An #agroecologist gives a tour of the James Hutton Institute, Dundee

In January this year I gave a talk at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee called ‘Food, thriving people and paradigm shifts in the 21st century: goodbye homo sapiens, hello?’. It developed a talk of mine on the Food Systems Academy which you can view here. While I was at the Institute, Pete Iannetta, an agroecologist working there who had arranged my visit, gave me a quick tour around some of the site and talked about some of his work, including that on growing hops and faba beans in Scotland as well as making beer from all Scottish produce.


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Culture: a short history of the world in a fresh loaf of #sourdough – an interview with Eric Pallant

Eric Pallant is passionate about sourdough bread. Bread is central to western culture and until the last 200 years it was sourdough bread that we ate. A professor of environmental Science at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania USA, he’s spending 6 months at Lancaster University on a Fulbright scholarship as part of his research for a book ‘Culture: a short history of the world in a fresh loaf of sourdough’.

I met up with him in Lancaster to find out more about his work. Listen here:

If you would like to listen to or download the transcript from a lecture he gave on ‘The rise and fall of sourdough: 6000 years of bread’ you can do so here. You can download the Syllabus for his Soil to Plate course here and read about the Real Bread Campaign here.

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Science for #food and #environment – Royal Society conference on Science for Defra (#sci4defra)

Last week I spent a day in London at the Royal Society conference Science for Defra (Department of environment, food and rural affairs in the UK), where I helped facilitate one of the tables in the food and farming workshop. I tweeted quite a lot from the day I was there ( see @GeoffTansey and #sci4defra) but was unable to be at the second day that focussed on the natural environment. Here’s the programme:


Upstairs there were 41 posters outlining some of the research being done – from oak die back to animal health, food fraud to biomonitoring, climate change and dietary change. Have a scan through them below and see if any are of interest.



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Food ethics in Turkey and a 1200 years old olive tree

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I went to Turkey in early March to present a paper at the first Turkish Agricultural and Food Ethics Congress held at Ankara’s University’s Agriculture Faculty. I shared my experience of the Food Ethics Council and how our thinking about ethics has developed – see links at bottom of this post to download my paper and a pdf of my talk.

The Congress was the culmination of a two year EU funded project to develop Agricultural and Food Ethics thinking in Turkey, which I blogged about last year – see here. Over 200 people from all over Turkey attended as well as speakers from the USA, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK. There were a wide ranging set of papers and posters presented at the meeting – see below for the programme in English. Yet again I found myself doing an interview in Turkish on live television during the congress about our work.

The organisers have also carried out training courses in seven cities around the country as part of the project with over 160 participants as well as establishing a food ethics association. This, they hope, will grow and develop after the project and become a useful contributor to how food and farming develops in Turkey. We in the Food Ethics Council will be reviewing the documentation they have gathered and see if we can supply them with additional material for their library.

After the Congress I went to the Aegean and met up with one of the speakers, Prof Uygun Aksoy, whom I’ve known since I worked at the Aegean University in the late 1970s. While we were out we passed some wonderfully gnarled old – and I mean very old, around 1200 years – olive trees and I took a short video of her talking about them. Do have a look.

My paper: TARGETCongress-FEC-GTPaper

Powerpoint: FEC-TARGETconf-10-11March17ppt

Programme: 1st_Turkish_Congress_on_Agricultural_and_Food_Ethics_PROGRAMME

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#Chicken, the charismatic #supermarket, cultural economy of #power and #quinoa – in conversation with Jane Dixon

What connects chicken and quinoa? That’s what I wanted to ask Prof Jane Dixon when I met her last month in London near the end of her time as Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor at the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London. It’s over 20 years since we first met at a conference in the USA. She was over from Australia talking about her research on chicken. Since then she’s worked at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University where she is now an Honorary Associate professor. She researches the intersection of cultural sociology and public health with a particular focus on transformations within national food systems. Her special interest is with consumer power, commodity chains, food retail and the nutritionalisation of the food system.

Listen to her explain here:

If you want to hear her lecture – The social and environmental considerations of ethical eating, with a focus on ‘nutritional breakthrough foods’ (e.g. ‘superfoods’) as part of the Food Thinkers series of the Food Research Collaboration go here:

Some of her publications that might be of interest are

Dixon, J & Banwell, C 2016, ‘Supermarketisation and Rural Society Futures’, in Mark Shucksmith,David L. Brown (ed.), Routledge International Handbook of Rural Studies, Routledge Journals, Taylor & Francis Ltd, London United Kingdom, pp. 227-239.

