Political Science Regulating Food Production
by
Courtney Irene Powell Thomas
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 September 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0183

Introduction

Food production encompasses every step along the farm-to-fork chain, including the growing, harvesting, slaughtering, processing, packaging, labeling, shipping, and merchandizing of plants and animals, as well as the development and application of new biotechnologies to the food system. Food production regulation varies enormously by country and region and is inexorably intertwined with varying levels of economic development and attachments of economic and political culture. Some countries adopt a top-down, mandatory approach with binding legal requirements, inspections, and penalties. Others embrace a bottom-up, voluntary framework that relies upon market forces to promote compliance among food producers, processors and distributors. Some countries base their regulations upon the best available scientific consensus, while others struggle politically or economically to keep pace with new scientific developments. Some develop and implement unique national standards, while others rely on international or regional institutions or trade partners to define the parameters and mechanisms of food production regulation. Some are aligned with notions of public choice, while others are dedicated to constructions of public interest. Many developing countries implement regulations designed to satisfy consumers in other countries and thus enhance their terms of trade but do not develop regulatory regimes designed to protect their own populations; in these cases, regulation tends to focus on commodities as cash crops, such as coffee or chocolate, and is often associated with notions of “fair trade.” Moreover, in addition to regulating food production to promote food safety and biosecurity, countries also regulate the environmental impacts of food production, especially the impacts of fertilizers and pesticides; the use of antibiotics and hormones in food production; animal health and welfare; advanced food biotechnologies, including genetic modification and cloning; food additives and allergens; and the marketing and labeling of foods, especially those that cater to niche markets, such as functional, organic, local, kosher, or halal foods. Food production regulation exists as the intersection of law, philosophy, economics, politics, and science, and is made increasingly more complex as the forces of globalization, including international trade and outsourcing, challenge governments to reconceptualize food regulation for the changing demands of the 21st century.

General Overviews

Because food production regulation varies widely, the following books and articles have been grouped by geographic region. Some focus on a particular country, but others address international or global dimensions of food production regulation. Some highlight dynamics that are unique to a single country or region, while others provide the tools for a comparative analysis across multiple countries or regions. They represent a wide range of analytical and regulatory perspectives and advocate different approaches to food production regulation; they are valuable, not for their support for a single ideology or point of view, but for the insights they provide into the complexities of food production regulation across economies and cultures. The resources address a variety of food regulatory challenges—not only for food safety, but also animal welfare, niche marketing, food labeling, environmental impacts of food production, and advanced food biotechnology.

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