Building a more resilient Finnish food system - From import dependence towards domestic natural resource use

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The global food system forms a complex network with conflicting demands and expectations from all levels of society. While more food per capita is produced today than ever before, resilience within some parts of the global food system has declined in recent decades. Even though global trade has enabled countries to secure their food supply through imports, it has equally made countries dependent upon global markets, which are susceptible to fluctuations and unpredictable shocks. Almost every country participates in the global food trade either as an importer, an exporter or both. Comprehensive country-scale studies are needed to detect blind spots within the complexity of the larger system and to discover the hidden potential within specific countries. Finland was chosen as a case study because it has an interesting portfolio—a northern country rich in natural resources and a small population with relatively high self-sufficiency in terms of food production, but at the same time a great dependence on imported agricultural inputs (such as energy, fertilisers, protein feed and agricultural machinery). The primary aim of this dissertation is to discover how Finland could positively impact on the global food system without weakening its own food system resilience. The most significant finding of the research indicates that Finland's overall food trade-related resilience has weakened as domestic food production diversity has decreased while its dependence on imported foodstuff has increased. Furthermore, international foodstuff trade has been centralised in terms of trading partners. However, Finland has the potential to replace some crop imports with domestic production and further increase certain animal product exports, while saving global natural resources and diminishing the outsourced environmental impacts of food production. Yet increasing domestic agriculture may lead to an amplified dependence on imported agricultural inputs. This may not be as detrimental to system reliance as its foodstuff dependence, since the number of import connections has increased over the past decades for agricultural inputs. Finally, consumers are often the key to influence in the food system. An analysis done based on a recent national questionnaire study reveals that Finns are most motivated to eat sustainably when they can combine health and environmental co-benefits in their everyday life.  As a conclusion, the findings of this dissertation reveal that Finland's positive contribution to the sustainable use of natural resources might be relatively small on the global scale, but it is not insignificant. Thus it is vital that global knowledge is incorporated at the country-scale and case studies continue to discover the hidden potential to influence towards a more sustainable food system through the wise use of natural resources.
Translated title of the contributionKohti resilientimpää suomalaista ruokajärjestelmää: Tuontiriippuvuudesta kotimaisten luonnovarojen hyödyntämiseen
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Kummu, Matti, Supervising Professor
  • Karttunen, Kaisa, Thesis Advisor
  • Helenius, Juha, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-64-0155-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-0156-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • agricultural production
  • diet change
  • food system
  • international trade
  • land resources
  • resilience
  • water resources


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