Just transition in food systems

Just Transition in Food Systems

A Socio-Environmental Struggle

conference on 30 May 2024

The corporate global food system is governed by a dominant paradigm based on food as a commodity. That paradigm translates into a mainstream dynamic of industrialization of the food system, characterized by private titling, profit maximization and money-mediated market interactions. The manufacturing of food on an industrial scale and its worldwide distribution contribute to pushing the environment beyond its ecological limits. In addition, the system fails to provide basic human needs for all and doesn’t guarantee freedom from exploitation and oppression.  

From farm to fork, the commodity-based food system keeps expanding so to progressively exclude alternatives that focus on other worldviews and value sets, intensifying the unequal distribution of resources, opportunities and rights, with a limited number of actors concentrating economic and political power and the vast majority of people being marginalized and made dependent on processes that they do not control. That is why food systems have become a focus of transition studies that deal with the understanding of long‐term processes of transformative change towards more just societies. Still, a specific focus on the conceptualization of food justice at the crossroad between social and environmental lines is generally lacking. Because of this, ongoing and future changes in the structures and processes of food systems risk exacerbating or reproducing existing injustices rather than moving beyond them.

This is why it is necessary to engage with and give space to transformation for and within the food system, with close attention to ‘who gets what, when, and how’, to what qualifies as a just outcome, who gets to decide what is just, and what justice claims are raised in relation to socio-economic-environmental redistribution, cultural-legal recognition, and political representation.

One such alternative is conceptualizing food systems as based on commons rather than on commodities. This approach is less about the transactions that occur around food as a good but rather about the way in which societies organize food systems as essential networks and ecological connections that are constantly produced, reproduced, and managed. How can this be done collectively, beyond the idea of food as a mere object of consumption and circulation, and in a way that promotes social and ecological utilities and regeneration, rather than profit and accumulation? Recognizing food systems as based on the commons invites producers, workers, communities, and policy makers to propose novel approaches to ensure different forms of production and circulation, but also alternative ways of guaranteeing access to healthy, nutritious, and just food. Rather than a buyer-seller relationship, a food system based on the commons presupposes relational networking, social learning, caring and empowerment through community praxis in order to strengthen democratic self-determination.

The aim of the conference is to provide a platform to think collectively about a just food transformation from multiple angles and perspectives, including that of decommodification and adoption of alternative principles and premises. During a day of presentations, workshops and group work, we aim to showcase the voices of those who are involved in addressing various forms of inequalities that occur throughout the food system (production, labour, finance/rent, trade, accessibility to means of production or food, etc.) and explore together the notions of justice and the horizons of justice that inform their work and that support their transformative vision. Thanks to their experiences and knowledge, we hope to be highlighting the areas of convergence and thus fostering food justice within a multi-scalar politicized context, taking into consideration structural dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression.

Diverse representatives from the field of practitioners, social movements, policy making, and research are invited on the basis of their engagement with the subject matter of food system transition to find common ground within a European context.

Date & Time

Thursday 30 May 2024
9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.

Location

University of Antwerp – City Campus
Hof van Liere – conference room F. de Tassis
Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp

Registrations

Free entrance.
Please register online
before Sunday 26 May 2024.

Programme

9.00 a.m.

Welcome by Erik de Bom, Deputy Director of UCSIA

9.10 a.m.

Panel 1 – PLOUGHING THE FIELD
The Need for Food Justice

What are the main injustices of the current food system?

Moderator: Vincent Bellinkx

 Speakers:

  • Dominik Groß – Christian Initiative Romero
  • Katina-Leigh Taylor – FoodFoundation
  • Ona Meirlaan – Loof en Bezen 
  • Petra Tas – Landgenoten
Speakers profiles

Vincent Bellinkx

Vincent Bellinkx works at the Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development and the TURQUOISE research into climate adaptation. He holds the PhD in the field of human rights and environmental development. His research interests are at the intersection of law and transition, mainly focused on the role of non-state actors in legislation and governance. He has practical experience with participation in Brazil, South Africa and Belgium and is committed to both civil society and policy on topics such as just transition, chemical pollution, agroecology, and climate.

Dominik Gross – Christian Initiative Romero (CIR)
Dominik serves as the Officer for Human Rights and Climate Protection in Agrarian Supply Chains at CIR, a German-based faith-driven organization focused on human rights and promoting critical consumption. With a specific focus on the problematic supply chains within the global food system, CIR addresses issues that are central to global challenges such as the climate crisis and forced migration.
One notable initiative where Dominik was involved is the EU-wide campaign titled “Our Food. Our Future.” This campaign combines educational efforts with lobbying activities, advocating for a robust EU supply chain law as part of the Supply Chain Act initiative. Additionally, Dominik along his team conducted and published studies aimed at understanding the root causes of these problems and exploring effective strategies for combating them.

