setting the context.
2 Farmers and scientists: knowledge exchange.
3 Farmers and environmental impact: scales of change.
4 Farm livestock and people.
5 Challenges of infectious diseases (plant and animal).
6 Innovation for production.
7 Biotechnology and agriculture.
8 Sustainable food production systems.
9 Alternative production systems.
10 Sustainable consumption.

This optional course introduces students to important social science perspectives on innovation in the context of sustainable food systems. The course is intended to complement natural science approaches of increasing efficiency of food production to address food security challenges, by addressing the social contexts within which food production takes place. Covering both UK and international examples, the course will introduce students to different facets and different approaches to sustainable food systems. It will cover both conventional, global and locally oriented production systems. Food production will be located in the context of both consumption and environmental impact.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  23
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment will be based on: (i) a 1000 word evidence-based communication exercise (e.g. blog) and (ii) a 3000 word final essay. Students will have the option to submit a 500 word formative essay outline in preparation for the final essay. The communication exercise is to be completed by end of week 6 of semester 2 and the essay at the end of the semester. 80% of the marks will be awarded for the essay and 20% for the communication exercise.

Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course, student will be able to:

¿ Demonstrate critical awareness of the range of social contexts within which food production operates and the challenges of knowledge exchange within food production systems.
¿ Demonstrate extensive, detailed and critical knowledge of different dimensions of sustainable food production systems and the implications for innovation.
¿ Demonstrate ability to identify, conceptualise and offer new and creative insights into innovation in food production systems.
¿ Demonstrate ability to communicate using appropriate style and language for different audiences within a food production system.
¿ Demonstrate ability to take responsibility for their own work.
Reading List
Eden, S., Bear, C. And Walker G. (2008) Mucky carrots and other proxies: Problematising the knowledge-fix for sustainable and ethical consumption. Geoforum 39: 1044-1057.
Haden, can R., Niles, M.T., Lubell, M., Perlman, J., Jackson, L.E., 2012. Global and Local Concerns: What Attitudes and Beliefs Motivate Farmers to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change? PLOS One, December, 7(12) e52882.
Lang, T. and Barling, D. (2012) Food security and food sustainability: reformulating the debate. The Geography Journal 178(4): 313-326.
Millar, J. & Connell, J. (2009) Strategies for scaling out impacts from agricultural systems change: the case of forages and livestock production in Laos. Agriculture & Human Values DOI:10.1007/s10460-009-9194-9.
Oreszczyn, S., Lane, A. and Carr, S. (2010) The role of networks of practice and webs of influencers on farmers¿ engagement with and learning about agricultural innovations. Journal of Rural Studies 26:404-417
Wield, D., Chataway, J. & Bolo, M. (2010) Issues in the Political Economy of Agricultural Biotechnology. Journal of Agrarian Change 10(3): 342-366
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Ann Bruce
Tel: (0131 6)50 9106
Course secretaryMiss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
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