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Observing the observers: uncovering the role of values in research assessments of organic food systems

Martin Hvarregaard Thorsøe, Aarhus University
Hugo F. Alrøe, Aarhus University
Egon Noe, Aarhus University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06347-190246

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Abstract

Assessing the overall effects of organic food systems is important, but also a challenge because organic food systems cannot be fully assessed from one single research perspective. The aim of our research was to determine the role of values in assessments of organic food systems as a basis for discussing the implications of combining multiple perspectives in overall sustainability assessments of the food system. We explored how values were embedded in five research perspectives: (1) food science, (2) discourse analysis, (3) phenomenology, (4) neoclassical welfare economics, and (5) actor-network theory. Value has various meanings according to different scientific perspectives. A strategy for including and balancing different forms of knowledge in overall assessments of the effects of food systems is needed. Based on the analysis, we recommend four courses of action: (1) elucidate values as a necessary foundation for research assessment across perspectives; (2) openly discuss the choice of perspective, because it is decisive; (3) formulate common goals that can be translated into the different perspectives; and (4) consider assessment of food system sustainability a learning process and design it as such.

Key words

food networks; multicriteria assessment; organic farming; values

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087