State-centered versus Nonstate-driven Organic Food Standardization: A Comparison of the US and Sweden Article DOI:
Cite this article as: Boström, M. & Klintman, M. Agric Hum Values (2006) 23: 163. doi:10.1007/s10460-005-6099-0 Abstract
Organic food standardization is an increasingly important strategy for dealing with consumer concerns about the environment, animal welfare, health, and the economic structure of food production. But the ways in which this consumer-oriented strategy is introduced, organized, and debated vary considerably across countries. In Sweden, a nongovernmental organization [KRAV (Association for Control of Organic Production)] – consisting of social movement organizations, associations for conventional and organic farmers, and the food industry – has been quite successful in promoting organic food labeling as an eco-label. KRAV has developed a complementary position vis-à-vis the state and EU regulatory framework. In the US, the federal government controls standardization. The government frames the label as a “marketing label,” thus rejecting the idea that organic food production would have any significant advantages for the environment or, indirectly, for human health. This framing is separate from the ones created by organic constituencies, leading to deeper controversies than in Sweden. The purpose of this paper is to examine why standardization has followed different patterns in the two settings. We analyze context factors (i.e., political culture, pre-regulatory arrangements, and organizational structures) and process factors (i.e., framing and organizing). What are the benefits of a state-centric
a nonstate-driven approach regarding powerful standardization? The paper shows that both settings provide not only “threats of regulatory occupation” from actors not committed to organic principles but also avenues for substantial standardization in the future, albeit through different channels. versus Keywords Advocacy network Consumer policy Environmental governance Organic food labeling Organic movement Policy discourse Political culture Social movement Standardization Sweden United States Abbreviations AMS
Agriculture Marketing Service
US Environmental Protection Agency
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
Cooperative Union and Wholesale Society
Association for Control of Organic Production
Federation of Swedish Farmers
National Organic Program
National Organic Standards Board
Organic Food Protection Act
Social Movement Organization
United States Department of Agriculture
Magnus Boström is a sociologist and researcher at the Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE) at the Stockholm University in Sweden. In his doctoral dissertation (published in 2001) he examined the diversity of the environmental movement in Sweden from an organizational perspective. Currently he is studying green political consumerism and rule-setting activities within the environmental field (for instance, eco-labeling of agricultural products, fisheries, and forestry). He asks how such activities are facilitated or constrained by their organizational and policy-related context factors. Magnus Boström has published a number of articles and book chapters and has edited a couple of books on related subjects. Mikael Klintman is a sociologist and senior researcher at the Research Policy Institute, Lund University in Sweden, where he received his PhD in 2000. He focuses on the ideas and practices of citizen/consumer participation in directions defined as “environmentally and ethically sound” by policy makers, NGOs, and companies. Between 2000 and 2002 he did his Wallenberg postdoc at the Department of Political Science at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There he studied the preconditions for consumer empowerment through organic and genetically modified food labeling, doing cross-Atlantic comparisons. Currently he is working on two research projects about “green political consumerism” with Magnus Boström, among others. References
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