PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (7): 1034-1044.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.07.008

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The evolving concept of food system and a geographical paradigm of research

Hua GUO1(), Ling'en WANG2,*(), Enpu MA2   

  1. 1. Tianjin Institute of Rural Economy and Regional Planning, Tianjin 300384, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2018-12-12 Revised:2019-03-20 Online:2019-07-28 Published:2019-07-28
  • Contact: Ling'en WANG;
  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China, No. 2016YFE0113100;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 41701620.


Food is related to the national economy and people's livelihood. China's food system is facing many challenges. The reduction of cultivated land resources, criticality of environmental pressures, loss of agricultural workforce, and rapid transformation of consumer demand have placed higher demands on food system functions. At the present in China, food system research is insufficient and the research content is fragmented, which cannot meet the needs and challenges of the society today. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the evolving concept of food system, summarizing the conceptual issues and types and characteristics of food systems. It then examines the progress of food system research, which evolved from concepts to methods, from a linear to a systematic recognition of the concept, from economic activities to food landscapes, from phenomenon descriptions to spatiotemporal analysis, among others, to consolidate the core connotation of the food system. Under the guidance of the human-environmental relationship paradigm, the spatial paradigm, the philosophy of science paradigms, and the systematic science paradigm, and following the path of "pattern-structure-process-mechanism," the spatial and temporal patterns, factor structure, evolution process, and development mechanism of food systems are further explored. The aim of this study is to construct a geographical paradigm of food system research. It intends to provide some references for promoting basic research and practical applications of a food system perspective.

Key words: food system, resource and environment, cognitive progress, geographical paradigm