Published In

Twenty Lessons in the Sociology of Food and Agriculture

Document Type


Publication Date



Unfair competition, Fair trade foods, Food sovereignty


Chapter 16.

This lesson begins by discussing the dynamics behind the structural inequity in the global trade in agrifood products. We then take a brief look at fair trade’s history, the basic mechanisms of the fair trade model for food products, and the current state of fair trade. Two case studies of fair trade in action will give a taste of the social benefits that participating in this alternative market can generate for producers, but also the limits to fair trade’s impact and the contradictions that can arise. We will also examine some key controversies that have caused major divisions within the fair trade movement and market. The lesson ends with some reflections on the future of fair trade and its ability to transform the global market.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Twenty Lessons in the Sociology of Food and Agriculture. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Twenty Lessons in the Sociology of Food and Agriculture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Persistent Identifier