Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Voluntary standards, certification, and accreditation in the global organic agriculture field: a tripartite model of techno-politics

  • Eve FouilleuxEmail author
  • Allison Loconto


This article analyzes the institutionalization of the global organic agriculture field and sheds new light on the conventionalization debate. The institutions that shape the field form a tripartite standards regime of governance (TSR) that links standard-setting, certification, and accreditation activities, in a layering of markets for services that are additional to (and inseparable from) the market for certified organic products. At each of the three poles of the TSR, i.e., for standard-setting, certification, and accreditation, we describe how the corresponding markets were constructed over time and the role of the different actors in their evolution. We analyze the politics at stake among the actors at each pole, their competing or cooperative interests and visions, and the tensions between them in the promotion of markets. Through the lens of the TSR heuristic, we show that the institutionalization of the organic field beginning in the 1990s and its de facto inclusion in the broader sustainability field beginning in the 2000s contribute to a progressive distancing between the organic movement and its initial political project of alterity, to which public and private actors both contribute actively. As a set of interlinked market institutions, the TSR orients and narrows the scope of debate, which becomes restricted to “market-compatible” dimensions and objects. We conclude that the TSR is a promising heuristic for analyzing contemporary global regulation.


Tripartite Standard Regime Standards Organic Conventionalization Certification Accreditation Regulation 



Accreditation Body


Certification Body


European Union


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


International Accreditation Forum


International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements


International Organic Accreditation Service


International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance


International Organization for Standardization


Participatory Guarantee System


Standard Development Organization


Tripartite Standard Regime


United Nations Conference on Trade and Development



The empirical work presented in this paper has benefited from a research grant by the French National Research Agency (ANR-11-CEPL-0009) and from funding from the Institute for Research, Innovation and Society (IFRIS). The authors thank the three anonymous reviewers for their advice on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR CEPEL (University of Montpellier) and UMR MOISA (Centre International de Recherche et de coopération Agronomique pour le Développement, CIRAD)Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)Montpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences, Innovations et Sociétés (UMR LISIS)Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)Marne-La-ValléeFrance

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