Transitions to sustainability: A change in thinking about food systems change?

C. Clare Hinrichs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Scopus citations


In the present context of intertwined and intensifying economic, environmental and climate challenges and crisis, we need to enlarge our thinking about food systems change. One way to do so is by considering intersections between our longstanding interdisciplinary interest in food and agriculture and new scholarship and practice centered on transitions to sustainability. The general idea of transition references change in a wide range of fields and contexts, and has gained prominence most recently as a way to discuss and address sustainability challenges. To explore connections to food systems change, I highlight two broad approaches in the sustainability transitions research field. First is a multi-level perspective that examines sustainability innovation pathways and second is a social practices approach that illuminates the possibilities (or not) for shifts in normal everyday routines and practices. Taken together, these approaches offer different and useful ways to think about the dynamics, durability and significance of innovations in food and agriculture, and the part they play in transitions to sustainability. Numerous opportunities exist to forge more productive links between work on food systems change and the broad and growing sustainability transitions field. First, our research and practice insights about the importance of politics, governance, values and ethics in food and agriculture could help to strengthen the sustainability transitions field, which initially underplayed such questions. Second, the sustainability transitions field’s implicit systems sensibility and its futures orientation could help to widen the scope of inquiry and the contribution to policy and planning of research and practice on food systems change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-155
Number of pages13
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 4 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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