Global food trade embodies a range of different interpretations of the nature of food and its role in society. On the one hand, the WTO food regulation regime, in particular the SPS agreement, is based upon a somewhat instrumental value of food consumption in which food is seen as a commodity to be traded in accordance with international trade rules. At the same time, a number of private standards, such as GlobalG.A.P and various organic standards, are emerging which embody broadly postmaterialist values that suggest that food purchasing and consumption are also social, ethical and perhaps even political activities. This paper analyses the relationship between the WTO food trade regime on the one hand and the GlobalG.A.P and organic food trade regimes on the other. We suggest that competing values can co-exist in parallel institutions and in a commensalistic relationship which protects the values base of each institution while giving expression to both materialist and postmaterialist understandings of the nature of food.
Policy and Society, 2012, Vol 31, Issue 4, p. 307-317