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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Towards a common understanding of Sustainable Food Systems

Margaret Sova McCabe
Margaret Sova McCabeUnit of ArkansasUnited States of America

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important draft. We are law professors at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. We think the final report will serve as an invaluable tool for establishing a lexicon of SFS terms in a way that will facilitate a more precise understanding of SFS law and policy development. We are advocates of such a lexicon so that stakeholders communicate SFS concepts through a shared language. We offer three perspectives on the draft:

(1) Many SFS models embed law and policy making as a food system element. See p. 10, Fig. 1. This report may benefit from making a distinction between structural elements of SFS (law and policy, institutions) and the substantive elements of a food system (socio-cultural, environment, and science and technology). We make this suggestion so that stakeholders can distinguish between policy ideas and the tools that allow those ideas to be implemented. Framing law and policy as a structural aspect of SFS rather than a source of substantive input will also foster insight into how different types of government may or may not be well suited to adopt different policy options.

(2) The draft requests comments that assist in defining inter-connected policy-making. See p. 54. From the legal perspective, we accept that inter-connected policy making is a way to capture both the process and substance of formulating, implementing, and evaluating law and policy that has systems-based outcome goals. It is important that inter-connected policy making (passing the law, implementing it, and studying outcomes to make further changes if goals aren’t achieved) also incorporates a systems perspective so that changes in policy are assessed on the broad SFS spectrum, not simply within the particular policy domain. For example, inter-connected policy making regarding crop subsidies should consider not just the impact on agricultural sector, but also on human health and environment in all phases of policy-making. See K. Parsons et al., UK Policy Making Institutions and their Implications for Integrated Food Policy, in Barling & Fanzo, Advances in Food Security and Sustainability, Chpt 7, 3:227-8 (2018).

(3) Law (including regulation) is perhaps the largest influencer of the food system. For this reason, this report is critical to speaking a common language that will allow more effective policy development. We urge the drafters to provide more context, and possibly direction, for positive SFS policy development by defining or visualizing current policy incoherence. For example, what language will SFS stakeholders use to describe the barriers that come from policy incoherence? Similarly, should the report include visualizations of barriers to achieving SFS such as lack of inclusion, disconnections between legal domains, and cultural misunderstanding? Fig. 1 (p.10) and Annex 3 (p. 61) provide excellent visual representations of SFS concepts but they might benefit from clearer representations of barriers or friction points that limit SFS progress.

Again, we appreciate the opportunity to comment on this important draft and look forward to reading the final product.

· Margaret Sova McCabe, Dean & Professor of Law

· Uche U. Uwelukwa, E.J. Ball Professor of Law

· Susan Schneider, William H. Enfield Professor of Law & Director, LL.M. Program in Agriculture & Food Law