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The development of consumer concerns in the European context about food safety and environmental consequences of farming systems lead to the recent multiplication of private technical specifications to be applied by farmers on the request of large retailers and agro-food firms. These technical specifications on production define what is called Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) guidelines, Environmental Management Systems (EMS) or integrated agriculture. However, the lack of harmonized and scientifically based definition of GAP guidelines creates a lot of confusion and difficulties for their implementation by a large number of farmers, but as well regarding consumers information. This paper analyses, based on Transaction Cost Economics (Williamson, 1996, Barzel 2004), the alternatives standard setting strategies developed in the european context in order to solve these impediments. The comparison focuses on the strategies developed by trans-national large retailer associations (EUREP system, BRC) and another option recently set up in France with a labelling regulation on integrated agriculture with a private certification system.


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