Topic: Ethical Concerns and Responsibility Issues in the Discourse of Local Food System – a Hungarian Example
Keywords: ethical practice, socially responsible innovation, local food system, rural tourism
Our paper explores the ethical concerns and socio-cultural controversies (environmental, social, health, quality) in the framework of local food system (LFS) and its role in rural tourism and local socio-economic development. LFS can be defined as a “set of agri-food sectors located in a regional geographic space and coordinated by a territorial governance” (Rastoin 2015). It is dependent on the relationship between the social, cultural, ecological and economic diversity, important for the vitality of the region, and the desired regionalism of food provision. Other socio-economic benefits of LFS’s are: increased social networks, local innovation, co-operation and the reconfiguration of local resources, or the growing demand for local/ecological products and the incredible growth in rural/ecotourism.
Nevertheless, local food systems can be understood in different ways, implying very different costs and benefits for the locality raising serious ethical concerns, too. When LFS is understood as ‘local food for local people’, (Slow Food, or CSA movements), it is associated with low food miles, environmental protection (Jones 2002), enhanced social networks and revitalised local community (Feenstra 1997). However, in local economic development discourse, LFS tends to produce high quality, pricy products, sold to rich tourists and city dwellers, transported to urban centres, or attracting flows of tourists into remote rural areas. Here effects on local economic development is obvious, but social and environmental benefits are equivocal. Other controversies of LFS’ are: social, economic, and environmental degradation, not occurring multiplier effects, resources, profit, and power overtaken by incomers or external investors, damaged local resource base. Still, products of local food systems are produced and marketed with the added value of environmental and social responsibility, representing confusion and/or an inherent contradiction within the discourse.
This paper will give the first results of a three years’ multidisciplinary research project based in Hungary. We study how and what kind of socially responsible innovations, accountability relations and ethical concerns are shaping rural stakeholders’ (local policy makers, entrepreneurs and members of LFS’s) practice and narrative identities, when their livelihood is largely based on the local food system and the connected rural tourism.