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The role of the state for managing voluntary food sustainability standards democratically

Sanderson Bellamy, Angelina; Gomes, Marcus; Mülling Neutzling, Daiane; Kumar, Vikas


Marcus Gomes

Daiane Mülling Neutzling


We have investigated the role of the state in the creation of democratic alternatives to private voluntary food sustainability standards (VFSS). Our study illustrates the complex relationship between civil society (in this case, the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) VFSS), private VFSS and state actors, and the supportive role played by the state in establishing a framework for a food governance system that delivers food according to the values of all stakeholders. The PGS system is an alternative for family farmers that was initiated by civil society organizations (CSO) to reduce certification costs and bring more autonomy to family farmers through its democratic governance structure (in contrast to other private governance schemes). However, the institutionalization and development of such a governance system (i.e. PGS), was supported due to the action of the state. One of the key contributions of this study is the proposed typology that can help to identify and assess how such governance systems are evolving (by assessing how mature the system is) and at the same time, pointing out areas where the state actors could further act to develop a more democratic governance system. These include institutional support, market institutionalization, demand creation, technical support, and financial support. Our findings show that a polycentric system of food governance can result in greater participation, transparency, and accountability compared to a governance system driven by private VFSS. These characteristics can help drive greater equity in the food system which may be the key to promoting a healthier and more resilient governance system.


Sanderson Bellamy, A., Gomes, M., Mülling Neutzling, D., & Kumar, V. (2023). The role of the state for managing voluntary food sustainability standards democratically. Journal of Rural Studies, 103, Article 103126.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 16, 2023
Online Publication Date Oct 11, 2023
Publication Date Oct 31, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 13, 2023
Publicly Available Date Oct 12, 2025
Journal Journal of Rural Studies
Print ISSN 0743-0167
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 103
Article Number 103126
Keywords Sociology and Political Science; Development; Geography, Planning and Development
Public URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: The role of the state for managing voluntary food sustainability standards democratically; Journal Title: Journal of Rural Studies; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2023 Published by Elsevier Ltd.


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