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Are Local Food Chains More Sustainable than Global Food Chains? Considerations for Assessment

Author

Listed:
  • Gianluca Brunori

    () (Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Pisa, 56124 Pisa, Italy)

  • Francesca Galli

    () (Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Pisa, 56124 Pisa, Italy)

  • Dominique Barjolle

    () (Sustainable Agroecosystems Group, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich ETH, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland)

  • Rudolf Van Broekhuizen

    () (Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands)

  • Luca Colombo

    () (Fondazione Italiana per la Ricerca in Agricoltura Biologica e Biodinamica, 00153 Roma, Italy)

  • Mario Giampietro

    () (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain
    Spain and Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain)

  • James Kirwan

    () (Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham GL50 2RH, UK)

  • Tim Lang

    () (Centre for Food Policy, City University, London EC1V 0HB, UK)

  • Erik Mathijs

    () (Division of Bioeconomics, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium)

  • Damian Maye

    () (Spain and Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain)

  • Kees De Roest

    () (Centro Ricerche Produzioni Animali S.p.A.—C.R.P.A. S.p.A., 42121 Reggio Emilia, Italy)

  • Carin Rougoor

    () (Centre for Agriculture and Environment Foundation (CLM), 4104 BA Culemborg, The Netherlands)

  • Jana Schwarz

    () (Division of Bioeconomics, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium)

  • Emilia Schmitt

    () (Sustainable Agroecosystems Group, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich ETH, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland)

  • Julie Smith

    () (Centre for Food Policy, City University, London EC1V 0HB, UK)

  • Zaklina Stojanovic

    () (Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia)

  • Talis Tisenkopfs

    () (Baltic Studies Centre, LV1014 Riga, Latvia)

  • Jean-Marc Touzard

    () (Inra, UMR Innovation, 34060 Montpellier, France)

Abstract

This paper summarizes the main findings of the GLAMUR project which starts with an apparently simple question: is “local” more sustainable than “global”? Sustainability assessment is framed within a post-normal science perspective, advocating the integration of public deliberation and scientific research. The assessment spans 39 local, intermediate and global supply chain case studies across different commodities and countries. Assessment criteria cover environmental, economic, social, health and ethical sustainability dimensions. A closer view of the food system demonstrates a highly dynamic local–global continuum where actors, while adapting to a changing environment, establish multiple relations and animate several chain configurations. The evidence suggests caution when comparing “local” and “global” chains, especially when using the outcomes of the comparison in decision-making. Supply chains are analytical constructs that necessarily—and arbitrarily—are confined by system boundaries, isolating a set of elements from an interconnected whole. Even consolidated approaches, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), assess only a part of sustainability attributes, and the interpretation may be controversial. Many sustainability attributes are not yet measurable and “hard” methodologies need to be complemented by “soft” methodologies which are at least able to identify critical issues and trade-offs. Aware of these limitations, our research shows that comparing local and global chains, with the necessary caution, can help overcome a priori positions that so far have characterized the debate between “localists” and “globalists”. At firm level, comparison between “local” and “global” chains could be useful to identify best practices, benchmarks, critical points, and errors to avoid. As sustainability is not a status to achieve, but a never-ending process, comparison and deliberation can be the basis of a “reflexive governance” of food chains.

Suggested Citation

  • Gianluca Brunori & Francesca Galli & Dominique Barjolle & Rudolf Van Broekhuizen & Luca Colombo & Mario Giampietro & James Kirwan & Tim Lang & Erik Mathijs & Damian Maye & Kees De Roest & Carin Rougoo, 2016. "Are Local Food Chains More Sustainable than Global Food Chains? Considerations for Assessment," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-1, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:5:p:449-:d:69582
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jana Schwarz & Monica Schuster & Bernd Annaert & Miet Maertens & Erik Mathijs, 2016. "Sustainability of Global and Local Food Value Chains: An Empirical Comparison of Peruvian and Belgian Asparagus," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-1, April.
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    3. Kevin Morgan, 2010. "Local and Green, Global and Fair: The Ethical Foodscape and the Politics of Care," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 42(8), pages 1852-1867, August.
    4. Francesca Galli & Fabio Bartolini & Gianluca Brunori & Luca Colombo & Oriana Gava & Stefano Grando & Andrea Marescotti, 2015. "Sustainability assessment of food supply chains: an application to local and global bread in Italy," Agricultural and Food Economics, Springer;Italian Society of Agricultural Economics (SIDEA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-17, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    local; global; food supply chain; sustainability; assessment; reflexive governance; post-normal science;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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