book, by a leading expert in urban agriculture, offers a genuine solution to
today’s global food crisis. By contributing more to feeding themselves,
cities can allow breathing space for the rural sector to convert to more
organic sustainable approaches. Biel’s approach connects with current
debates about agroecology and food sovereignty, asks key questions, and
proposes lines of future research. He suggests that today’s food
insecurity – manifested in a regime of wildly fluctuating prices –
reflects not just temporary stresses in the existing mode of production, but
more profoundly the troubled process of generating a new one. He argues that
the solution cannot be implemented at a merely technical or political level:
the force of change can only be driven by the kind of social movements which
are now daring to challenge the existing unsustainable order. Drawing on
both his academic research and teaching, and 15 years’ experience as a
practising urban farmer, Biel brings a unique interdisciplinary approach to
this key global issue, creating a dialogue between the physical and social
This book is published under a Creative Common 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0).
This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work;
to adapt the work and to make commercial use of the work providing attribution
is made to the authors (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you
or your use of the work). Attribution should include the following information:
Robert Biel, Sustainable Food Systems. London, UCL Press, 2016.
First published in 2016 by UCL Press University College
London Gower Street London WC1E 6BT
Available to download free: www.ucl.ac.uk/ ucl- press
Text © Robert Biel, 2016 Images © Robert Biel, 2016
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from The British Library.
Further details about CC BY licenses are available at
ISBN: 978–1–911307–07–5 (Hbk.) ISBN: 978–1–911307–08–2 (Pbk.) ISBN: 978–1–911307–09–9 (PDF) ISBN: 978–1–911307–10–5 (epub) ISBN: 978–1–911307–11–2 (mobi) ISBN: 978–1–911307–29–7 (html) DOI:10.14324/111.9781911307099
Cover, title, copyright, contents, list of figures
This is a book about how people can feed themselves into the future,
and also about major aspects of climate adaptation/ mitigation.
I sought to approach these extremely serious topics in a spirit of responsibility.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has proposed the need
for a ‘new paradigm’ premised on ‘sustainable intensification’ and I felt it was
essential to engage with this constructively rather than merely critiquing its ‘discourse’.
2. Searching for a new model of food and farming
3. The mainstream farming paradigm - what went
4. How systems change: crisis and rifts
5. Embracing complexity: the earth system, land and soil
6. Dialectics of a (re)discovered sustainability
7. Political dimension – agriculture and class struggle
8.Towards a new paradigm – practical guidelines
9. Regenerating the earth system , working with climate
10.Food, imperialism and dependency
11. Built systems, biomimicry and urban food - growing
12. Autonomy, radicalism and the commons