(Un)intended lock-in: Chile’s organic agriculture law and the possibility of transformation towards more sustainable food systems

Agriculture and Human Values 41 (1):167-187 (2023)
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Abstract

Food systems transformations require coherent policies and improved understandings of the drivers and institutional dynamics that shape (un)sustainable food systems outcomes. In this paper, we introduce the Chilean National Organic Agriculture Law as a case of a policy process seeking to institutionalize a recognized pathway towards more sustainable food systems. Drawing from institutional theory we make visible multiple, and at times competing, logics (i.e., values, assumptions and practices) of different actors implicated in organic agriculture in Chile. More specifically, our findings identify five main institutional transformative logics underpinning the interests and actions of organic actors. However, we find that the Law was not motivated by these logics and did not advance them. Rather, the Law was designed to support a market niche targeted to elite consumers and to reinforce agricultural exports. As a result, the Law constrains rather than enables the practice of organic agriculture and access to organic food by consumers, especially at the domestic level. We note that attention to institutional logics in the analysis of food systems, and specifically food system transformation, is relevant to more comprehensive assessments of the transformational potential of food systems policies. We conclude that there is a need to further consider and make visible the way in which different drivers (i.e., laws) are constituted through and by diverse, and often competing, institutional logics.

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