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Food sector development: multifunctionality and ethics

The food sector can be defined as the whole range of activities that determine the relationship between agricultural production and the consumer. The food sector includes all sorts of technical, trading and service activities related to the storage and processing, packaging, transport, distribution of food, and catering. The first section of this paper analyzes the challenges facing the future of the food sector, in a context of demographic growth, urbanization, increasing poverty and disparities, environmental degradation and increasing remoteness in Man's relationship to his food. The main function of the food sector is to provide healthy, nutritious food to satisfy consumer requirements. However it also has other functions, which are social, economic and environmental and which can together be termed the "multi-functionality" of the food sector. This concept, first developed for the agricultural sector, is used in the second section to describe the various direct or indirect, positive or negative, short-or long-term effects of food sector development. Food has a cultural function and makes a key contribution to the sense of individual and collective identity; the food sector offers opportunities for economic activity, employment and income in both rural and urban environments; as far as environmental issues are concerned, food sector activities may have both detrimental (pollution) and positive (depollution, regional development) effects. Assessment of the main functions of the food sector and the trends in its evolution raises ethical questions, mainly related to sustainability and equity, and these are discussed in the third section. The debate can be formulated in the following terms: can the model of food sector development initiated by the industrialized countries be applied to the entire world on a sustainable and equitable basis, given the effects of this development with regard to the energy consumed, the changes in dietary behaviour, the new demands in terms of food safety and the questions of biodiversity and disparities? (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : pays en développement; pays développé; politique de développement; durabilité; secteur agroindustriel; Éthique; multifonctionnalité

Thématique : Commerce, commercialisation et distribution; Economie et politique du développement

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