Dixon, J, Sindall, C & Banwell, C 2004, ‘Exploring the intersectoral partnerships guiding Australia’s dietary advice’, Health Promotion International, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 5-13.

Dixon, J 2009, ‘From the imperial to the empty calorie: how nutrition relations underpin food regime transitions’, Agriculture and Human Values, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 321-331.

Her recent books include When Culture Impacts Health (Elsevier) and Weight of Modernity (Springer).


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Gastronomy explained – it’s much more than fancy dining

What do you think of when you hear the word gastronomy? Fancy food? Elite eating? That’s not what they mean at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. I’ve been going to visit the university in January for the past few years to give a seminar on the food system to the MSc in Gastronomy Students. In this short video Charlotte Maberly and Stan Blackley explain just what gastronomy is about:



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Taking #hunger as seriously as medals – why the UK needs a minister to tackle household #food insecurity

I wrote the following blog for the End Hunger UK campaign website.

What do you think is more important? Putting on a good show for the world and winning lots of medals in the London 2012 Olympics or ending hunger and household food insecurity in the UK by 2020? Obviously, they’re very different and I expect you to say the latter.

The point of the question, however, is that the government recognised it was a complex task to deliver an Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, and to deliver a result in which Britain did well. It was an ambitious project with ambitious goals to which the government was committed. It required bringing together a lot of different elements to make it succeed. And the government recognised that to do so they needed someone, a minister with sufficient clout, able to look across all of the different issues that needed to be connected together to ensure success along with significant investment.

Ending hunger and household food insecurity in the UK is a far more complex task. It also needs clear and ambitious goals plus commitment to reach them. It requires, as the evidence to the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which I chaired, shows, action across many different areas. As we noted in our interim report – A Recipe For Inequality: Why our food system is leaving low-income households behind – delivering affordable, accessible, nutritious, sustainable food for everyone will require fundamental change inside our food system and the wider economy.

hungryfro-change-pngWe recommended a whole range of actions in our final report – Hungry For Change – built around a set of principles, many of which are embodied in this End Hunger UK campaign. We need ambitious goals. These include not only an end to hunger but an end to household food insecurity which is far more widespread; that food banks and other forms of charitable food provision to stop people going hungry should become unnecessary by 2020; and that the link between low income and bad diet-related health outcomes should be broken – the equivalent of winning a lot of Olympic golds.

We recognised that this required action on many fronts: health, farming, working conditions and pay, social security, improving local access to food, protecting public health schemes, challenging the way food is marketed, especially to children, and taxation policies. This is why we recommended, amongst other things, that the government appoint a new minister with responsibility for eliminating household food insecurity.

Those affected need a coordinated approach to tackling hunger and household food insecurity across government. It requires a minister with sufficient clout to be able to bring together action by the many different government departments whose activities affect food and poverty. Not just government departments, though, but also devolved governments, local authorities, regulators, business, trade unions and civil society as well as those in poverty whose voices need to be heard in developing the policies to make the changes needed.

Strong government leadership is needed to ensure the Office for National Statistics measures the scale of the problem, and for ensuring the ambitious goals are reached. This is particularly important for two reasons.

First, the ability of people to acquire or consume an adequate quality and sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways is a key marker of a healthy and successful society. For any government committed to reducing inequality, how our food system functions to deliver good food for all is a key indicator of whether or not it is succeeding.

Secondly, as our country adjusts to a new role in the world in leaving the European Union, policies around food and farming are all up for grabs. There will be many changes potentially. These changes need to be in line with creating a food system that is sustainable, healthy, is fair in the way it treats people who grow and deliver food to our tables wherever they are, and that works better for people on low incomes.

As the many different government departments grapple with the challenges involved in Brexit, we need a minister focused on an outcome that is ambitious, that tests the measures and changes being negotiated and enacted against their ability to end hunger and food insecurity for people in the UK, and in a way that supports that goal for people everywhere. Press your MP now to create such a minister committed to deliver on ending hunger and food insecurity in the UK.

Please join the End Hunger UK campaign

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