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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 Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe sustainability and resilience of food systems is increasingly coming into question, not least following the covid-19 pandemic, but also in the face of climate change impacts. Food systems are complex and involve a vast range of stakeholders, including individual consumers, large food processing companies, farming units and the natural and social environments surrounding them. This course seeks to take an innovation lens to the food system and examining the various ways of understanding how innovation takes place, and what factors influence the direction of innovation for a more sustainable food system. We consider theories such as Rogers┐ theory of Innovation, Agricultural Innovation Systems, Co-innovation and Multi-level perspectives.
Course description 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.

Outline Content

1 Introduction: setting the context
Setting the scene, tracing issues around food production, highlighting the multiple challenges and the need for social and technical innovation .

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. Innovation in protein production.
The demand for protein from animal sources, particularly meat from livestock, is increasing. However, there is also increasing concern about the environmental and ethical implications of current production methods. This session looks at innovative options to replace livestock as a source of protein for human consumption, and the potential social, environmental and economic consequences ┐ good and bad ┐ should these new production methods become widespread.

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
What role, if any, does biotechnology have in sustainable agricultural systems? This session considers this question by looking at the feasibility of biotechnological solutions to sustainability problems in current agriculture and the societal acceptability of deploying products of biotechnology.

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 session focusses on sustainable consumption, bringing healthy diets, food miles and food waste into focus.

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.
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 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  45
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) Coursework: 100%
Consisting of a 1000 word policy briefing (20% marks) and 3,000 word final essay (80% marks).

Feedback 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
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate critical awareness of the range of social contexts within which food production operates and the challenges of knowledge exchange within food production systems
  2. Demonstrate extensive, detailed and critical knowledge of different dimensions of sustainable food production systems and the implications for innovation.
  3. Demonstrate ability to identify, conceptualise and offer new and creative insights into innovation in food production systems.
  4. Demonstrate ability to communicate using appropriate style and language for different audiences within a food production system.
  5. 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 secretaryMr Dave Nicol
Tel: (0131 6)51 1485
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