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Corporate cooptation of organic and fair trade standards

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  • Daniel Jaffee

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  • Philip Howard

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Jaffee & Philip Howard, 2010. "Corporate cooptation of organic and fair trade standards," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(4), pages 387-399, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:4:p:387-399
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9231-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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.
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    4. Stuart Shulman, 2003. "An experiment in digital government at the United States National Organic Program," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 20(3), pages 253-265, September.
    5. Timothy Vos, 2000. "Visions of the middle landscape: Organic farming and the politics of nature," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 17(3), pages 245-256, September.
    6. 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.
    7. E. DuPuis & Sean Gillon, 2009. "Alternative modes of governance: organic as civic engagement," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 26(1), pages 43-56, March.
    8. Laura Raynolds, 2000. "Re-embedding global agriculture: The international organic and fair trade movements," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 17(3), pages 297-309, September.
    9. 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;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 17(3), pages 221-232, September.
    10. David Campbell, 2001. "Conviction seeking efficacy: Sustainable agriculture and the politics of co-optation," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 18(4), pages 353-363, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Julius McGee, 2015. "Does certified organic farming reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production?," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 32(2), pages 255-263, June.
    2. Lindsay Naylor, 2014. "“Some are more fair than others”: fair trade certification, development, and North–South subjects," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 31(2), pages 273-284, June.
    3. repec:rss:jnljbs:v1i4p2 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. McCaffrey Sara Jane & Kurland Nancy, 2014. "Who defines “local”? Resistance to harmonizing standards in ethical markets," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 16(1), pages 191-219, April.
    5. 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;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 29(1), pages 65-78, March.
    6. Rylea Johnson & Evan D. G. Fraser & Roberta Hawkins, 2016. "Overcoming Barriers to Scaling Up Sustainable Alternative Food Systems: A Comparative Case Study of Two Ontario-Based Wholesale Produce Auctions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-16, April.
    7. 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.
    8. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:4:p:328:d:67375 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Daniel Jaffee & Philip H. Howard, 2016. "Who’s the fairest of them all? The fractured landscape of U.S. fair trade certification," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 33(4), pages 813-826, December.
    10. 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;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 31(2), pages 201-213, June.
    11. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10460-017-9777-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. 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.
    13. Sini Forssell & Leena Lankoski, 2015. "The sustainability promise of alternative food networks: an examination through “alternative” characteristics," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 32(1), pages 63-75, March.
    14. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10460-017-9776-x is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Sarah Bowen & Kathryn Master, 2014. "Wisconsin’s “Happy Cows”? Articulating heritage and territory as new dimensions of locality," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 31(4), pages 549-562, December.
    16. Adanella Rossi, 2017. "Beyond Food Provisioning: The Transformative Potential of Grassroots Innovation around Food," Agriculture, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(1), pages 1-21, January.
    17. Jeroen Vos & Rutgerd Boelens, 2014. "Sustainability Standards and the Water Question," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 45(2), pages 205-230, March.
    18. Amaranta Herrero & Fern Wickson & Rosa Binimelis, 2015. "Seeing GMOs from a Systems Perspective: The Need for Comparative Cartographies of Agri/Cultures for Sustainability Assessment," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(8), pages 1-24, August.
    19. Laura Raynolds, 2014. "Fairtrade, certification, and labor: global and local tensions in improving conditions for agricultural workers," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 31(3), pages 499-511, September.
    20. Hendrickson, Mary K. & Howard, Philip H. & Constance, Douglas H., 2017. "Power, Food and Agriculture: Implications for Farmers, Consumers and Communities," EconStor Preprints 171171, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.

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