Exploring a mode of agri-food governance: International food standard setting and expertise

R. P. Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The paper examines a particular mode of agri-food governance: international food standard setting. Although, from a social science perspective, standard setting is an activity often overlooked due to the technical and scientific content of the process, it is imbued with moral and ethical dimensions. Standards set norms and conventions and in doing so help to configure the behaviour of many actors involved in the governance of the agri-food system. Moreover, standards have assumed a heightened significance in regulating the increasingly globalised trade in food products. The focus in this paper is upon how standard setting is conducted. Firstly, the potential contribution of the concept of epistemic communities to the interpretation of international food standard setting is discussed. Secondly, the paper details the policy framework in which international food standard setting takes place. Thirdly, the role of scientific expertise to the standard setting process in the Codex Alimentarius Commission-the intergovernmental organisation in which public food standards are set-is explored through a case-study of the Codex Nutrition Committee. In this case-study the construction, articulation and presentation of knowledge claims is a crucial element of standard setting, challenging the authoritative knowledge claims deemed crucial to the establishment of an epistemic community. The paper concludes by reflecting upon the political and ethical implications of the growing importance of technical expertise to the conduct of agri-food governance.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthical Futures
Subtitle of host publicationBioscience and Food Horizons
EditorsKate Millar, Pru Hobson West, Brigitte Nerlich
Place of PublicationWageningen, Netherlands
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9789086866731
ISBN (Print)9789086861156
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes
EventEurSafe 2009 - Nottingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20094 Jul 2009


ConferenceEurSafe 2009
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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