2010 volume 42(8) pages 1814 – 1832
doi:10.1068/a4258

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Lang T, 2010, "From ‘value-for-money’ to ‘values-for-money’? Ethical food and policy in Europe" Environment and Planning A 42(8) 1814 – 1832

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From ‘value-for-money’ to ‘values-for-money’? Ethical food and policy in Europe

Tim Lang

Received 17 February 2009; in revised form 4 September 2009; published online 28 May 2010

Abstract. The author considers how ethical food raises complex challenges for policy makers. Looking mainly at Europe and developed countries, it is suggested that the notion of ethical food is plastic, but that therein lie its strength and appeal. Civil society movements see it as a rallying point to restructure food systems, from land use to consumption. The mainstream corporate sector sees ethical food as an umbrella term under which many, sometimes even competing, aspirations nestle, but which can be incorporated as additional niche markets. Far from being new, the ethical-food banner in the late 20th century has resurrected some older traditions, including those which contested power relations in the food system. But in the 21st century, with the world’s food system under economic, environmental, social, and political stress, the ethical-food umbrella faces an uncertain future. It could be submerged by ‘value-for-money’ consumerism; or it could become a champion of what the author calls an emerging set of ‘omnistandards’, under which fragmented single issues coalesce and articulate a new paradigm.

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