Katina-Leigh Taylor – The Food Foundation
Katina serves as the Campaigns and Research Administrator at The Food Foundation. With a degree in Sociology and a background in engagement related to food poverty and social movements like Black Lives Matter, she brings a fresh, youthful perspective to understanding societal dynamics. The Food Foundation is a UK-based organization dedicated to tackling challenges within the food system for the betterment of the public.

Operating at the intersection of academia and policymaking, they employ various strategies to drive change, including organizing events, publishing research, crafting media narratives, launching social media campaigns, and fostering multistakeholder partnerships. One of the key areas of focus is enhancing children’s diets and promoting increased vegetable consumption, aiming to address critical issues surrounding nutrition and health.

Ona Meirlaan – Loof en Bezen

Ona Meirlaan is a farmer and a  member of the Loof en Bezen team, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group dedicated to cultivating organic vegetables, fruits, and flowers since 2019. Their mission revolves around empowering consumers to harvest their own produce, providing access to fresh, flavorful, locally sourced products. Operating under the CSA principles, wherein participants pay in advance, the group effectively distributes risk among its stakeholders. This collaborative approach enables them to champion honest and ecological food production, nurture fertile soil, and promote a healthy environment.

Petra Tas – De Landgenoten

Petra is coordinator of De Landgenoten, a foundation and cooperative that buys agricultural to be protected as farmland and dedicated to organic farming. In this way, citizens enable organic farmers to obtain career-long certainty over the land they cultivate. It is a response to the increasing difficulty for farmers to dispose of land in rural areas. This career-long certainty in turn enables farmers to invest fully in healthy soils, supporting biodiversity and enjoy the benefits themselves. De Landgenoten makes government and citizens think about land ownership and land use by acting together and realising an alternative together.

10.00 a.m.

Q&A

10.30 a.m.

Coffee break

11.00 a.m.

Panel 2 – PLANTING THE SEED
Food Justice in Action

What is at stake in the debate on food justice and how is food justice being defined?
What may inspire and motivate actors involved?

Moderator: Maria Cordero-Fernandez 

Speakers:

  • Raf Callaerts – FIAN- Belgium
  • Marta Messa – Slow Food International
  • Deborah Myaux – Concertation Aide Alimentaire
Speakers profiles

Maria Cordero-Fernandez

María is a Global South Fellow in UCSIA. She holds an International Master in Rural Development. María is passionate about understanding the dynamic relationship between humans and nature in food production. With research experiences primarily in Nicaragua and Peru, María is deeply committed to social and environmental justice. She looks forward to continuing her academic journey, driven by her desire to make a positive impact in her field.

Raf Callaerts – Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN- Belgium)
Raf works in FIAN- Belgium, which is a non-profit association dedicated to defending the universal right to food. As a human rights organization, FIAN is committed to reshaping food systems with a focus on social and environmental justice, recognizing the urgency of this endeavor. Through collaborative efforts, FIAN supports grassroots social movements worldwide, amplifying the voices of farmers, rural workers, women, indigenous peoples, fishermen, and consumers. Particularly, FIAN stands by women who face the grim realities of hunger, malnutrition, food insecurity, and the systemic infringement of their basic human rights.

At the forefront of their mission, FIAN vehemently opposes corporate dominance in food systems and governance, as well as the financialization and commodification of vital resources. They actively work to safeguard democracy and human rights—both individual and collective—while condemning the criminalization of social and political activism. FIAN remains steadfast in its commitment to combat environmental and climate destruction, advocating for sustainable practices and policies that preserve our planet for future generations.

Marta Messa – Slow Food International
Marta is the Secretary General of the global grassroots Slow Food movement. With a robust background spanning politics, economics, and international studies, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her leadership position. Slow Food stands at the forefront of the fight to pursue a more equitable food and farming system across the globe, with a network active in 160 countries worldwide. The organization translates grassroots efforts into impactful policy initiatives, bridging local and national concerns with European and international discourse.

In the European Union, the organization’s advocacy efforts revolve around pivotal policies at EU, national and urban level. The organization’s focus revolves around various facets of food production, agriculture, fisheries, and their profound impacts on biodiversity and climate change. Through rigorous advocacy campaigns and strategic lobbying efforts, Slow Food Europe endeavors to elevate awareness and catalyze positive shifts in food policy development. Key topics include agriculture, biodiversity preservation, climate resilience, the formulation of a common food policy, sustainable fisheries, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), responsible consumption, and transparent food labeling.

