Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu


Food Time - Food Hazards

Initially a pilot study Bridging Time Theory and Practice , funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC – RR000222946) to explore the bridging of time theory and practice through an investigation of the time politics of food. It researched processes and barriers involved in translating into practice academic knowledge about pertinent time issues in the food system. It built on an ESRC Fellowship under the Global Environmental Change Programme Mapping the Environment: Temporal and Spatial Problems for the Social Science (1994-6)and continues as an ongoing research interest.



To engage key players in food policy in direct knowledge exchange with a view to making transparent what at present is an implicit and taken-for-granted dimension of the food system, that is, TIME in its multiple functions, dimensions and uses.



To initiate a change in perspective by bringing time onto the food policy agenda through a number of key institutional access points: farming unions, regional and national politics, NGO’s and media.


Time Theory Argument

Three time issues are driving the economy: time = money, speed = productivity, and time control = efficiency.

  • This economic time knows no seasons and no context. It belongs to the 24-hour, non-stop world of just-in-time trading and finance.
  • Nature in contrast changes with the seasons. It pulses to the rhythms of the sun and moon, night and day, growth and decay
  • The conflict between those two time systems is central to: animal welfare issues, the crisis in farming, environmental problems, to the political commitment to sustainable development, the inequitable redistribution of risks, public concern about food safety in general and GM food in particular
  • Yet, currently this clash of time systems is not on the food policy agenda



  • For interlocutors time was both familiar and strange.
  • The time of economic exchange was regulating their lives invisibly
  • Most respondents thought it was important to make time in the food system explicit as it would enhance debates around quality, local foods and sustainability
  • Interlocutors’ assumptions about consumers - such as, the change to ‘heat and eat’, price & convenience as over-riding factors, no label reading, food as entertainment - were tested in two focus groups and found wanting
  • Key consumer concerns emerged about inappropriate labelling, taste, freshness and price (saving money which tends to be more time-intensive), convenience - saving time which costs money for others’ time input

The potential of time literacy for food policy was recognised and the need to achieve time literacy subtly and pervasively acknowledged by a majority of interlocutors.




Adam, B. 1998 Timescapes of Modernity. The Environment and Invisible Hazards , London/New York: Routledge, especially chapter 4.


Adam, B. 2000 ‘The Temporal Gaze: Challenge for Social Theory in the Context of GM Food’, Millennium Issue BJS 51/1:125-142

Adam, B. 2000 ‘Bridging Time Theory and Practice: Exploring Time Politics for the Food System’, ESRC End-of-Award Report (R000222946) pp 40.

Adam, B. 1999 ‘Industrial Food for Thought: Timescapes of Risk’ Environmental Values, 8/2:219-238

Adam, B. 1999 Bridging Time Theory and Practice: Exploring the Time Politics of Food, Cardiff: Cardiff University.

Adam, B. 1995 ‚Auf dem Weg zur Laborzeit: Wandel der Zeiten in der Landwirtschaft’, Politische Ökologie, Sonderheft 8:20-25.