The present and future of certifications : a study of the formation and functioning of soybean certifications in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil
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This thesis examines the potential of soybean certifications to increase the sustainability of the soybean sector in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. The study is based on data gathered through fieldwork in Mato Grosso during a three-month period from November 2014 to January 2015. Qualitative research methods were applied using semi-structured interviews and participatory observations. Interviews were conducted with soy farmers, farmers’ unions, farmers’ organizations, government representatives, certification companies, agribusiness companies and social and environmental NGOs. The thesis explores the practice of certification, how certifications are created and how the soy sector experience certifications. Data reveals that soybean certifications lack support from key actors in the Brazilian soy industry. The majority of farmers are not familiar with what constitutes certifications, nor show an interest in becoming certified. Moreover, the thesis discovers that farmers who already fulfil the criteria demanded by the certifications are often the ones who certify. The empirical findings are analysed using a critical institutionalist perspective, which reveals that the formation and functioning of the certification schemes are imbued with power structures. The outcome is certifications that produce uneven outcomes; some farmers benefit whereas others are excluded. Authoritative processes also affect the certifications content, which questions the ability to combat the existing challenges with soybean production. Moreover, the analysis reveals that the certifications’ functions, as both a market mechanism and a provider of sustainable soy production, weaken their ability to grow in significance.