Deborah Myaux – Concertation Aide Alimentaire
Deborah assumes the role of project manager and coordinator at Concertation Aide Alimentaire. Additionally, she serves as the editor of the book titled “Food Aid: Social Protections at Stake.” Concertation Aide Alimentaire operates as an umbrella organization with a primary focus on promoting the right to food as a fundamental human right. Within this organization, various entities engaged in food aid initiatives across the Brussels Region and Wallonia are brought together. These encompass social grocery stores, social restaurants, parcel distribution centers, solidarity fridges, and supply platforms, among others.

The Food Aid Concertation collaborates closely with stakeholders in the field to conceptualize and implement projects aimed at bolstering access to the rights of individuals living in precarious situations. Through this collaborative approach, Concertation Aide Alimentaire endeavors to make tangible strides in addressing food insecurity and advancing social protections for vulnerable populations.

12.00 a.m.

Q&A

12.30 a.m.

Lunch break

1.30 p.m.

Panel 3 – GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN
Food Justice for Alternative Change

What systems changes do we desire?
How do we contribute towards just transitions in the food system?
What are the main challenges encountered and how to tackle them?

Moderator: Peter Rožič 

Speakers:

  • Roos Saat – Toekomstboeren/ECVC
  • Wiebke Warneck – European Federation of Food, Agriculture, and Tourism Trade Unions
  • Laura van Selm – POMONA
Speakers profiles

Peter Rožič

Peter is Director of the Integral Ecology Research Network (IERN) in the Laudato Si Research Institute. Peter leads the global promotion of the integral ecology research. He facilitates academic initiatives and fosters partnerships, with an emphasis on collaborations with institutions in the Global South. Focused on integral ecology and addressing the needs of the most environmentally vulnerable, IERN’s aim is to forge a global academic network rooted in scientific exploration that supports practitioners and policymakers.

Roos Saat – Toekomstboeren/ European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC)
Roos represents Toekomstboeren from the Netherlands as a member of the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC). Toekomstboeren is a pioneering initiative in aimed at amplifying and fortifying the increasing agroecological movement. Its core mission is to advance sustainable and socially just agriculture, fostering a future where such practices are widely embraced and supported. To achieve this vision, Toekomstboeren operates as an association founded by and for aspiring farmers. Through collective action and collaboration, they strive to empower future generations of farmers and contribute to the transformation of agricultural landscapes.
The European coordination of Via Campesina unites various organizations, including Toekomstboeren, with the objective of aligning them within a broader movement advocating for the rights of peasant farmers, small and medium-scale agricultural producers, and field workers across Europe. Via Campesina’s overarching goal is to defend the rights of farmers and agricultural laborers while championing diverse and sustainable family farming practices.

Wiebke Warneck – European Federation of Food, Agriculture, and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT)
Wiebke Warneck holds the position of Political Secretary in the Food, Drink and Tobacco sector at EFFAT, a renowned organization representing the interests of over 4.5 million workers in the food and drink sector across Europe. As the largest organization of its kind on the continent, EFFAT plays a pivotal role in a key EU area characterized by its significant workforce, innovative practices, and the production of high-quality products.
EFFAT’s overarching mission is to combat social dumping and advocate for fair pay and decent working conditions within the sector. Through active engagement in the European social dialogue, EFFAT spearheads negotiations with European employers’ organizations to enhance the conditions of workers. Moreover, EFFAT extends its efforts beyond the food and drink sector to encompass agriculture, where it promotes a sustainable Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), safeguards employment, advocates for fair pay in rural areas, and fosters the development of social dialogue to enhance working conditions across the agricultural sector.

Laura van Selm – POMONA
Laura serves as the coordinator of POMONA, where her leadership extends across the realms of Youth, Agriculture, and Culture. POMONA, an organization dedicated to raising awareness among local communities, endeavors to foster restorative agricultural practices. POMONA aims to provide ecologically produced, high-quality food to its users, with the ambitious goal of meeting 80% of their needs.
At the heart of POMONA’s mission lies the pursuit of ecological, economic, and social restoration in food production. The organization firmly believes that achieving this vision necessitates close collaboration between farmers and citizens. By actively engaging both parties in decision-making processes and fostering a sense of community ownership, POMONA strives to create a sustainable and mutually beneficial food system.

2.30 p.m.

Q&A

3.00 p.m.

Coffee break

3.30 p.m.

Panel 4 – HARVESTING THE CROP
Conclusions

What to retain?
How to feed the agenda?
How to join forces?

Moderator: Jacques Haers 

Speakers:

  • Annemarieke de Bruin – Wageningen University
  • Séverine Deneulin – Laudato Si Research institute
  • Kerli Ats – European Economic and Social Committee
  • Béla Kuslits – Jesuit European Social Center
Speakers profiles

Jacques Haers

Jacques is Director of the pastoral servive of the KU Leuven, a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and the Research Unit Systematic Theology and the Study of Religions. Since 2001, he chairs the Centre for Liberation Theologies. His research addresses contextual and liberation theology in a planetwide context, with special emphases on globalization, violence and peace, climate challenges and the fundamental and methodological aspects of these theologies. He also researches the theology of religious life as well as Ignatian theology, where he pays specific attention to the dynamics of common apostolic discernment.

