The UK has a particularly highly concentrated and oligopolistic retail sector. (Clarke et al., 2002). With the development of a model of supply chain management that is retailer led, power has shifted down the food chain from the farmers to the retailers. This is not simply a matter of new forms of contractual relationship. There is an important political as well as an economic and market dimension. Marsden et al. argue (2002, p.28) that ‘the regulatory state has become critically dependent upon the continued economic dominance of the retailers in their role as the main provider of quality food goods.’ The regulatory state at least as far as food policy is concerned is also a retail state in which the large retailers act as proxies for the consumer. This leads to the emergence of a model of retailer-led food governance.
This can be seen at work in the specific case of pesticides. Retailers are constantly seeking to reduce pesticide residues on the fruit and vegetable products sold in their stores and have required that the level of residues should be below what is required by regulatory standards. Some retailers have a long-term objective of making all the produce they sell free from pesticide residues. It is not entirely clear how this will be reconciled with the demands they also make for produce to be free of pest damage and to have a long shelf life. The project will investigate the stance of retailers towards biopesticides.
The UK has developed a private governance model that seeks to push pesticide control beyond that required by EU standards. Denmark has taken a different approach based on government legislation and the development of a series of comprehensive Action Plans. It is not intended to undertake a systematic comparison of the formulation and implementation of pesticide controls in Britain and Denmark but to use the Danish experience as a comparator. The British system of private retailer led governance will be thrown into sharper relief by being contrasted with a very different approach used in another EU member state. In particular, there will be a focus on how far the Danish system encourages and promotes the use of biopesticides.
Specific tasks in relation to this objective:
• Analyse the main parameters of the national regulatory system for pesticides in Denmark using published sources and identify the scope for the use of biopesticides. A short programme of interviews with policy-makers and experts in Denmark, focusing particularly on how much space the Danish approach allows for regulatory innovation. Is it superior or inferior in this respect to the British system?
• An analysis of the stance of the major British retailers in relation to pesticides issues. Given that incomplete systems of pest control may lead to increased blemishes on food, how acceptable is such an approach to retailers? How do they reconcile the objective of eliminating or severely reducing chemical pesticide use with other product requirements? This aspect of the work will use semi-structured interviews with key retailers.