Line Gordon
Stockholm Resilience Centre deputy director, associate professor Line Gordon

 

“I do not think we will succeed if the change involves sacrifices and having to remove something from our diet. We have to make sustainable food exciting and tasty,” says Line Gordon, associate professor and director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre from 1 August 2018.

Making people want to eat more healthy food while also adapting agriculture and food production in a sustainable direction – these are no small challenges that Line Gordon’s research focuses on, but they do come with great rewards.

Food is key to many global challenges

“Food is key to many global changes. Food is not only linked to issues of hunger and starvation, but also to food safety, public health and sustainability. If we can deal with food properly, we will reach many of the UN’s global sustainability goals,” says Line Gordon.

However, we must then also start producing food differently than today, and partly other kinds of food. A current issue is meat consumption. After increasing for a long number of years, meat consumption in Sweden fell by 2.8 percent in 2017. This a good development for both health and the environment, says Line Gordon. However, she emphasises that she does not want meat to disappear completely from the dinner plates in the future.

“Today, we eat and produce too much meat globally, but livestock and meat production will continue to play an important role in agriculture in the future.”

Finding common solutions

Line Gordon does not take sides in the issue of conventional or organic farming, either.

“The contradiction that is publicised is unnecessary; we need both. Researchers often find themselves in polarising debates that become unproductive. We have to find new ways to discuss the issue and come up with common solutions.”

For the last two years, Line Gordon has been involved in the so-called EAT Lancet Commission, which has gathered around 40 international experts in areas such as nutrition, agriculture and sustainability. The work has been coordinated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, together with Harvard and the EAT Foundation, and the conclusions will be presented in the autumn.

“We know that society needs to act on various issues. But what is actually a healthy diet and a sustainable production system? And what changes are required? Our report will attempt to provide a comprehensive answer based on the state of knowledge.”

Interdisciplinary research projects

Line Gordon began her research career in the late 1990s by studying the use of water resources in agriculture. Much of her research focused on the world’s dry areas, and she worked periodically in Africa and Sri Lanka. Two or three years ago she shifted focus, and today her research spans the entire food system, from cultivation and production to consumption, and she focuses on Sweden more than she did before.

As a researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Line Gordon often works on interdisciplinary projects in close collaboration with actors outside academia.

“Sometimes, the role of the researcher is seen only as digging deeper to find new knowledge. But we also need research that bridges the gap between different disciplines and synthesises already existing knowledge in new ways.”

Making sustainable food more attractive

Line Gordon has started a collaboration with chefs as innovators in order to try to make sustainable food more attractive.

“There is currently great interest in vegetarian cooking, both in fine dining and in the public sector, such as hospitals and school kitchens.”

Line Gordon has always been curious and wanted to work on issues of relevance to society, but as a student at what was then the Department of Systems Ecology in the late 1990s, she had no idea she would do so within academia.

“I did not want to be a researcher at all. But over time, I have come to appreciate the freedom of research and the importance of evidence-based knowledge for our societal transition. As researchers, we do not have to be narrow and dive deep; we can do broad things, too.”