Annemarieke de Bruin – Wageningen University
Annemarieke de Bruin is an interdisciplinary researcher with over 15 years of experience in UK-based and international academic research. Her research has focused on interdisciplinary learning processes that bring together stakeholders within the context of agriculture, water governance, and tree health management. She graduated in 2007 from Wageningen University with an MSc in Tropical Land use and an MSc in Geo-Information Science. After graduating she moved to the UK where she worked as a researcher at the University of York and at the Stockholm Environment Institute’s York centre for 13 years. There she focussed on agricultural water management, more-than-human participation, and farmer-led innovation. She is now doing a PhD at Wageningen University in which she studies the ongoing transition of the food system in the North of the Netherlands from a justice perspective. She specifically looks at how people perceive justice in a food system transition.

Severine Deneulin – Laudato Si Research Institute
Severine is the Director of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute, Campion Hall, University of Oxford, and is also an Affiliate Fellow at the Oxford Department of International Development where she teaches in the MPhil in Development Studies. The Laudato Si’ Research Institute is a work of the British Jesuits. Its mission is to conduct transdisciplinary research on today’s most pressing social and ecological challenges within an integral ecology paradigm. The Institute aims to foster a new and dynamic dialogue between academia and stakeholders invested in socio-ecological change for the betterment of our shared planet.

Severine’s area of expertise lies in development ethics, which encompasses a critical examination of the concept of ‘progress’ and the methods employed to achieve it. Her research predominantly delves into the intersection of ethics and socio-economic development, with a particular focus on exploring the tenets of the Catholic social tradition. She is currently leading two major research projects, one on the role of the Catholic Church in socio-environmental conflicts in Latin America, and the other on Christian-Muslim dialogue on integral ecology. In her role at the Laudato Si’ Research Institute, she is also involved in a research project on ‘Loving our Land and Neighbour’ which explores spirituality and contributions of faith-based actors in agro-ecology.

Kerli Ats – European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

Kerli Ats is a chief executive officer (CEO) at Estonian Farmers’ Federation, an umbrella organization representing Estonian small and medium-sized farmers. She is also a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). She is an active farmer herself, managing almost 120 ha of agricultural land in the Pärnu county, and is engaged in pasteurised organic beef cattle production. Kerli has graduated from Estonian Business School and has a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. Since 2018, she is a doctoral student in the Estonian Business School specializing in knowledge transfer and agribusiness networks. She has also studied animal husbandry at the Olustvere School of Service and Rural Economics. She is currently the Rapporteur of an ongoing EESC own-initiative opinion, on a just transition to ensure a sustainable future for the EU agri-food systems. 

Béla Kuslits – Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC)
Béla is a member of the Ecology team at JESC, where his focus lies on environmental policy and facilitating the ecological transition within the broader network of European Jesuits. With a diverse educational background spanning medicine, sociology, anthropology, and environmental management, Béla possesses a unique skill set ideal for addressing various social-environmental issues.

At JESC, one of the primary areas of emphasis is sustainable food systems. Within this thematic framework, the organization strives to promote an agricultural system that ensures accessible, nutritious, and environmentally sustainable food for all individuals. This involves deep reflection and active contribution to shaping the policies and practices of Europe. JESC Ecology’s latest initiative on sustainable food systems is called Our Daily Bread. This initiative so far has researched and recognized over 150 faith-based organizations across the 27 EU member states which work on sustainable food systems and agriculture. JESC is committed to fostering engagement that authentically embodies Christian faith, demonstrates expertise in analyzing social realities, stands in solidarity with the marginalized and disadvantaged, and advocates for social and environmental justice within European political structures and actions.

4.30 p.m.

Q&A

5.00 p.m.

Drink

Organizers

Tomaso Ferrando (Faculty of Law, University of Antwerp)
Danya Nadar (Institute of Development Policy, University of Antwerp)
Vincent Bellinckx (Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development, University of Antwerp)
Janus Verelst (University Foundation for Development Corporation, University of Antwerp)
Bela Kuslits (Jesuit European Social Centre)
Jacques Haers, Erik De Bom, Maria Cordero & Barbara Segaert (University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp)

Partners

UCSIA vzw

University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp

USOS

university foundation for development cooperation

Logo IMDO

IMDO

Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development

JESC

Jesuit European Social Centre

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UCSIA

Koningstraat 2
B-2000 Antwerpen
info@ucsia.be
Tel. +32 (0)3 265 49 60

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