This working group aims to explore the links between ethics, responsibility, accountability, and policies, with a specific focus on innovation.
Topic: It is becoming increasingly clear that market forces create unintended consequences and far from expected food system outcomes. How policies and innovations can shape food systems are becoming central issues in the agriculture and food debate. Previously, controversies focused upon the distribution of power in the food system and how those dynamics affected availability and access to food. This aspect is now being integrated and amplified by concerns about direct and indirect outcomes that food systems and associated innovative practices generate. Concerns about nutrition, health, social justice, the environment, animal welfare and climate change are now at the centre of the debate. The consequences of innovation are not always known, and it remains ambiguous who is accountable to whom for the consequences of change. Consequently, policies have to deal with issues that may be suddenly ‘problematised’ because of these innovations and become objects of public debate, animate social movements, inspire research and gain policy attention.
In this new policy context, the relationship between truth claims, choice, responsibility, accountability and policies become central ethical concerns. While policy attempts to regulate practices or products on the basis of evidence and by balancing power, concerns about ethics affect food system actors’ choices, which in turn influences policies and innovations. Problematisation processes affect how accountability relations are created, disrupted, resisted, and solidified in the face of innovations, with implications for who wins and who loses. The broad call for greater accountability makes things visible, but simultaneously blurs other outcomes, including processes of responsibilisation and governance.
We encourage papers that identify promising new frameworks, strategies and approaches to food system policy, innovation and ethics. It will respond to the following questions:
- Ethics and practices: What social norms and practices in production and consumption are generated from emerging ethical issues (i.e. equality, animal welfare, environmental conservation, food waste etc.)? What does responsible innovation (in science, technology and business models) look like in these new contexts? How are ethical issues made visible through studies of responsibility and accountability relations? In corollary, how has accountability developed into an issue itself that allows actors to shape public debate and advance or impede strategic interests?
- Expertise and policy: How are emerging ethical issues becoming part of food and agriculture policy agendas? How can policies leverage social norms to generate change in the food system? How and in what form is expertise convened and problematised to shape responsibility and accountability relations?
- Demanding and claiming accountability: How are potentially conflicting demands for and claims toward accountability practically and materially negotiated? What new forms of authority (e.g. auditors, accountants, standards etc.) are emerging and what is displaced in the process?
- Policy and accountability: What are policy levers – law, standards, and incentives – relevant to the accountability of innovations and how do they mediate accountability constellations? What role does democratic accountability play in the governance of innovation and the problematisation and responsibilisation of policies?
- Finance and corporation: How and to what extent are private financial institutions engaging socially responsible innovations/portfolios and how is their involvement in the agriculture and food sectors shaping change? What tensions intersect with the practice of financial innovation?
We welcome conceptual, methodological and empirical / case study-based papers under this theme. Papers will be welcome that consider issues such as: the Right to Food, Food Security and Sovereignty, Food Democracy, Food Justice, Climate Change, Corporate Social Responsibility, Animal Welfare, Health and Food access, Ethics of care, Food as commons, Public Procurement, AFNs, Food waste and circular (food) economies.
Traditional workshop: 3-4 papers presented by authors in advance of opening to the floor for Q&As and wider discussion. Beside supporting dialogue and convening critical thinking toward the accountability of food system innovations, we plan to submit a selection of papers as a special issue to a top tier journal.