Logo of the European Society for Rural SociologyConference date: Friday, 10 March 2023
Registration will close on the 28th of February. Register now at the foot of this page.

Conference venue:
This is a hybrid event that will be held in-person at AUR's campus in Rome while simulcast to online attendees.

Keynote speakers
John Wilkinson (Professor, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro) [in-person], 
George Monbiot, Writer, Journalist, Environmental and Political Activist [online]
 Larissa Zimberoff, Writer and Journalist [online]

Conference hosts
This conference is hosted jointly by AUR's Master's in Food Studies and the Center for Food Studies at The American University of Rome.

Conference patronage
With the scientific patronage of the European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS)

Conference program:
Available here (pdf file)

The aims of this conference are to contribute, from a social science perspective to the knowledge and empirical evidence on the theme of Novel Foods and Novel Food Production. 
In particular:

  • To map the state of the arts on novel foods and controlled environment agriculture and identify the main lines of debate. 
  • To contribute to the definition of adequate forms of regulation and policies for enhancing their democratic control
  • To assess current knowledge on novel foods consumption and their impact on the healthiness and sustainability of diets.
  • To review the implications of novel foods and novel food production for the eco- and social systems.

The themes for contributions include: 

  • The institutional characteristics of the new food innovation ecosystem
  • Novel forms of food production:  Controlled Environmental Agriculture (CEA), characteristics, social and governance dimensions
  • CEA as a reconfiguration of rural urban perspectives?
  • Novel foods:  the extent of their adoption and their impact on diets
  • Consumer responses:  vegetarianism, veganism and flexitarianism
  • Responses of different social movements – environment, animal welfare, food and health, indigenous foods
  • Alternative proteins, including insects: a new problem for food security or part of the solution?
  • Plant-based proteins:  consumption and production issues in the EU and US
  • New forms of intellectual property in food and implications for food security
  • The impact of current innovations for global food chains and local food systems
  • The impact of current innovations for agriculture, farmers, global food chains and local food systems
  • Current innovations and new axes of global governance.

AUR's Master's in Food Studies annual conference, 2019, and the subsequent webinar held in 2021 focused on changes in food diets and their implications for sustainability. The forthcoming conference in March 2023 proposes to continue this discussion by focusing on the unparalleled wave of food product innovations sweeping through the global food system as of the second decade of the new millennium.

Prior to this, the dominant players in the food industry had largely adopted a defensive stance, reacting to pressures from a variety of social movements and public policies in favour of healthier diets and a healthier planet. Since then, however, they are being challenged by a new generation of food start-ups who, with the help of a novel innovation ecosystem, are introducing products which are increasingly independent of their original raw materials. Food security and food sustainability as the key global challenges of a world which combines continued population growth with accelerating urbanization and rapid depletion of natural resources are high on the list of motives of these mission-oriented entrepreneurs. The dominant players in the food systems are themselves now  investing and exploring these new lines of products.

The central focus is on producing substitutes for the animal protein food/feed chains since these are seen as the principal source of biodiversity loss, climate change and land utilization by agricultural activities. But it extends also to a whole range of traditional food crops including coffee and cocoa. These innovations depend heavily on the so-called disruptive technologies of big data analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence for the identification of new molecules with precise physical and functional characteristics. They also draw on advances in biotechnology for gene editing, precision fermentation and cellular cultivation. 

A parallel wave of innovation, in the form of controlled environment agriculture (CEA),  encompassing a variety of indoor farming systems and vertical farming, aims to free fresh produce production from the risks and rhythms of the natural environment, integrating it into urban life.  As natural resources become scarcer or increasingly contaminated and as climatic conditions become harsher, strategies of resistance to the environment, (rustic varieties and races), are combined with or replaced by those of protecting from, controlling the, and, at the limit, substituting for, “nature” in varied types of CEA.



