Local autonomy and sustainable development: Testing import substitution in more localized food systems
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Community initiatives to create more localized food systems ofteninclude the strategy of import substitution, i.e., increasing local foodproduction for local consumption. The purpose of this policy iseffectively to supplant some level of imported food into the region. Weargue that such action can carry social and environmental risks as wellas benefits and we have developed research parameters to measure theimpact of such strategies. Harriet Friedmann's seminal work (1991) onthe employment of import substitution by transnational corporationsprovides a framework to identify possible advantages and disadvantagesof the same approach locally. We propose local autonomy and sustainabledevelopment as positive indicators of a more localized food system.Three units of analysis are proposed to measure changes in localautonomy and sustainable development as a result of import substitutionschemes: fair labor trade, equity and democracy, and environmentalstewardship. We propose that this flexible framework of analysisincreases our ability to describe the shifting and integrated balancebetween more local and more global food systems.
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