Postgraduate Course: Innovation in Sustainable Food Systems (PGSP11400)
|School of Social and Political Science
|College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)
|SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
|Available to all students
|Ensuring 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.
Ensuring 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.
1. Introduction: setting the context
Setting the scene, tracing issues around food production, highlighting the multiple challenges and competing ideas of the way forward.
2. Farmers and Scientists: knowledge exchange
Scientific knowledge and farmer knowledge need to interact at some point for fruitful knowledge exchange to take place. This session examines some of the theories of knowledge flow between farmers and researchers.
3. Farmers and environmental impact: scales of change
Environmental issues are often best dealt with at the level of the ecologically relevant unit rather than at the level of individual farms. The implication is that multiple farmers need to work together, for example in a river catchment. This session examines the issues raised by different scales of environmental impact, including climate change.
4. Farm livestock and people
Farming livestock involves a close relationship between farm staff and farmed animals. In this session we explore some of the complexity in this relationship and the implications this has for innovation. While ethical considerations are important, the focus of this lecture is on the social aspects.
5. The challenge of diseases
Livestock diseases and plant diseases are increasing the focus of policy and scientific attention, given the potentially serious economic and social impacts of outbreaks. This session looks at innovation in the context of disease challenges.
6. Agricultural Innovation Systems
Farms do not exist on their own, but as parts of wider innovation systems, including suppliers, intermediaries and food companies. This session examines agriculture as an innovation system and looks at theories of system change.
7. Biotechnology and agriculture
Does biotechnology have a role in sustainable agricultural systems? This session considers this question.
8. Sustainable food production systems
Food often moves from farm to 'fork' along complex global supply chains. This session examines some of the ways in which global supply chains have responded to the challenges of sustainability.
9. Alternative production systems
This session examines 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.
10. Sustainable consumption
This final session focusses on sustainable consumption, bringing healthy diets, food miles and food waste into focus.
There may also be an optional opportunity for a one-day visit to local farms during the course.
The course is taught through lectures and workshop/seminar activities. The workshops or seminar activities are intended to give case studies or practical exercises related to the material in the taught component. The case studies and further reading material provided is also intended to broaden the range of perspectives to different situations and countries. The course is interdisciplinary and open to students with backgrounds in social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities, no prior knowledge of agriculture or innovation studies is presumed. In preparation for the assessments, one interactive workshop will focus on understanding the needs of policy makers, and general guidance on essay writing will be provided within the lecture series.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
Consisting of a 1000 word policy briefing (20% marks) and 3,000 word final essay (80% marks).
|Feedback on the policy briefing will be available in time to inform the final essay. Students will have the option of submitting a 500 word formative essay outline in preparation for the final essay.
The essay question will be broadly framed to allow students to focus on an area that is of particular interest to them.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the 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.
|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
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Dr Geoffrey Banda
Tel: (0131 6)50 6391
|Miss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122