Topic: Pathways to sustainability? Aligning Protected Food Names with agroecological praxis in Wales
Keywords: Protected Food Names, Agroecology, Agroecology territories, Transition theory, Wales
Protected Food Names (PFNs) are increasingly regarded as important endogenous rural development mechanisms; cultivating territorial agri-food systems that sustain producer livelihoods, enhance consumer trust, and preserve cultural heritage. There are now over 1,400 PFNs located across the European Union (EU), whereby the provenance and ‘terroir’ of food and drink are protected and enshrined in law. In the last 4 years, Wales, a devolved nation of the United Kingdom (UK), has increased the number of its PFNs from 4 to 16 representing considerable investment by Welsh Government (WG). Concurrently, in 2015, WG also ratified the seminal Future Generations Act (Wales) which requires public bodies to safe-guard the well-being of future generations based on the principle of sustainable development encompassing economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors. However, it is not clear the degree to which current PFN schemes meet this requirement.
Hence, in this paper, we discuss how Welsh PFNs can potentially be regarded as conduits for sustainable development and agri-food transformations. We do this by drawing on transition theory and the concept of ‘agroecology territories’, which are spaces where a transition process towards sustainable agri-food systems is engaged. We also draw on qualitative research data collected during 2018-2019 with a range of PFN stakeholders.
We argue that agroecology has much to offer in terms of further aligning PFNs to WG policy objectives, promoting quality-led place-based food systems, enhancing environmental resources and ensuring the well-being of future generations. Indeed, agroecology is gaining international recognition as a solution to address environmental challenges and to adapt to crises such as climate change, resource depletion and injustices within conventional food systems. Integrating ecological restorative production methods and principles of democratisation that underpin agroecology with Welsh PFN governance would mean a shift from their current purpose to one that incorporates a more holistic, transformative mandate. To this end, we draw on the 10 principles of agroecology as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to understand the extent to which Welsh PFNs align with agroecological praxis.
We conclude by discussing the key challenges facing Welsh agri-food stakeholders in further aligning PFNs with agroecological praxis and cultivating multi-scalar, interconnected agroecological territories. We also consider how existing regulatory frameworks, such as agri-environment schemes, might be leveraged to collectively achieve sustainable transformations in Wales.