Press Releases, Agriculture

Evidence Biases and Narrow Thinking Holding Back Food and Climate Action



  • Landmark new compendium about evidence, influence, and the future of food out now 
  • Viable food solutions to current climate, biodiversity, and hunger crises go untapped
  • Unpacking questions about yield, scalability, viability and well-being, experts from 15 countries unite to challenge “the way things are” in research, policy, and decision-making 
  • Multimedia interactive launched alongside showcases stories from around the world

Monday, 06 December 2021 – The Global Alliance for the Future of Food today releases The Politics of Knowledge: Understanding the Evidence for Agroecology, Regenerative Approaches, and Indigenous Foodways a global study that challenges how research is funded and by whom. Authors consider the influence this has on policy decisions, financial flows, and the evidence available to inform food systems transformation.

The industrialized food system is one of the biggest stressors on planetary health, contributing almost a quarter of global GHG emissions and driving 80% of biodiversity loss. Agroecology, regenerative farming practices, and Indigenous knowledge are pathways to sustainable food systems and they offer a way to repair the relationship between people and nature. Evidence in support of these pathways exists in abundance but, authors argue, is not prioritized in policy, finance, or practice because a narrow view of what counts as valid evidence holds back real action — and sows seeds of doubt. 

The compendium and supporting multimedia interactive are anchored in debunking the most common narratives about the future of food, addressing questions about yield, scaling potential, and economic viability. Diverse forms of evidence — such as lived experience, traditional knowledge, scientific analyses, storytelling, and peer-reviewed literature — are harnessed throughout to challenge assumptions. 

Examples of evidence available is provided from a range of case studies including a cooperative farmer research collaborative in the Andes, agroecology at scale in Andhra Pradesh, Malawi and Senegal, Indigenous food systems in India and Mexico, agroecological performance measurement undertaken by the FAO, and regenerative agriculture approaches in the US and New Zealand.  

Key findings: 

  • Entrenched histories that uphold colonial and western ways of thinking drive today’s evidence biases 
  • Narratives are used as a tool to delegitimize and keep solutions at the margins
  • Without diverse evidence, we will be limited to ineffective and siloed “silver bullet” solutions to the big global challenges we face 
  • Agroecology, regenerative approaches, and Indigenous foodways are systemic solutions that are already delivering positive health and nutrition outcomes, a sense of purpose and dignity, social justice and climate action, for millions of people worldwide 
  • The current system for academic valuation must be reformed so that outcomes other than scientific publications and policy briefs are encouraged
  • Participatory research and feminist methodologies generate vital new ideas that drive community agricultural development.

A core recommendation is that philanthropic, public and private funders and donors catalyze a transformative research and action agenda that: is transdisciplinary; is focused on political and social justice and food sovereignty; and, challenges vested interests. Authors note that changing today’s research, education, and innovation systems will unlock structural barriers — such as short term thinking, ‘cheap’ food, and narrow measures of success.

“Structural and systemic blockages that stymie society’s progress toward food systems transformation are no longer acceptable,” said Ruth Richardson, Executive Director of the Global Alliance. “It is long past time to confront the politics of knowledge and dive deep into the diverse evidence that shows us what the future of food looks like: healthy, resilient, equitable. With this new material in hand, funders and researchers alike will be able to challenge their assumptions and take action that enables agroecological, Indigenous and regenerative approaches to flourish — at a time when we need them more than ever.” 

Drawn from across 15 countries, representing geographic, institutional, sectoral, gender, and racial diversity, 70 contributing authors organized into 17 teams were engaged in this project. They include organizations and networks of practitioners, researchers, farmers and food providers, Indigenous Peoples, and foundations working on food systems at the national and international levels. 


About the Global Alliance for the Future of Food
The Global Alliance for the Future of Food is a strategic alliance of philanthropic foundations working together and with others to transform global food systems now and for future generations. We believe in the urgency of transforming global food systems, and in the power of working together and with others to effect positive change. Food systems reform requires new and better solutions at all scales through a systems-level approach and deep collaboration among philanthropy, researchers, grassroots movements, the private sector, farmers and food systems workers, Indigenous Peoples, government, and policymakers.

For additional comment and interviews, contact:
Kasia Murphy, Communications Director,
M: +34 676607 605