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Inter-organizational relationships in agri-food systems and challenges to the food safety management.

1. Introduction

We are specifically interested in how previous research investigated the structure of the food distribution system, global economic processes that shape or constrain the food options, the meaning of food in life and social intercourse, growing sectors of the food industry, and factors involved in making food choices. This paper begins to fill this gap by exploring the challenges posed by high and volatile food prices, the impact of social, economic and food system trends on food choices, convergence in food systems, the emergence of food as a pervasive environment, and the scientific discourse of food. The findings of this study have implications for the role of global trade in ensuring food security, the evolution of global food and agricultural value chains, the mechanisms of acquisition of food preferences, the actual food manufacturing process, and the income effect from increased sales of produced food. Also, research focusing on previous work experience revealed the behavior of lead firms in global food production systems, the impact of high food prices on developing countries, the patterns and prevalence of specific types of food allergies, the structural causes of the food crisis, and the experimental exploration of food as a conditioning medium.

2. The Structure of the Food Distribution System

Landecker stresses how food functions as an "epigenetic" factor in the regulation of gene expression, focusing on the experimental formalization of food in nutritional epigenetics. The molecules in food affect the kind and number of molecules attached to DNA. The body processes food differently via the molecular settings on its metabolic systems. Landecker maintains that food transforms the organism's being as much as the organism transforms it. Molecularization renders the food itself a fuzzy background vehicle for bioactive molecules. Food's biological activity is understood in terms of how outer molecules articulate with inner molecules in a life of eating. The rise of "functional foods" emphasizes particular biologically active substances. The market share for functional foods has been growing in developed nations worldwide. The rise of functional foods is related to food engineering. (1) Rosset says that the climate crisis affects both the livelihoods of rural people and food production. Food sovereignty starts with the concept of economic and social human rights: feeding a nation's people is an issue of national security. (2) Cuesta notes that food prices have risen because of the coincidence of various causes related to supply and demand on a global scale. (3) According to Kerbach et al., the majority of food allergic reactions are caused by a restricted number of foods. Adverse reactions to foods allergies are of major concern to consumers and the food industry. The protection of food-allergic consumers falls under the remit of food safety legislation and regulation. Food allergens are inherent constituents of a food and their adverse effect is experienced by a proportion of the consumer base. (4) Hartmann et al. emphasize that consumers expect high product quality and that food is produced in a sustainable way. The production and processing of food involves information flows between various supply chain stages. Hartmann et al. state that global sourcing of agricultural and food products is on the rise. Consumers increase attendance to outlays which provide complementary food services. A variety of high-profile food scares has directed public attention to food safety issues. (5) Sobal et al. insist that food choices are dynamic and evolve over time: a person's life course provides temporal individual and historical precursors and contexts for current food choices. Individuals construct food choices by being aware of the resources they can use in making food selections. On Sobal et al.'s reading, options, trade-offs and boundaries are constructed in the process of making food choices. Personal food systems include the processes of constructing food choice values. Life course events and experiences shape food choice influences. Each particular food or eating situation is a bundle of different attributes that are bound together. Substitution replaces foods or ways of eating to accommodate conflicting values. Strategies and repertoires for food choice are acquired over the life course. Sobal et al. hold that the personal food system is the way that individuals construct food choices. Food choices can be conceptualized using existing, deductive and inductive models. Food choices are constructed using the thoughts, feelings and actions of individuals. (6)

3. The Impact of Social, Economic and Food System Trends on Food Choices

In Rozin's view, the "moment" of food choice is a step in a series of behaviors organized for the quest for food. Choosing and obtaining food are as central to biological evolution as any activity. Food choice assumes a central role in human evolution. Rozin writes that food has become integrated into many functions and activities that have nothing to do with nutrition. Food functions socially as the opportunity for family social interaction. The preference-liking distinction motivates a psychological taxonomy of foods. Gender, age and social status are significant in accounting for food preference. There are cultural differences that affect the foods eaten and the role of food in life. (7) Hawkes holds that trade liberalization affects the whole food supply chain. Diets are affected by the environment in which consumers make food choices. Food marketing is a "potent force" in eating behaviors. Hawkes puts it that transnational food processors favor FDI over exports as a market growth strategy. FDI is responsible for more sales of processed foods around the world than trade. According to Hawkes, the growth of transnational supermarkets has had two core effects on the processed food market in developing countries: (i) the growth of transnational retailers has provided a major incentive for increased imports of highly processed foods, and (ii) the growth of supermarkets has introduced incentives for consumers to try highly processed foods. FDI in food service outlets has made highly processed foods more available. Advertising and promotion enable food companies to attract attention to new products. Foods with "functionality" are marketed to the wealthier, health-aware consumer. Consumers in developing countries spend less on processed foods. (8)