We are no longer dealing with the confection of recipes protected through industrial secrets but with advanced technology solutions increasingly protected by patents and other intellectual property options. While the innovation model was initially dominated by U.S. firms and finance capital, it has quickly become a global phenomenon, with a proliferation of high-tech food hubs, often stimulated through public policies and funding, especially in countries with abundant capital but limited natural resources. The regulation of these new processes and products is still in its infancy and social acceptance remains an open question. The economic, social and ecological consequences are similarly as yet undecided. 

Are we going to see the emergence of a new generation of “mission-driven” food firms or will they be absorbed by the “legacy” global players?  Will these innovations lead to new levels of economic concentration, or will they offer new possibilities for more decentralized and democratic forms of control? To what extent will they lead to a reconceptualization of town-country relations?  How will they affect the labor market in food and agriculture?   Will they help ensure food security at different scales?   What is their impact for the health and sustainability of diets?  

FAO, 2013.  Edible insects.  Future prospects for food and feed security, Forestry Paper 171.
Guthman, J., & Biltekoff, C.  2021.   Magical disruption? Alternative protein and the promise of de-materialization, Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space,  Vol. 4(4) 1583–1600
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Friends of the Earth Europe, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz,  2021.  Meat Atlas.  Facts and Figures about the Animals we Eat. 
IPES-Food, 2022. The politics of protein: examining claims about livestock, fish, ‘alternative proteins’ and sustainability
Patil, U., & Sandoval, L. 2021.  India Emerges as a Burgeoning Market for Plant-based Meat Substitutes, USDA Foreign agricultural Service and GAIN Voluntary Report no. IN2021-0064
Monbiot, G., 2022.  Regenesis.  Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet, Penguin Books
Raychel Santo et al.  2020  Considering Plant-Based Meat Substitutes and Cell-based Meat:  a Public Health and Food Systems Perspective, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 4:134.
Sexton, A.E., Garnett T., & Lorimer, J. 2019. Framing the future of food: The contested promises of alternative proteins. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 2 (1): 47–72
Stephens, N. et al.2021.  Bringing cultured meat to market: Technical, socio-political, and regulatory challenges in cellular agriculture, Trends in Food Science and Technology, 78:155-166.
Wilkinson, J. 2019. Large-scale forces, global tendencies and rural actors in the light of the SDG goals. 2030 – Food, agriculture and rural development in Latin America and the Caribbean, No. 5. Santiago de Chile. FAO. 
Zimberoff, L. , 2021.  Technically Food.  Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change what we Eat, Abrams Press, NYC.

  • Organizing and Scientific Committee Members

Maria Grazia Quieti, Program Director, Master in Food Studies, 
The American University of  Rome  (AUR)

Maria Fonte, Adjunct Professor, AUR,
Former Professor University of Naples Federico II

Committee Members:
John Wilkinson, Federal Rural University of Rio De Janeiro
David Goodman, Emeritus Professor, UC Santa Cruz
Colin Sage, Independent Scholar
Mara Miele, Cardiff University
Materne Maetz, former FAO Senior Policy Officer, Independent Researcher
Master in Food Studies faculty (Giacomo Branca; Arianna Consolandi; Marzia Mauriello;  Dalia Mattioni; Chiara Perelli;  Valentina Peveri;  Laura Prota;  Rita Salvatore).




Conference Fees

- Conference Fee - 95 Euro
- Student/AUR alumni fee - 35 Euro

- Present your paper in an in-person working group session
- Participate in in-person working group sessions, final feedback, and wrap-up plenary session
- Watch all live and virtual presentations in person
- Includes lunch, coffee breaks, closing mix and mingle aperitif
- Receive link to recorded sessions after the conference

- Conference Fee: - 45 Euro
- Student/AUR alumni fee – 25 Euro

- Authors: Present your paper virtually in a working group session via zoom
- Registered participants: attend one parallel session via zoom and ask questions via chat for discussion, as time allows
- Watch final feedback and wrap-up plenary session via webinar link; interact via ‘Q&A’ with panelists and via ‘chat’ with other participants
- Watch all live and virtual presentations via webinar link; interact via ‘Q&A’ with panelists and via ‘chat’ with other participants
- Receive link to recorded sessions after the conference