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Organic agriculture and the conventionalization hypothesis: A case study from West Germany


  • Henning Best



The recent growth in organic farming has given rise to the so-called “conventionalization hypothesis,” the idea that organic farming is becoming a slightly modified model of conventional agriculture. Using survey data collected from 973 organic farmers in three German regions during the spring of 2004, some implications of the conventionalization hypothesis are tested. Early and late adopters of organic farming are compared concerning farm structure, environmental concern, attitudes to organic farming, and membership in organic-movement organizations. The results indicate that organic farming in the study regions indeed exhibits signs of incipient conventionalization. On average, newer farms are more specialized and slightly larger than established ones and there is a growing proportion of farmers who do not share pro-environmental attitudes. Additionally, a number, albeit small, of very large, highly specialized farms have adopted organic agriculture in the last years. However, the vast majority of organic farmers, new and old ones included, still show a strong pro-environmental orientation. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Suggested Citation

  • Henning Best, 2008. "Organic agriculture and the conventionalization hypothesis: A case study from West Germany," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 25(1), pages 95-106, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:25:y:2008:i:1:p:95-106
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-007-9073-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Vonne Lund & Sven Hemlin & William Lockeretz, 2002. "Organic livestock production as viewed by Swedish farmers and organic initiators," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 19(3), pages 255-268, September.
    2. Joyce Willock & Ian J. Deary & Gareth Edwards-Jones & Gavin J. Gibson & Murray J. McGregor & Alistair Sutherland & J. Barry Dent & Oliver Morgan & Robert Grieve, 1999. "The Role of Attitudes and Objectives in Farmer Decision Making: Business and Environmentally-Oriented Behaviour in Scotland," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 286-303.
    3. Karen Klonsky & Laura Tourte, 1998. "Organic Agricultural Production in the United States: Debates and Directions," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1119-1124.
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    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:11:p:2024-:d:117595 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:5:p:821-:d:98661 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Lukas Zagata, 2010. "How organic farmers view their own practice: results from the Czech Republic," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(3), pages 277-290, September.
    4. Nadine Würriehausen & Rico Ihle & Sebastian Lakner, 2015. "Price relationships between qualitatively differentiated agricultural products: organic and conventional wheat in Germany," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 46(2), pages 195-209, March.
    5. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:1078-:d:139603 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Kazumi Kondoh, 2015. "The alternative food movement in Japan: Challenges, limits, and resilience of the teikei system," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 32(1), pages 143-153, March.
    7. Dinis, Isabel & Ortolani, Livia & Bocci, Riccardo & Brites, Cláudia, 2015. "Organic agriculture values and practices in Portugal and Italy," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 39-45.
    8. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:2:p:115:d:62969 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Sidali, Katia Laura & Spiller, Achim & von Meyer-Hofer, Marie, 2016. "Consumer Expectations Regarding Sustainable Food: Insights from Developed and Emerging Markets," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA), vol. 19(3).
    10. Julius Alexander McGee & Camila Alvarez, 2016. "Sustaining without Changing: The Metabolic Rift of Certified Organic Farming," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(2), pages 1-12, January.
    11. Lee-Ann Sutherland, 2013. "Can organic farmers be ‘good farmers’? Adding the ‘taste of necessity’ to the conventionalization debate," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 30(3), pages 429-441, September.
    12. Läpple, Doris & Rensburg, Tom Van, 2011. "Adoption of organic farming: Are there differences between early and late adoption?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(7), pages 1406-1414, May.


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