In our summer interview series we are featuring a number of experts who have recently spoken at the FOOD 2030 High Level Event in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and who all have their unique view on the food systems and the transformation it needs to become future-proof. Our third guest is Allison Marie Loconto, a Research Scientist at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France (INRA), a Science, Technology and Society Fellow at Harvard University and President of the ISA’s Research Committee on the Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Previously, she was a Visiting Scientist at FAO. She is the lead author of two international comparative studies: Constructing Markets for Agroecology (FAO, 2018) and Innovative markets for sustainable agriculture (FAO, 2016). She holds a PhD in Sociology from Michigan State University.

Why is your specific area of expertise important in relation to food systems transformation?

I study the institutional innovations that are being made by different actors in the food system. This expertise is important because it allows us to understand how change happens, how rules might be rewritten to enable greater responsibility for sustainable food systems, and where there is a need for innovation.

What is  the single most important issue to be addressed to make our food system future-proof?

The single most important issue to be addressed to make our food systems future-proof is the distribution, trade and other intermediary activities that link producers and consumers. These actors often determine what producers can sell and what consumers can buy. We need to diversify these intermediary activities to ensure better access to food and reduce the concentration of power.

What needs to be done to make the outcomes of Research & Innovation more impactful?

Greater collaboration and true co-production of knowledge between different food system actors is needed earlier in research and innovation processes. Participatory research and learning from farmers needs to become the norm. There needs to be changes in the intellectual property regimes that prioritise proprietary knowledge and do not encourage people to share openly in pre-competitive contexts.

What can FOOD 2030 do to help you and your colleagues?

FOOD 2030 can provide the linkages between research and innovation and policy support for food system sustainability. This could be done through the financing of national and regional workshops that would enable different food system actors to meet and brainstorm on concrete actions to take.

Describe a relevant innovative good practice related to food and nutrition security in your neighbourhood/region.

A relevant innovative good practice is the use of participatory guarantee systems (PGS) to certify organic production for local markets. PGS require local multi-actor participation (producers, consumers, researchers, traders, public actors) so to adapt international standards to local agro-ecosystems. PGS valorise farmer knowledge and costs less than third party certification.

As a citizen, how are you contributing to food systems transformation?

My family produces about 60% of the food we eat and all of our organic waste is recycled back into the farm. I regularly purchase food directly from producers, frequent famers markets, and purchase organic food and typical products when possible. I have changed how I consume food by eating meat only 1-2 times per week, not eating highly processed products and eating a highly diversified diet.

Photo: 03 April 2018, Rome Italy – Debate on Innovations for agroecology – 2nd International Symposium on Agroecology, FAO headquarters (Sheikh Zayed Centre). Photo credit must be given: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto. Editorial use only. Copyright ©FAO.