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Food sustainability conference produces future research agenda

11 February 2011

Cardiff University hosted a conference this week on the future of food sustainability research in the light of the current resource pressures threatening our natural environment and threats to global food security.

Organised by the University’s ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability & Society (BRASS), the event focused on the role of social science research in understanding and promoting sustainable food systems and marked nearly a decade of BRASS research in this field.

The conference ‘Researching Food Sustainability: Reflections, Challenges and the Future Agenda’ brought together researchers, policymakers and practitioners in the field to review developments over the past decade and assess future challenges.

The first day of the conference reflected on the evolution of food sustainability research and discussed the implications for future research. The speakers included Professor Terry Marsden, Director of the Sustainable Places Research Institute, Professor Kevin Morgan of the School of City & Regional Planning, and Professor Alan Malcolm, Director of the Oxford International Biomedical Centre. Themes ranged from food regulation and governance, to public procurement, sustainable supply chains, biosecurity and agricultural restructuring.

Day two of the conference assessed current knowledge gaps and considered the need to develop more strategic approaches to sustainable food policy and research. Wynfford James, Head of Food & Market Development Division of the Welsh Assembly Government, reflected on over a decade of agri-food policy making in Wales. Futurologist Hardin Tibbs, Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University, followed by outlining a series of future scenarios for the food sector, and led a discussion on future research priorities.

Professor Terry Marsden commented that "the event discussed the critical challenges facing the food system as set out in the recent UK Foresight report ‘The Future of Food and Farming’ as well as the new Welsh Food Strategy. Moreover, these are issues that are increasingly being felt through the current high food prices we are experiencing."

Hardin Tibbs reflected that "the conference was a really good opportunity for researchers at the cutting edge of sustainable food research to come together to chart fruitful future directions for research in this area".

BRASS will publish proposals for a research agenda for social science related food sustainability research based on proceedings from the event.


Notes to Editors

1. Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.

Visit the University website at:

2. Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS)

The Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS) is an ESRC funded interdisciplinary research centre combining expertise from the Business School, the Law School and the School of City and Regional Planning. Research at the centre focuses on business sustainability and corporate social responsibility, and particularly on the relationships between businesses and their key stakeholders (customers, suppliers, investors, workers, local communities and regulators).

BRASS pursues high quality, interdisciplinary social science research and engagement with research users to create knowledge and tools that will promote more sustainable stakeholder relationships amongst and within businesses, society and the environment. The Centre’s research work aims to generate knowledge, skills and learning, and to facilitate practical changes within businesses and policy arenas.


The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total expenditure in 2009/10 was about £211 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at

Further information

Professor Terry Marsden

Tel: 02920 874308


Dr Adrian Morley

Tel: 02920 876562