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Dealing with values that differ across concerned consumer groups and policy makers — values as elements in societal concerns

  • Mikael Klintman
Publishing year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 59-70
Publication/Series: Policy Responses to Societal Concerns in Food and Agriculture
Document type: Book chapter
Publisher: OECD Publishing

Abstract english

Agricultural policies have always had a tendency to be controversial. In many cases they

generate major transfers of welfare between different groups of people, and hence are

favoured by some and criticised by others. They also frequently cause trouble at the

international level as domestic programmes interfere with trade flows and affect the

wellbeing of people in other parts of the world. In addition to these more ―traditional‖

problems though, agricultural policy makers have more recently been faced with several

issues that are even more controversial. Animal welfare, environmental implications,

genetically modified organisms (GMOs), quality and safety of food products and social

conditions of production are just a few examples of issues where modern societies have

concerns, often arising out of widely diverging views on what is right and wrong.

Responding appropriately to such societal concerns and identifying the ―best‖ policies to

solve these issues has often proven difficult for policy makers, be it in a domestic setting or

typically even more intricate — in an international context. In order to throw at least some

light on such policy problems, the OECD has decided to invest some effort in analysing such

societal concerns and the respective policy responses. The workshop of which an overview is

provided here was part of this effort.

Societal concerns are a multi-faceted phenomenon — and the presentations and

discussions throughout the workshop were equally multi-faceted. They originated from a

wide spectrum of disciplines, all the way from philosophy, through political science, law,

veterinary science and economics, to practical policy making. The perspectives brought to

bear on the issue of how to deal with societal concerns ranged from academic thought

through international organisations, industry and agriculture to decision making in

governments. The mood among participants of the workshop oscillated between slight

frustration with the complexity of the issues covered, to mild optimism regarding the

availability of practical options for policy responses to at least some of the concerns society

expresses about what happens in the field of agriculture and food. The workshop covered

many dimensions of the theme, but in the limited amount of time available could not

possibly have dealt with everything one would want to know about the nature of and

constructive policy responses to societal concerns. This overview is an attempt, necessarily

somewhat subjective, at highlighting some of the major lessons learned during the workshop,

while also indicating some of the open questions remaining. It begins by commenting on the

nature of societal concerns, proceeds to looking at possible resolutions, poses some questions

not much covered by the workshop, and ends by drawing some tentative conclusions

regarding the potential role of international organisation in dealing with societal concerns.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


Mikael Klintman
E-mail: mikael [dot] klintman [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 70 284 55 48

+46 70 284 55 48


Sociologiska institutionen, Paradisgatan 5, Hus G, Lund


Sociologist with a broad, human scientific interest in social, economic and evolutionary dimensions of environmental and health related problems.

Department of Sociology
Lund University
Visiting address: Sandgatan 11, House G, Lund
Postal address: Box 114 , SE-221 00 LUND, SWEDEN
Telephone: Student Office +46 46-222 88 44, Lund University Switchboard +46 46-222 00 00

Faculty of Social Sciences