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Eating Biodiversity: An Investigation of the Links between Quality Food Production and Biodiversity Protection

  • Start date: 01 January 2005
  • End date: 30 September 2007

Modern food production systems have long been thought of as essentially detrimental to biodiversity. Although the last twenty or so years have seen an increasing number of policy measures and instruments to reduce biodiversity loss in agricultural areas biodiversity is largely conceived as an 'externality' to the process of food production, albeit a positive externality, which responds to societal demands. Increasingly, where food comes from is becoming important as a means of regaining consumer trust. Food that comes from identifiable natural areas is often perceived to be more trustworthy and of better quality than anonymous industrialised produce. In countries such as France and Italy, the specific natural qualities of individual ‘terroirs’ define not only the agronomic conditions of production but also, and crucially, the distinctive taste and consumption experience associated with the product. By examining selected examples of specific food production chains that fully integrate biodiversity as an explicit means of generating distinctiveness and adding value, this research offers an inter-disciplinary perspective by positioning biodiversity and environmental quality as an integral 'input' to, and component of, food quality. The research is investigating through the combining of social and natural science, the extent to which environmental distinctiveness and quality (specifically the biodiversity of grasslands) in UK food production sites can be actively ‘valorised’ through the food product chain to ensure the protection, maintenance and enhancement of that natural distinctiveness and quality but also to achieve similarly distinctive quality food products and the socio-economic benefits for producers and rural communities that might accrue from their production