The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has provided funding for a series of one year scientific research projects since 2008. The funding is divided into three main branches of science – social sciences and humanities, physical and engineering sciences and life sciences. Each year an open call is issued for applicants. Funding applications are decided by the Foundation based on which are determined to have the greatest multiplier benefit. The purpose of the scientific funding initiative is to both advance research activities across a broad range of scientific fields and to promote collaboration between Greek universities and research institutions and those overseas. In 2015, one of the research projects chosen to receive funding was research into consumer’s willingness to pay more for agricultural products certified to ensure fair conditions for workers. The project team is comprised of Andreas Drichoutis from the University of Ioannina, Jayson Lusk from Oklahoma University and Achilleas Vassilopoulos from the Agricultural University of Athens.
The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation
John S. Latsis was a Greek entrepreneur and shipping magnate born in 1910 to Aphrodite and Spiro Latsis. Throughout his life, John S. Latsis was renowned both for his meteoric rise in the business world and for his tireless work promoting social welfare, education and scientific research. From setting up the Ileian’s Scholarships Foundation to fund post-graduate and undergraduate university places in 1967 to assisting in times of national crisis such as during the aftermath of the 1986 Kalamata earthquakes, John S. Latsis devoted much of his life to helping others less fortunate than himself. Since his death in April 2003, this philanthropic work has been continued by his family: wife Henrietta, daughters Marianna and Margarita and son Spiro Latsis, through the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation set up in his honour. John’s son Spiro Latsis also continues to oversee many of his business interests and makes regular donations to the work of the Foundation. The Foundation both implements internal initiatives and supports third party projects. The primary geographic focus is in Greece but many overseas projects also receive funding and many of the initiatives including scientific research projects are designed to promote healthy relationships and collaborations between Greece and the rest of the world.
Agricultural Research Project 2015
The research project into consumer’s willingness to pay more for certified agricultural produce ensuring fair working conditions came about as the result of claims by Greek farmers that in order to remain competitive in relation to imported products and keep market prices fair, they are unable to provide the necessary fringe benefits for workers such as subsistence wages, access to housing and healthcare services or reasonable working hours. The research team will be composing questionnaire-based surveys to determine whether or not consumers are willing to pay more for their local produce given that they are assured the workers are provided with fair working conditions. It is hoped that the study will infer whether the costs of providing fringe benefits for workers such as a fair minimum wage and acceptable working conditions can be recouped through higher prices at market for certified produce.
What is Socially Responsible Agriculture?
Socially responsible or sustainable agricultural practices are becoming more and more prominent over the past two decades as the results of years of industrialised farming become clearer and clearer. In the period after the Second World War, there was great need to produce food more efficiently and technological advances made this possible. However, it has come to light that there are many associated costs with this method of farming, including the decline of family farms and of social and economic conditions in rural communities, damage to the land including topsoil depletion and groundwater contamination, neglect of living conditions for farm labourers and their families and increasing costs of production. Sustainable or socially responsible agriculture seeks to address these issues through the integration of three main goals – social and economic equity, environmental health and economic profitability. Sustainability refers to addressing the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations, the land itself and other land users.
The Need to Improve the Lives of Farm Workers
Agriculture is currently the second largest source of employment in the world, with more than a billion people directly employed within the sector. Despite this, agricultural workers remain one of the most oppressed and exploited groups. Of the billion plus workers within the sector, around 130 million are children aged between five and seventeen. Increased awareness has led to a growing demand among consumers to purchase only produce from certified socially responsible farms. Innovation and research projects such as the one funded by the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation are crucial if we as people are to break the cycle of poverty for farmers across the globe.