Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 379-388

First online:

Private standards, grower networks, and power in a food supply system

  • Lyndal-Joy ThompsonAffiliated withSchool of Sociology, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University Email author 
  • , Stewart LockieAffiliated withSchool of Sociology, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University

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The role of private food standards in agriculture is increasingly raising questions of legitimacy, particularly in light of the impacts such standards may have on food producers. While much work has been carried out at a macro policy level for developing countries, there have been relatively few empirical case studies that focus on particular food supply chains, and even fewer studies still of the impact of private standards on developed countries such as Australia. This study seeks to address this imbalance, with a particular focus on examining the impact of private standards on an Australian vegetable supply food system in North Tasmania as well as tracing the impact of perceived and actual power relations among actors. Applying a governance framework and adopting a Foucauldian position we show that private standards are a “technology of power” that have risen out of a crisis discourse in the mid-1990s about on-farm food safety. Private standards have the effect of using knowledge from particular actors to establish truths about good agricultural practice (GAP), however we show that Tasmanian vegetable growers are not docile bodies and are employing alternative knowledge and technologies of power to challenge how GAP is implemented on-farm.


Private standards Legitimacy Grower experiences Governance Foucault