The XIIth Congress of the European Association of Agricultural Economists (EAAE) took place in Ghent, Belgium. The theme ‘People, Food and Environments: Global trends and European strategies’ meant a huge variety of topics were covered in a packed 4 days. Attended by well over 750 delegates from all over Europe plus a strong US presence and some Asian and African representation, the contributed papers and posters gave a wider international feel to the conference.

Broad themes were:

  • food choices (including consumer behaviour, ethics, nutrition
    and health concerns, organic and fair trade products). I particularly
    liked Prof. Rodolfo M. Nayga, Jr.’s plenary session presentation
    on the 28th, ‘Economics and Policy in relation to nutrition and health’
    which caused a lively debate on how economists could enhance nutrition
    and diet studies to make sure policy interventions targeting the obese
    work – and yes, the ‘fat tax’ was mentioned!
  • multifunctional agriculture (diversification into e.g. farm tourism, landscape protectors, direct marketing)
  • environmental impacts of farming
  • rural and regional development
  • the CAP and its ‘Health Check’
  • sustainability
  • trade
  • the biofuels versus food production debate
  • biotechnology (including GM crops)
  • the food supply chain (including market power, traceability, food marketing, labelling). A very entertaining paper by Prof. David Hughes on food product differentiation was presented to an overflowing auditorium on Thursday morning – even the stairs were full! With, for example, 16 different canned tomato products on Tesco’s shelves, we were made to consider do we really need another option! As he rightly said "life’s too short to plough through all those choices"! He also introduced the concept of the ‘weekends-only ethical consumer’ (we don’t have time during the week to stick to our principles by searching out our locally-grown, fair trade, organic etc. products) – this is a group of consumers I can easily identify with!

Please feel free to check out the socioeconomics part of the CAB Abstracts database for records on research into all these themes.

I can also recommend Ghent – a beautiful, friendly city with more chocolate shops than you can imagine!

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