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Between Ideals and Reality: Development and Implementation of Fairness Standards in the Organic Food Sector


The organic sector is in an ongoing, but somewhat ambiguous, process of differentiation. Continuing growth has also entailed intensified competition and the emergence of conventional structures within the sector. Producers are under pressure to adapt their terms of production to these developments, bearing the risk that the original values and principles of organic farming may become irrelevant. To confront these tendencies and maintain their position on the market, organic producers and processors have launched a number of organic–fair initiatives. As some consumers attach importance to ethical aspects of consumption, these actors sense market opportunities in such quality differentiation. This article presents results of a study on current organic–fair criteria, as formulated by such initiatives. All of them define standards of distributive, procedural and informational fairness, with fair prices for producers and processors and long-term agreements being core standards. We show that distributive and procedural fairness are closely linked. Although organic–fair initiatives and their main protagonists focus on external fairness, such as fair prices for farmers, thus far internal concerns, such as minimum wages or employee involvement, are of less importance. The initiatives exemplify the differentiation of quality-oriented organic food producers in highly competitive markets. They have the potential to revitalise the original values of the sector and contribute significantly to ethical standardization therein. In order to make a substantial contribution to future development of the sector, a critical examination of aspects of internal fairness as well as the formulation of appropriate standards in this field is recommended.

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    The former EC 2092/91 and current EC/834/2007.

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    These values are: regionality, environmental protection, absence of genetic modification, animal welfare, food quality, transparency, and fairness for consumers and farmers. (

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    See under: 3.2 Reliable trade relations (

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Correspondence to Melanie Kröger.

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Kröger, M., Schäfer, M. Between Ideals and Reality: Development and Implementation of Fairness Standards in the Organic Food Sector. J Agric Environ Ethics 27, 43–63 (2014).

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  • Fairness
  • Organic–fair initiatives
  • Organic standards
  • Quality food production
  • Organic agriculture
  • Domestic fair trade