Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS): a tool to improve the effectiveness of Geographical Indications in short food supply chains; the case of Parma Bio-district
Michele Maccari  1@  , Marianna Guareschi  1@  , Mariacecilia Mancini  1@  , Filippo Arfini  1@  , Lisa Baldi  1@  
1 : University of Parma = Università degli studi di Parma [Parme, Italie]  -  Website
via Università, 12 - I 43121 Parma -  Italie

Short food supply chains (SFSC) are organizational models capable to simultaneously address the needs of various stakeholders: i) consumers accessing high quality local products; ii) local farmers gaining direct market access; iii) civil society, through sustainable rural development policies. 

SFSCs, developed in localized territories and based on proximity, have interesting implications in terms of governance of the food system. In Localized Agri-food Systems (LAFS)[1] there are different types of food products such as Geographical Indication (GI), organic, typical and locally recognized products. Those characteristics could be simultaneously present in the same product, or can also be spread among different products. 

In SFSC, the product quality is strictly connected to the quality of the control system. When consumers play an active role in controlling the quality of products - alternatively or complementary to the formal guarantee systems - the elements characterizing the quality as a "domestic convention", further increase the reputation of the products.

Active participation of consumers combined with GI and organic products, can be found in the "Bio-districts"[2], which in turn are LAFS specialized in organic production. Bio-districts could benefit not only organic products, but also products certified according to other quality schemes - such as DOP / IGP - and also not certified products.

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the role of Participatory Guarantee systems (PGS)[3] as an informal quality control system, alternative and/or complementary to "formal" guarantee methods, in SFSC.


The paper aims to investigate: i) if PGS certification enhances or replaces the value of quality perceived by consumers; ii) if PGS increases the product value thanks to the trust relations established between producers and consumers; and iii) if PGS can represent an opportunity for GIs, in terms of internal governance and as an opportunity to facilitate combinations with other geographically-linked labels and with other labels.

The research makes reference to the case of the Bio-distretto di Parma and particularly to the PGS certification system developed by consumer groups jointly with producers of the Parma area. The research will investigate the following aspects: motivations for joining a PGS; perceived values of PGS (social embeddedness, etc.); participation (consumers and producers); limits and risks; added value of PGS (reputation, trust, reduced cost for small producers, etc.).


[1] LAFS are a form of production of local identity-based foods explicitly grounded in specific territorial dynamics of agriculture, food and consumption networks.

[2] Bio-districts are homogeneous areas with widespread organic productions that contribute to the integration of economic activities and social functions into a single system, in which "farmers, citizens, tour operators, Associations and public administrations join an agreement for the sustainable management of local resources, from the organic production and consumption model. The Bio-districts are therefore characterized by a strong emphasis on the territorial governance component, aiming at relating different stakeholders bound by shared objectives.

[3] “Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange." (IFOAM, 2008)

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