The debate over sustainable food systems needs a new ecosystem

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Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

Europe needs more sustainable food systems to cope with dramatic changes to our natural environment, economic instability, and rapid societal transformation. The issue is extremely complex, involving many dimensions and multiple objectives such as feeding a growing global population, ensuring food safety, mitigating climate change and environmental degradation, guaranteeing the development of rural areas, promoting economic growth, and equalizing the chances of different farming models. 

To address all these challenges, to find the best solutions, and above all to bring Europeans together in support of these solutions we need a new ecosystem for the debate that recognizes not only the multidimensionality of the issues at hand, but also the complexity and intensity of the corresponding public discourse.

To better understand public knowledge and perceptions of these issues, we took a closer look at how different stories, symbols, images, and metaphors are used to inform the debate on the future of European agriculture. 

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For example, many stories describe how good deeds are rewarded; bad behaviours are punished, while hard work, inventiveness, and risk-taking will result in success. As individuals rarely rely on fact-checking, narrative plausibility, i.e., compatibility with previously adopted narratives, is a primary factor in whether new information and ideas are accepted or rejected. 

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