Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Corporate cooptation of organic and fair trade standards


Author Info

  • Daniel Jaffee


  • Philip Howard
Registered author(s):


    Recent years have seen a substantial increase in alternative agrifood initiatives that attempt to use the market to curtail the negative social and environmental effects of production and trade in a globalized food system. These alternatives pose a challenge to capital accumulation and the externalization of environmental costs by large agribusiness, trading and retail firms. Yet the success of these alternatives also makes them an inviting target for corporate participation. This article examines these dynamics through a case study of the two most significant such food system alternatives—organics and fair trade—focusing on corporate involvement in establishing and renegotiating the standards undergirding these initiatives. We compare the development of and contestation over the standards for both certified organic and certified fair trade, with particular attention to the U.S. context. We provide a brief history of their parallel processes of rapid growth and market mainstreaming. We examine claims of cooptation by movement participants, as well as the divergences and similarities between the organic and fair trade cases. Analyzing these two cases provides useful insights into the strategic approaches that corporate firms have deployed to further capital accumulation and to defuse threats to their profit margins and to status quo production, pricing, labor, trading and retailing practices. It can also offer valuable lessons regarding the most effective means of responding to such counter-reforms and of protecting or reasserting the more transformative elements at the heart of these alternative systems. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 27 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 387-399

    as in new window
    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:4:p:387-399

    Contact details of provider:
    Web page:

    Order Information:

    Related research

    Keywords: Certification; Cooptation; Corporations; Fair trade; Organic; Social justice; Social movements; Standards;


    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
    as in new window
    1. T. Robert Fetter & Julie A. Caswell, 2002. "Variation in Organic Standards Prior to the National Organic Program," Food Marketing Policy Center Research Reports 072, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
    2. Stuart Shulman, 2003. "An experiment in digital government at the United States National Organic Program," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 253-265, September.
    3. George J. Stigler, 1971. "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 2(1), pages 3-21, Spring.
    4. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1991. "The Politics of Government Decision-Making: A Theory of Regulatory Capture," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1089-127, November.
    5. Patricia Allen & Martin Kovach, 2000. "The capitalist composition of organic: The potential of markets in fulfilling the promise of organic agriculture," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 221-232, September.
    6. Laura Raynolds, 2000. "Re-embedding global agriculture: The international organic and fair trade movements," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 297-309, September.
    7. David Campbell, 2001. "Conviction seeking efficacy: Sustainable agriculture and the politics of co-optation," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 353-363, December.
    8. Tad Mutersbaugh, 2005. "Fighting standards with standards: harmonization, rents, and social accountability in certified agrofood networks," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 37(11), pages 2033-2051, November.
    9. Conner, David S., 2004. "Beyond Organic: Information Provision For Sustainable Agriculture In A Changing Market," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 35(01), March.
    10. Timothy Vos, 2000. "Visions of the middle landscape: Organic farming and the politics of nature," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 245-256, September.
    11. E. DuPuis & Sean Gillon, 2009. "Alternative modes of governance: organic as civic engagement," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 43-56, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Maki Hatanaka & Jason Konefal & Douglas Constance, 2012. "A tripartite standards regime analysis of the contested development of a sustainable agriculture standard," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 65-78, March.
    2. Pugliese, Patrizia & Zanasi, Cesare & Atallah, Oussama & Cosimo, Rota, 2013. "Investigating the interaction between organic and local foods in the Mediterranean: The Lebanese organic consumer’s perspective," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 1-12.
    3. Lindsay Naylor, 2014. "“Some are more fair than others”: fair trade certification, development, and North–South subjects," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 273-284, June.
    4. Sarah Bowen & Tad Mutersbaugh, 2014. "Local or localized? Exploring the contributions of Franco-Mediterranean agrifood theory to alternative food research," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 201-213, June.


    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:4:p:387-399. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Guenther Eichhorn) or (Christopher F Baum).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.