Why behavioral economics matters to global food policy
This article in the journal Global Food Security elaborates on how including behavioral economics can influence consumer choices. While the article is focused on the developed world, the authors argue that the lessons learned might be directly applicable to developing countries. Traditional approaches have treated food consumers as if they were making deliberate and calculated food decisions, leading to policies that provide more detailed health information, pricing incentives and direct prohibitions. However, the authors argue that this is often not the case. Alternative approaches (based on behavioral economics) recognize the passive nature of food decisions that rely on subtle changes in the food choice environment. The hallmark of these “nudges” are relatively large impacts on choice within the altered environment, relatively low costs, and little in the way of consumer resistance. Since it is the food insecure that are at greatest risk for obesity and are most likely to be susceptible to food choice nudges, they were the focus of the study. As obesity is on the rise in many developing countries, lessons learned in developed countries may be directly applicable. Alternatively, similar principles may be of use in ensuring proper nutrition among the food insecure as a means to prevent malnutrition or other acute diet related diseases. The authors provide some discussion of what these applications may look like, as well as the research needed to make effective use of behavioral choice in this new frontier.