National Academies Press: OpenBook

A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System (2015)

Chapter: Part II: Effects of the U.S. Food System

« Previous: PART II: Effects of the U.S. Food System
Suggested Citation:"Part II: Effects of the U.S. Food System." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18846.
×

Part II

Effects of the U.S. Food System

What does an ideal food system accomplish? In the committee’s view, such a system should support human health; be nutritionally adequate and affordable and provide accessible food for all in a manner that provides a decent living for farmers and farm workers; and protect natural resources and animal welfare while minimizing environmental impacts. However, the activities that take place as we produce, process, consume, and dispose of food have positive and negative consequences in many realms of our physical and economic system, ranging from the more direct—providing nutrients needed for life—to the more indirect ones—contributing to changes in climate. Many individuals and organizations work on preventing or mitigating those negative consequences; on the other hand, some of the current challenges of the food system (see Chapter 2) may have resulted from making decisions based on siloed analyses, that is, analyses that explore effects only in one dimension and without considering the potential trade-offs. Better, informed decisions about interventions and possibly with fewer unintended consequences will be made if critical effects and trade-offs in various dimensions are first considered.

This report is intended to provide a framework for analyzing the health, environmental, social, and economic effects of the food system. To develop such a framework and illustrate issues it might need to address, the committee concluded that food system effects need to be examined in these varied domains. As described in Chapter 2, the food system is composed of many actors and processes; it is dynamic and circular (i.e., it is affected by interactions and loops) rather than linear; it affects populations in different ways; and the effects themselves can be acute and long term. There

Suggested Citation:"Part II: Effects of the U.S. Food System." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18846.
×

are interconnected markets that function (and result in impacts) at global, national, regional, and local levels. All of these features contribute to various challenges such as establishing boundaries, attributing cause and effect, and identifying mechanistic pathways of effects.

Part II is written as a background piece with brief descriptions of selected effects and complexities; for those selected, no systematic review of their potential associations with the food system was conducted. The chapter describes some complexities of the food system both conceptually and with examples. However, the connections to labor markets and social structures that have significant behavioral, social, and economic effects were not explored in detail. From this background piece, then, the reader should not imply any causality with the food system but, rather, potential associations. Also, although the committee recognizes that the U.S. food system has extensive and important connections to the global food system, the potential effects on other countries are not discussed. Finally, the chapters do not suggest (or even explore) alternative interventions to minimize any negative consequence or trade-off of current configurations.

In addition to highlighting some potential health (Chapter 3), environmental (Chapter 4), social (Chapter 5), and economic (Chapter 5) effects that arise as we produce, process, consume, and dispose of food, the chapters provide a brief summary of some methodologies that are used to identify and measure those effects. The introduction to each chapter aims to help the reader understand how the committee has categorized the effects in the health, environmental, social, and economic domains (e.g., food insecurity could be categorized as a health, social, or economic effect, but it has been included in Chapter 5 as a social and economic effect).

Suggested Citation:"Part II: Effects of the U.S. Food System." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18846.
×
Page 83
Suggested Citation:"Part II: Effects of the U.S. Food System." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18846.
×
Page 84
Next: 3 Health Effects of the U.S. Food System »
A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $78.00 Buy Ebook | $59.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on Americans' well-being than any other human activity. The food industry is the largest sector of our economy; food touches everything from our health to the environment, climate change, economic inequality, and the federal budget. From the earliest developments of agriculture, a major goal has been to attain sufficient foods that provide the energy and the nutrients needed for a healthy, active life. Over time, food production, processing, marketing, and consumption have evolved and become highly complex. The challenges of improving the food system in the 21st century will require systemic approaches that take full account of social, economic, ecological, and evolutionary factors. Policy or business interventions involving a segment of the food system often have consequences beyond the original issue the intervention was meant to address.

A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System develops an analytical framework for assessing effects associated with the ways in which food is grown, processed, distributed, marketed, retailed, and consumed in the United States. The framework will allow users to recognize effects across the full food system, consider all domains and dimensions of effects, account for systems dynamics and complexities, and choose appropriate methods for analysis. This report provides example applications of the framework based on complex questions that are currently under debate: consumption of a healthy and safe diet, food security, animal welfare, and preserving the environment and its resources.

A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System describes the U.S. food system and provides a brief history of its evolution into the current system. This report identifies some of the real and potential implications of the current system in terms of its health, environmental, and socioeconomic effects along with a sense for the complexities of the system, potential metrics, and some of the data needs that are required to assess the effects. The overview of the food system and the framework described in this report will be an essential resource for decision makers, researchers, and others to examine the possible impacts of alternative policies or agricultural or food processing practices.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!