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Workshop 2.5

Achieving co-benefits for sustainability and health through alternative agro-food systems


Rebecca Paxton, Bernhard Freyer,and Milena Klimek, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

If you have any questions regarding this workshop, please turn directly to the convenors by sending an email.


Alternative agro-food systems have the potential to produce positive co-benefits for health and sustainability. This potential stretches beyond the agro-food system, and may contribute to societal transformations. In this workshop we discuss what role agro-food systems can and should play in providing co-benefits for health and sustainability, and how desired co-benefits can be achieved or are currently being achieved.


Worldwide, agriculture is one of the greatest challenges to human and environmental health through pollution, land degradation, and the production of food with poor nutritional value. Socially, economically, and environmentally modern agriculture relies upon unsustainable production and distribution processes and structures, underpinned by values and philosophies that neglect health and sustainability. Agriculture based on a systemic ethic has the potential to provide considerable co-benefits to human and environmental health, enhancing long term sustainability beyond agro-food systems. In this workshop, rather than focus on the effects of the currently dominant agro-food system, we invite participants to propose suggestions as to how co-benefits to health and sustainability in broader society can be achieved through alternative agro-food systems, or to contribute examples of cases where these co-benefits are already in effect. We welcome broad systemic understandings of health and sustainability, and innovative ideas about how to frame the health discourse in agro-food contexts. In the discussion, we will share thoughts on how to reframe public health and sustainability discourses in ways that take into account systemic approaches and co-benefits, and discuss the potential of suggested approaches to address broader societal health and sustainability issues beyond the agro-food system. We will ask what roles agro-food systems could or should play in societal health and sustainability promotion, and what is required for agro-food systems to adopt these roles. The goal of this workshop is to deepen our understandings of how health and sustainability are connected in agro-food systems, and the potential role of alternative agro-food systems to provide co-benefits to health and sustainability in broader society.

Workshop process

This session will adopt a “slow talk” format, where each presentation will last maximum 5 minutes and be complemented by research papers, which participants should read ahead of time. The majority of the workshop will be devoted to in-depth group discussions of the research papers, followed by a short feedback round and plenary discussion.

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