Food Systems Academy is an open education website that aims to increase understanding of our food systems – where they come from, how they change and what the challenges are.

The academy was recently launched by creator Geoff Tansey, a writer and agricultural consultant, who had the idea of developing a series of open access online talks for those teaching some aspect of food and farming – but open to anyone to watch. The aim is to provide an overview of the complex and multidisciplinary nature of food systems.

But as Geoff points out, the subject of food also gives us the opportunity to explore a much wider range of topics:

“Food is a way into understanding the challenges we face as human societies dealing with unjust histories, contemporary inequality, climate change and other issues like competition over resources. It also illuminates the opportunities that exist to deal with them.”

With this in mind, the series of talks has been designed to give both an insight into the issues facing our food system and the solutions needed.

The talks have so far been grouped into four main topics, all of which include recommendations for wider reading:

1. Thinking about food systems

In this introductory section, Geoff gives an overview of the food system today and Harriet Friedman discusses the major food regimes that have dominated the world since the 19th century.

2. Patents, power and food

How are legal frameworks relating to intellectual property transforming our food systems? Peter Draphos explores how business lobbying changed the world and Geoff, in his second talk, takes things a step further by looking at intellectual property in relation to biodiversity and plant genetic resources.

3. Food, human security and thriving people

Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, places food into a wider context of peace and security, and Malcolm Dando asks, what are the challenges for ensuring that modern biotechnology is used for peaceful purposes?

4. Gender, nutrition and the right to food

Oliver de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, discusses governments’ obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food and the major transitions needed to create sustainable food systems. Janice Jiggins explores the gender aspect of agricultural systems change.

The website also includes stories from contributors that illustrate the subjects covered in their talks. These include subjects such as agroecological farming, the supermarket model and food justice.

Rebecca Whittle, a lecturer at Lancaster University, shared her thoughts on the value of the Academy as a teaching tool:

“I was really impressed by the content, depth and quality of the material on the virtual academy website. I teach on social and political aspects of sustainable food systems and, in my experience, it is very hard to find good quality, well-argued videos and podcasts on this topic to direct students to. Having them all collected in one place like this is a really valuable resource and one which I will certainly be using for students at all levels in future – from undergraduate up to PhD.”

The website is currently in its first stage of testing, so if you have a moment to spare, please complete the following survey about your experience of using Food Systems Academy, to improve the site for future users.

Featured image by USDA

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