Controversy and Doxa: Sustainable Food Policy and the English Vegetable Sector
Brennan, David Ross
Can a better understanding of the networked features of the vegetable supply chain facilitate the development of a more sustainable food policy? This paper examines the impact on vegetable production of UK Food Policy 2002-2015, a period when policy makers turned to the market for sustainable solutions. A case study method is adopted involving analysis of policy documents and expert interviews with policy makers and those involved in the sector. Thinking of the vegetable production system as a network renders simplistic market-based solutions inappropriate. Network inspired thinking can open up routes to a sustainable socio-technical regime for food by providing a theoretical framework for a more nuanced understanding of the interconnectedness of the processes involved in creating a society capable of sustaining a desired standard of living (Alderson, 1965). In the UK food system and the vegetables sector as a unit within it, we cannot assume that the optimal solution for sustainability is one where the vegetables sector is maximally efficient and competitive, especially if this leads to increased production of other more unsustainable foods Given the pivotal role of vegetable production in a more sustainable food system, a small, highly efficient vegetable sector may not bring about a sustainable food system as a whole. This research provides empirical support from a food regime context for what Håkansson (2006) articulated more than a decade ago: that IMP thinking can provide new pathways for policy solutions that can be used to bring about sustainable socio-technical transformations.