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CONTEXT & VISION

The competitiveness of food systems in France has been a matter of debate for quite some years.
While agrifood is the second-largest source of external trade revenue in France and dynamic industry stakeholders have been successful in East Asia and the Mediterranean Basin, issues with regard to competitiveness are apparent when looking at the stagnation of farm revenues. Across all products, farm revenues have been flat since the 2000s and are subject to year-on-year fluctuation.

Food systems must also progress in terms of preserving natural resources and protecting the environment. Food systems must continue to reduce their direct and indirect use of fossil fuel resources and their impact to soil, water, climate, biodiversity and the like. Social, health and wellbeing issues are also of concern. Too often, working conditions are barriers to social development.

These issues are at the root of social tensions about food systems. The gulf is widening between the sites of production and of consumption. Agriculture is being questioned, at times harshly, for its products and production methods, for the ways products are used, transformed and sold, and for the services it provides beyond the mere production of goods.

Agroecology is a way to improve environmental performance, with clear economic and social advantages. Agroecology can be used in combination with other methods that draw more heavily on technology, such as precision agriculture. The digital transition challenges how data are used and opens the door to unprecedented technological and structural innovations, and to the emergence of new kinds of agricultural professions. In all cases, it is important to disseminate proven successes and to define appropriate large-scale transitions that take account of local, regional and industry specificities.
To this end, new knowledge must lead to technological and structural innovations that will strengthen the productive, economic, environmental, health and social performance of production systems. Data management, multiscale modelling and multicriteria assessment make it possible to approach issues from varying, and at times contradictory, points of view. Social sciences can provide insight into the transition that production systems and industries are experiencing and their socioeconomic impacts.