Food System and Circular Economy: History
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Subjects: Economics
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       Circular economy can play an active role in solving the unsustainability of the food production system, contributing to the creation of shorter and more resilient supply chains. Some solutions include policy regulations driving consumption towards more sustainable choices and the reduction of food waste: “best before” labels might be scrapped, food sharing initiatives incentivized and organic waste regarded as a high-value raw-material. Bio-refineries can be the catalyst of a green transition, where food waste can generate biofuels, bio-chemicals, plastics, textiles, medicines and much more. Circular practices seem to hold the potential for a win–win solution, simultaneously enhancing sustainability throughout the entire value chain (from production to consumption and post-consumption) and improving its resilience through the introduction of localized supply chains, making the food system less dependent on international trade. The European Union is working towards this direction (as its policy and social media agenda exposes) and will hopefully accelerate the transition to meet its Green New Deal expectations.

  • Food system
  • circular economy
  • Green new deal
  • resilience
  • bioecoomy
  • COVID-19

       The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a huge economic crisis and exposed many of the fallacies of the current world economic system, including the food system [1]. The aim of this paper is twofold: first, it aims at identifying the rise and fall of specific narratives related to the food system during the pandemic by means of a content analysis of social media content. This analysis will show how issues associated with the food system gained centrality throughout the lockdown, raising questions regarding the (lack of) sustainability and resiliency of the food system. Subsequently, it will present the preliminary findings of a systematic literature review aimed at identifying possible solutions for improving the food system within the recent scholarly debate. These two objectives represent, in the authors’ view, two faces of the same coin. By addressing them simultaneously, we seek to present a full picture of how discourse around the food system (in the context of the COVID-19 emergency) is being shaped and communicated in the interest of developing solutions.

       Communication strategies are important, especially in social and political contexts, as they offer the possibility to introduce and attract attention to new problems. To this extent, the dissemination of information is crucial in tracking the path that society should follow, as well as raising public awareness of the importance of particular issues. Hence, it is important to investigate how experts and policymakers propose solutions and inform citizens about the food system. Their methods for doing so, as discussed in the current work, might influence subjects’ attitudes, behaviors and beliefs about adopting more sustainable practices.

       The present analysis starts by framing the sustainability issue against the contemporary backdrop of the health and economic crisis effected by COVID-19 . As the pandemic is a contingent matter that has yet to unfold its deepest consequences, we will only seek to evaluate its possible economic repercussions. There are divergent opinions on this matter, but one certainty is that the crisis will leave a mark and question the global economic order, as never before. We will explore the deep causes of the pandemic and the connection between COVID-19 and the current food system, which has exposed the fallacies of the latter.

       Subsequently, we will analyze the communication strategy adopted by particular social media accounts . As mentioned, we will specifically investigate the dynamics of European Union (EU) communications related to the food system. Our social media content analysis will aim at assessing: (1) how the COVID-19 pandemic has re-shaped the EU’s social media agenda with respect to the food system and the circular economy; and (2) how themes relating to the food system and the circular economy have evolved/co-evolved over the period of the pandemic and gained momentum amongst EU citizens. To this end, we will focus on Twitter posts, as these enable the re-construction of social networks, comprised of vertexes (i.e., people, institutions) and links (connections between accounts, people and institutions).

      we will analyze possible solutions identified in the recent literature, placing particularly attention on how the European food system might be revolutionized by the introduction of circular economy principles, also in light of the COVID-19 crisis. We will focus on the potential for circular economy solutions to impact all three stages of the food system—production, consumption and waste disposal.

Finally, we will summarize the interconnections between COVID-19, the food system and the circular economy. While there remains much work to be done to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable food system, many instruments have already been set out for this purpose. Within the context of the current pandemic, a socio-economic and political international shift could ease the process towards achieving a more sustainable and circular food system.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/su12197939


  1. FAO. COVID-19 and the Crisis in food Systems: Symptoms, Causes, and Potential Solutions. Available online: (accessed on 11 September 2020).
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