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Environ Manage. 2016 May;57(5):956-75. doi: 10.1007/s00267-016-0664-8. Epub 2016 Mar 1.

Modeling Sustainable Food Systems.

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Bioversity International, Parc Scientifique Agropolis II, 1990 bd de la Lironde, 34397, Montpellier Cedex 5, France.
CIHEAM-IAMM, University of Catania, UMR MOISA Montpellier SupAgro, 3191 Route de Mende, 34090, Montpellier, France.


The processes underlying environmental, economic, and social unsustainability derive in part from the food system. Building sustainable food systems has become a predominating endeavor aiming to redirect our food systems and policies towards better-adjusted goals and improved societal welfare. Food systems are complex social-ecological systems involving multiple interactions between human and natural components. Policy needs to encourage public perception of humanity and nature as interdependent and interacting. The systemic nature of these interdependencies and interactions calls for systems approaches and integrated assessment tools. Identifying and modeling the intrinsic properties of the food system that will ensure its essential outcomes are maintained or enhanced over time and across generations, will help organizations and governmental institutions to track progress towards sustainability, and set policies that encourage positive transformations. This paper proposes a conceptual model that articulates crucial vulnerability and resilience factors to global environmental and socio-economic changes, postulating specific food and nutrition security issues as priority outcomes of food systems. By acknowledging the systemic nature of sustainability, this approach allows consideration of causal factor dynamics. In a stepwise approach, a logical application is schematized for three Mediterranean countries, namely Spain, France, and Italy.


Dynamic systems; Food and nutrition security; Metrics; Resilience; Social-ecological systems; Vulnerability

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