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Special Issue "Sustainable Agricultural Governance"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2014)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Douglas H. Constance

Department of Sociology, Sam Houston State University, 1806 Avenue J, Huntsville, TX 77340, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: community impacts of industrial agriculture; sustainable agriculture
Guest Editor
Dr. Maki Hatanaka

Department of Sociology, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341-2446, USA
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +936 294 3573
Interests: standards; certification; governance; food and agriculture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue examines the capacity of non-state forms of governance to foster sustainable and just alternatives to the current neoliberalization of food and agriculture. In recent years, the use of non-state governance in food and agriculture has proliferated. On the one hand, non-state governance is purported to be a more democratic alternative to neoliberal governance, which is capable of advancing social, environmental, and cultural causes. On the other hand, critics contend that non-state governance is just another form of neoliberal governance and it is limited in its capability to produce transformative changes. Building on these debates, this special issue proposes to analyze the potential and limitations of non-state governance to increase the sustainability of food and agriculture. Potential areas of inquiry include, but are not limited to: standard and metric development processes and their implementation; questions of participation, democracy, accountability, and expertise; the ways that market structures and processes affect non-state governance; and the forms of sustainability advanced by non-state governance. We invite interested scholars to contribute to this issue.

Prof. Dr. Douglas H. Constance
Dr. Maki Hatanaka
Guest Editors

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs).


Keywords

  • sustainability
  • Governance
  • food and agriculture
  • neoliberalization

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Vertically Differentiating Environmental Standards: The Case of the Marine Stewardship Council
Sustainability 2015, 7(2), 1861-1883; doi:10.3390/su7021861
Received: 15 October 2014 / Accepted: 5 February 2015 / Published: 10 February 2015
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (715 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper explores the externally-led vertical differentiation of third-party certification standards using the case of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). We analyze this process in two dimensions. First, fisheries employ strategies to capture further market value from fishing practices that go beyond their
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This paper explores the externally-led vertical differentiation of third-party certification standards using the case of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). We analyze this process in two dimensions. First, fisheries employ strategies to capture further market value from fishing practices that go beyond their initial conditions for certification and seek additional recognition for these activities through co-labelling with, amongst others, international NGOs. Second, fisheries not yet able to meet the requirements of MSC standards are being enrolled in NGO and private sector sponsored Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs), providing an alternative route to global markets. In both cases the credibility and authority of the MSC is challenged by new coalitions of market actors opening up new strategies for capturing market value and/or improving the conditions of international market access. Through the lens of global value chains, the results offer new insights on how such standards not only influence trade and markets, but are also starting to change their internal governance in response to threats to their credibility by actors and modes of coordination in global value chains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Governance)
Open AccessArticle Governing Sustainability Transitions: Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives and Regime Change in United States Agriculture
Sustainability 2015, 7(1), 612-633; doi:10.3390/su7010612
Received: 10 October 2014 / Accepted: 30 December 2014 / Published: 7 January 2015
PDF Full-text (701 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Using a case study of US agriculture, this paper examines how governance affects sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems. The multi-level perspective (MLP) has become a leading framework for theorizing sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems. It posits that transitions to more sustainable socio-technical systems
[...] Read more.
Using a case study of US agriculture, this paper examines how governance affects sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems. The multi-level perspective (MLP) has become a leading framework for theorizing sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems. It posits that transitions to more sustainable socio-technical systems are an outcome of external pressure at the landscape level and internal pressure emanating from niches. While the MLP is a robust analytical framework, it under-theorizes the role that governance plays in sustainability transitions. This paper addresses this research gap through examining three multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) that have developed sustainability metrics and standards for US agriculture: Field to Market; LEO-4000; and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. Applying a governance analytical framework, membership selection, decision-making procedures, and access to resources are found to affect the kinds of sustainability metrics developed, as well as their likely implementation. Specifically, the governance processes functioned to channel sustainability metrics towards ones that were congruent with the existing agrifood regime, and marginalize metrics that had the potential to disrupt regime processes. Thus, this article proposes that governance is a key component of sustainability transitions, and that current usage of MSIs in much of environmental governance may function to moderate sustainability transitions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Governance)
Open AccessArticle Governing GMOs: The (Counter) Movement for Mandatory and Voluntary Non-GMO Labels
Sustainability 2014, 6(12), 9456-9476; doi:10.3390/su6129456
Received: 10 September 2014 / Revised: 20 November 2014 / Accepted: 2 December 2014 / Published: 18 December 2014
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1271 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Since 2012 the anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) movement has gained significant grassroots momentum in its efforts to require mandatory GMO food labels through state-level ballot and legislative efforts. Major food and agriculture corporations are opposed to mandatory GMO labels and have successfully defeated
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Since 2012 the anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) movement has gained significant grassroots momentum in its efforts to require mandatory GMO food labels through state-level ballot and legislative efforts. Major food and agriculture corporations are opposed to mandatory GMO labels and have successfully defeated most of these initiatives. Nevertheless, these battles have garnered significant media attention and re-energized the debate over GMO crops and foods. In this paper, we argue that one of the most significant outcomes of this fight is efforts by food retailers and value-based food companies to implement voluntary non-GMO labels and brands. We draw on the governance and political consumerism literature to explore (counter) movement efforts for mandatory labels and how these efforts are being institutionalized through private voluntary governance institutions. Our assessment is based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with key informants from consumer and environmental organizations, agriculture and biotech companies, and government regulatory agencies, as well as a content analysis of food industry websites. A growing number of food retailers recognize the reputational and economic value that new niche markets for non-GMO foods can offer, while the anti-GMO movement views these efforts as a step in the direction of mandatory GMO labels. We conclude that voluntary labels may act to settle the labeling debate by mollifying agri-food industry concerns about mandatory labeling and meeting the desire of political consumers for greater choice and transparency but without addressing the broader social and environmental sustainability concerns that drives the anti-GMO movement in the first place. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Governance)
Open AccessArticle McSustainability and McJustice: Certification, Alternative Food and Agriculture, and Social Change
Sustainability 2014, 6(11), 8092-8112; doi:10.3390/su6118092
Received: 15 September 2014 / Revised: 31 October 2014 / Accepted: 4 November 2014 / Published: 14 November 2014
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (833 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Alternative food and agriculture movements increasingly rely on market-based approaches, particularly voluntary standards and certification, to advance environmental sustainability and social justice. Using a case study of an ecological shrimp project in Indonesia that became certified organic, this paper raises concerns regarding the
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Alternative food and agriculture movements increasingly rely on market-based approaches, particularly voluntary standards and certification, to advance environmental sustainability and social justice. Using a case study of an ecological shrimp project in Indonesia that became certified organic, this paper raises concerns regarding the impacts of certification on alternative food and agriculture movements, and their aims of furthering sustainability and justice. Drawing on George Ritzer’s McDonaldization framework, I argue that the ecological shrimp project became McDonaldized with the introduction of voluntary standards and certification. Specifically, efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control became key characteristics of the shrimp project. While the introduction of such characteristics increased market access, it also entailed significant costs, including an erosion of trust and marginalization and alienation of farmers. Given such tradeoffs, in concluding I propose that certification is producing particular forms of environmental sustainability and social justice, what I term McSustainability and McJustice. While enabling the expansion of alternative food and agriculture, McSustainability and McJustice tend to allow little opportunity for farmer empowerment and food sovereignty, as well as exclude aspects of sustainable farming or ethical production that are not easily measured, standardized, and validated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Governance)
Figures

