Damian Maye to present latest research on Ethics and Food Governance in Innsbruck.

Damian Maye has been invited to talk about some of his latest research linked to ethics and food governance at an international conference on Rural-Urban Linkages for Sustainable Development that will take place 19th – 21st July, 2018 in Innsbruck (Austria). 

The conference is jointly organised by the Institute of Geography and the Research Center Global Change – Regional Sustainability from the University of Innsbruck in cooperation with the International Geographical Union (IGU) Commission On ‘The Dynamics of Economic Spaces’ (DES) . Food systems, production networks and value chains will be focuses of this conference. See conference page.

The paper that Damian will be presenting approaches rural-urban linkages for sustainable development from an agri-food systems perspective.


There is increasing engagement in agri-food geography and sociology with the notion of ‘sustainability transition’ as a framework to conceptualise development pathways for agri-food systems, including rural and urban examples (Maye and Duncan, 2017). In terms of rural-urban linkages, examples include market-based mechanisms (short food chains, local, regional and transnational fair trade networks), new forms of technological and social innovation (food apps, food policy councils, city-region food strategies) and public forms of food provisioning (public procurement, reciprocal contracts). These agri-food innovations are spatially proximate or spatially extended supply chain arrangements that concomitantly connect the urban and the rural and producers and consumers in novel ways. They symbolise examples of a food economy that fits well with regional innovation policy and smart development, as well as smart growth agendas. These are important food chain innovations, but the paper argues that alone such arrangements are not enough as pathways and ‘acts of change’ for sustainability transition because the emphasis is too orientated towards economic priorities and growth. Using data from a major EU project that compared the sustainability of global and local food chains, the paper argues for an approach to sustainability that puts ethics at the centre of agri-food governance. Food ethics is linked to the notion of ‘unintended consequences’ and ‘responsibility’. How responsibility is conceptualised in sustainability research is reviewed, drawing on analysis of sustainable consumption and food waste. Studies of responsibility are used to develop a ‘strategies of responsibilisation’ approach. Specifically, responsibility in agri-food governance is examined in relation to debates about plastics and reusable coffee cups, as well as wider debates about the circular economy. The paper concludes with some remarks about the value of incorporating ethics and responsibility into wider forms of economic activity and governance of rural-urban relations.