4. The Causes of the Food Price Crisis

Gereffi and Christian state global processes play an outstanding role through the transfer of Western-style food processing into local firms. Global economic processes influence food consumption in positive and negative ways for healthy diets. (9) Martin and Ivanic maintain that the impacts of changes in food prices on poverty can only be determined empirically. (10) Jones and Elasri note that food and feed are the largest components of demand in agriculture. Food affordability and availability increasingly challenge producers and governments alike. The share of food in the total consumer basket is small and food price inflation is moderate in developed countries. (11) O'Connor looks at the European Union's (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the light of the current food crisis. The European Commission (EC) proposes improving the current food distribution program for the most deprived persons in the EU. The EU is an exporter of processed food products (its main markets are developed economies). The CAP is not the cause of, nor a major contributor to, the current food crisis. (12) Herrmann and Peters remark that a large share of the population of many poor countries depends on imported food, and is dependent on the production of agricultural goods at home. Many of the poorest developing countries were once net exporters of food. Exporters of food items have to confront a food crisis at home. An increase in food price results in increased poverty incidence. In the current crisis some countries have raised concerns about food security. Herrmann and Peters argue that when food prices are high, even large producers of food items may face food insecurity (higher prices of food threaten food security in many poor countries). The dependence on food imports does not necessarily imply a higher risk of food crisis. A higher rate of food self- sufficiency can help to increase a country's food security. The majority of countries that depend on food imports are not affected by food insecurity. Herrmann and Peters insist that food crises happen in both low-income countries that are net importers and low-income countries that are net exporters of food. (13)

Prowse assesses the origins of the food price rises in the context of the international trade-distorting policies, global food markets and food price developments and trends. The policy response to higher food prices requires both a short and longer term perspective. Prowse looks at both the efficacy of immediate mechanisms and at medium to longer term support of agricultural development and trade. The increase in food prices provides an opportunity for the global community. The rising trend in food prices is expected to persist in the medium term. Food aid has in many instances had undesirable and unintended consequences. The rise in prices of major food commodities has been exacerbated by export restrictions on foodstuffs, and trade-related biofuels policies in the industrialized countries. Prowse claims that food price volatility is likely to become more frequent. Many low-income countries impose tariffs on basic food staples.

5. Conclusions

The purpose of this article is to gain a deeper understanding of the interaction of global and local food value chains, the richness and complexity of human food choice, the location-specific structural elements and social processes, food as an enveloping molecular medium, and the impact of trade on food consumption in developing countries. The purpose of this study is to examine the causes of the food price crisis, the adoption of Western products and practices by domestic food systems, the global functional food market, the rise of processed foods, and the reconfiguration of food and metabolism in nutritional epigenetics. This paper has provided a literature review on the market for highly processed foods, policy options in the context of the food price crises, the ways that food matters to metabolism, the nutritional value of food products, and the notion of food as substrate.


(1.) Landecker, H. (2011), "Food as Exposure: Nutritional Epigenetics and the New Metabolism," BioSocieties 6. Forthcoming

(2.) Rosset, P. (2011), "Food Sovereignty and Alternative Paradigms to Confront Land Grabbing and the Food and Climate Crises," Development 54(1): 21-30.

(3.) Cuesta, J. (2011), "A Qualitative Analysis of Policymaking on the Food Price Crisis in the Andean Region: Preparing for the Next Crisis," European Journal of Development Research 23(1): 72-93.

(4.) Kerbach, S. et al. (2010), "Protecting Food-Allergic Consumers: Managing Allergens across the Food Supply Chain," in Boye, J.I. and Godefroy, S.B. (eds.), Allergen Management in the Food Industry. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 33-52.

(5.) Hartmann, M. et al. (2010), "Building Sustainable Relationships in Agri- food Chains: Challenges from Farm to Retail," in Fischer, C. and Hartmann, M. (eds.), Agri-food Chain Relationships. Cambridge, MA: CABI, 25-44.

(6.) Sobal, J. et al. (2006), "A Conceptual Model of the Food Choice Process over the Life Course," Shepherd, R. and Raats, M. (eds.), The Psychology of Food Choice. Cambridge, MA: CABI, 1-18.

(7.) Rozin, P. (2006), "The Integration of Biological, Social, Cultural and Psychological Influences on Food Choice," [6], 19--10.

(8.) Hawkes, C. (2010), "The Influence of Trade Liberalization and Global Dietary Change: The Case of Vegetable Oils, Meat and Highly Processed Foods," in Hawkes, C. et al. (eds.), Trade, Food, Diet, and Health: Perspectives and Policy Options. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 35-59.

(9.) Gereffi, G. and Christian, M. (2010), "Trade, Transnational Corporations and Food Consumption: A Global Value Chain Approach," [8], 91-110.

(10.) Martin, W. and Ivanic, M. (2010), "The Food Price Crisis, Poverty and Agricultural Trade Policy," in Karapinar, B. and Haberli, C. (eds.), Food Crises and the WTO: World Trade Forum. New York: Cambridge University Press, 25-48.

(11.) Jones, W. and Elasri, A. (2010), "Rising Food Prices: Causes, Consequences and Policy Responses," [10], 109-135.

(12.) O'Connor, B. (2010), "The Food Crisis and the Role of the EC's Common Agricultural Policy," [10], 187-219.

(13.) Herrmann, M. and Peters, R.H. (2010), "Impact of the Food Crisis on Developing Countries and Implications for Agricultural Trade Policy," [10], 242272.

(14.) Prowse, S., "Responses by the International Trade and Aid Community to Food Security," [10], 273-296.





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Author:Zaharia, Ioana; Tudorescu, Nicolae; Zaharia, George Cristinel; Zaharia, Constantin
Publication:Economics, Management, and Financial Markets
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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