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Designing a future food vision for the Nordics through a participatory modeling approach

Karlsson, Johan O., Carlsson, Georg, Lindberg, Mikaela, Sjunnestrand, Tove, Röös, Elin
Agronomy for sustainable development 2018 v.38 no.6 pp. 59
agronomy, animals, arable soils, byproducts, decision making, diet, food production, forage, grasses, greenhouse gas emissions, human nutrition, land use, livestock production, mass flow, meat, models, nongovernmental organizations, organic production, pastures, perennials, stakeholders, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Scandinavia, Sweden
The development of future food systems will depend on normative decisions taken at different levels by policymakers and stakeholders. Scenario modeling is an adequate tool for assessing the implications of such decisions, but for an enlightened debate, it is important to make explicit and transparent how such value-based decisions affect modeling results. In a participatory approach working with five NGOs, we developed a future food vision for the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) through an iterative process of defining the scenario, modeling, and revising the scenario, until a final future food vision was reached. The impacts on food production, land use, and greenhouse gas emissions, and the resulting diets in the food vision, were modeled using a mass flow model of the food system. The food vision formulated was an organic farming system where food is produced locally and livestock production is limited to “leftover streams,” i.e., by-products from food production and forage from pastures and perennial grass/clover mixtures, thus limiting food-feed competition. Consumption of meat, especially non-ruminant meat, was substantially reduced compared with current consumption in the Nordic countries (− 81%). An estimated population of 37 million people could be supplied with the scenario diet, which uses 0.21 ha of arable land and causes greenhouse gas emissions of 0.48 tCO₂e per diet and year. The novelty of this paper includes advancing modeling of sustainable food systems by using an iterative process for designing future food visions based on stakeholder values, which enables results from multidisciplinary modeling (including agronomy, environmental system analysis, animal and human nutrition) to be fed back into the decision-making process, providing an empirical basis for normative decisions and a science-based future vision of sustainable food systems.