From Fishery to Fork: Food Safety and Sustainability in the ‘Virtual’ Knowledge-Based BioEconomy (KBBE)

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    In scientific and policy circles, the ‘Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy’ (KBBE) is seen as the way forward to increase productivity and competitiveness and to improve quality of life in the EU. The critical literature, however, sees KBBE as a self-fulfilling prophecy, a dominant master narrative that marginalizes other interpretations and policy options. In other words, the literature argues that KBBE is performative—it is a prescriptive model that effectively enacts itself. In this article, I contribute to this debate and argue that some aspects of KBBE actually constitute failures of performativity. In the realm of food safety, the appearance of having a system in place which functions ‘as if’ it followed regulation on food safety is what counts for good performance when systems are evaluated for conformity with EU rules. Little attention is paid to actual practices on the ground or the outcomes of such functioning systems. In fishery ecolabels, matching systemic compliance is more important than fulfilling the original objective of achieving sustainability. In this context, KBBE becomes a virtual abstraction, where processes and procedures become more important than outcomes, and where appearing to succeed is more important than succeeding. While appearing to match food safety procedures and ecolabelling requirements does have substantive outcomes, these do not necessarily come along the lines of the official rationales and can have negative consequences—fish stocks are at critically low levels in both locations covered in the case studies.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalScience as Culture
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)483-495
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE)
    • Food safety
    • Sustainability
    • Performativity
    • Virtualism

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