Open AccessArticle Civil Society in Hybrid Governance: Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Legitimacy in Mediating Wal-Mart’s Local Produce Supply Chains in Honduras
Sustainability 2014, 6(10), 7388-7411; doi:10.3390/su6107388
Received: 28 August 2014 / Revised: 8 October 2014 / Accepted: 14 October 2014 / Published: 23 October 2014
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (998 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper challenges the notion that the incorporation of actors from civil society into hybrid governance arrangements improves outcomes and legitimacy. Multi-stakeholder collaborations are a popular hybrid governance approach to development, including NGOs’ work to integrate smallholder farmers into supermarket supply chains. As
[...] Read more.
This paper challenges the notion that the incorporation of actors from civil society into hybrid governance arrangements improves outcomes and legitimacy. Multi-stakeholder collaborations are a popular hybrid governance approach to development, including NGOs’ work to integrate smallholder farmers into supermarket supply chains. As a result, NGOs’ service provision role has expanded to include market facilitation, often necessitating NGOs act as market intermediaries. This paper explores how this new role may jeopardize NGOs’ organizational legitimacy in the eyes of their constituents, other development organizations, and supermarket partners, and therefore ultimately affect their ability to represent civil society in hybrid governance arrangements. Drawing on qualitative data collected in the Central American country of Honduras, this paper focuses on NGOs’ role organizing producer associations to facilitate access to Wal-Mart supermarkets. Findings suggest that a lack of supply chain transparency, NGOs’ negotiation between commercial and aid-oriented goals, and the potential to exclude producers from development projects threaten NGOs’ legitimacy. These findings illustrate the difficulties of embedding philanthropic activities in market-based systems, and demonstrate how multi-stakeholder collaborations may be influenced more by commercial priorities than the elements of a partnership. Ultimately, development NGOs are products of neoliberal, hybrid governance, even as their activities are expected to ease the transition of small-scale producers into this system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Governance)

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