Main content area

Redefining power relations in agrifood systems

Rossi, Adanella, Bui, Sibylle, Marsden, Terry
Journal of rural studies 2019 v.68 pp. 147-158
food industry, governance, plant breeding, France, Italy
Reconfiguration of power relations is crucial to transformations in agro-food systems. In this paper, we propose a conceptual basis for understanding this relation, building on the approaches to power of transition studies and other strands of studies. We explore the conditions for reconfigurations to occur by analysing three cases, concerning participatory plant breeding in Italy, public food procurement in France and diversification of agrifood chains in Wales. We highlight the critical importance of creating enabling relational environments, where power reconfiguration can occur. Within this new configuration, new, diverse sources of power are mobilized and new practices and institutions are co-constructed and legitimised, establishing the conditions for new socio-technical trajectories to emerge and for further transformative potential to develop. Our results show that a more variegated and dynamic configuration of power relations is needed. Transformations of agrifood systems depend on the variety of interactions that, in a multi-scale and dynamic dimension and through the play of the different forms of power, may develop among the actors involved. Understanding these processes and the implications that they show in terms of governance is critical.