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Re-Imagining Food Systems in Mexico: A Case Study of the Mexican Network of Local Organic Markets

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Title: Re-Imagining Food Systems in Mexico: A Case Study of the Mexican Network of Local Organic Markets
Author: Nelson, Erin Tace
Department: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Program: Rural Studies
Advisor: Landman, KarenHumphries, Sally
Abstract: Over the past several decades, food systems around the world have come to be increasingly dominated by a ‘conventional’ model, wherein production is heavily dependent on industrially-produced external inputs, and trade characterized by a globalized free market. However, alternatives to this model – that seek to challenge its hegemonic status and address its environmental, social, and economic shortcomings – are continuously emerging. While some of these alternatives are narrower in scope, others attempt more transformative change. One example of the latter category is the Red Mexicana de Tianguis y Mercados Orgánicos (Mexican Network of Local Organic Markets), which strives to move beyond the boundaries of the mainstream organic and local food sectors, instead adopting the more holistic discourse of the food sovereignty movement. The process of translating this discourse into practice remains a work in progress. Significant achievements have been made on a number of fronts, most notably: new market opportunities have been opened for small-scale, ecological producers; attitudes and behaviours regarding both production and consumption have been shifted, and; new institutions – that help enable and reinforce new values and behaviours – have begun to be constructed. Unsurprisingly, challenges exist as well. These include: significant reliance on donated resources; continued dependence on a relatively small group of leaders; the relative fragility of newly emerging institutions, and; a pervasive pessimism regarding the ability to scale up change within a context of political institutions perceived as corrupt, and beholden to agri-business influence. Although such challenges do constrain, to an extent, the efficacy of the organization, they do not by any means diminish the powerful impact of its work to demonstrate that alternative agri-food visions are possible.
Date: 2012-04
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