Debate Forum

Martin Caraher  is professor of food and health policy at Centre for Food Policy at City University, London. His interests in sustainability come from the perspective of local food chains and the attempts by social enterprises to build sustainability into their work.

"Using sustainability to shape agricultural policies in the European Union", by Karen L. Higgins, Claremont Graduate University

There is an urgent need to discuss sustainability in terms of economic development (sustained growth) and not as a constraint to the latter. No doubt, translating sustainability in concrete indicators and redefining European competitiveness in qualitative terms seem to be a very challenging exercise. The PAC 2014-2019 continues to support industrial intensification in selected regions of Europe and liberalisation of EU agricultural markets at the global level while European competitiveness in the sector is yet associated with Continue Reading..

Regarding the sustainability and feasibility of a transition to agroecologically-based agricultural systems a lot of questions arise. Agroindustrialization combining agricultural intensification and urban industrialization developed commercialised agricultural systems; this process provoked rural restructuring and social change. No doubt, it is ethically just to promote agroecology since sustainable agriculture offers new opportunities, by emphasising Continue Reading..

Can you describe how the costs of environmental degradation are taken into account by environmental law? What are its key principles?

The “polluter pays” principle is applied in France and in the EU at large. However, in the agricultural sector this principle is not very well applied: for example, fertilizers are only taxed at 5.5 % (instead of 19.6 %, such as for other goods) and the calculation methods for water pollution are at the advantage of farmers. On a legal level, there are a number of things lacking, but the primary issue is that we favor conventional farming methods through a tax system that is ill suited to environmental challenges.

The partial application of the “polluter pays” principle is explained by Continue Reading..

Hans R. Herren is holder of the Right Livelihood Award, and demands a global change of food production in this interview that was first published in Digital Development Debates under the following link. You can find a transcribed version of the interview as well.

Most people agree nowadays that there is a need to transition towards more sustainable farming practices. According to you, why is it so hard to move forward such a transition?

I see three main obstacles to this transition: first of all, there is a lack of knowledge of existing alternatives. Farmers are told to change the way they farm but no guidance about existing alternatives is provided to them. While some elements of uncertainty can be clarified through additional studies, it will never be possible to provide farmers with Continue Reading..

Agro-ecology is gaining ground in France and the rest of Europe. How would you describe agro-ecology?

There are many debates among academics concerning this term. Two main movements have emerged: one that considers agro-ecology as the integration of agronomy and ecology; and the other that adds to this a new way of conducting research.
Beyond the academic world, a variety of actors has captured the term, but has attached different meanings. This remains a subjective notion on which each actor projects his own Continue Reading..


  • "To build a new price system that reflects the full cost and benefits of agriculture: a difficult need", by H. Guyomard, INRA
  • "The Real Cost of Cheap Food", by D. Nierenberg and E. Nink, Food Tank
  • "38 Years of Sustainable Food Production in the Desert – The Benefits of the 100% Organic Study", by Helmy Abouleish, CEO of SEKEM Holding, Egypt
  • “Feeding 9 Billion people is easy: it’s humans than make it hard!”, by Oliver Dowding

  • Changes in agricultural production and food processing have dramatically altered what we eat. New technologies, social structural changes, market forces, advertising, and EU subsidies have all contributed. Today’s dominant agricultural system in Europe is heavily reliant on inputs: certificated seeds and synthetic chemicals, including pesticides, fertilizers, hormones,  insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides during food crop production. This contributes to soil, air and water pollution as well as Continue Reading..

    Dear readers and contributors,

    The EAT Debate Forum is an an independent platform for practitioners, policy makers, researchers and other interested in the economics of agriculture in the EU, and true cost accounting in particular, to debate key issues, share information and disseminate new ideas.

    The idea underpinning this Forum is to establish a long-lasting platform of discussion where consensual ideas will be challenged, misconceptions dislodged and the overall debate on the transition towards more sustainability moved forward.

    Very diverse topics will be discussed on this Forum, from the challenges of calculating the true cost of our food to the economic modalities of a transition towards more sustainable agriculture in the EU.

    In order to stimulate discussion, a 300-word introduction to the topic will be given on which contributors will be asked to respond. If you are not a Contributor but wish to propose an article for the Forum, please submit it to contact[a]

    You can also leave comments and give your opinion on the topic of your choice.

    We hope you will enjoy this Forum!”