Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 67–81

Conventionalisation of organic farming practices: from structural criteria towards an assessment based on organic principles. A review

  • Ika Darnhofer
  • Thomas Lindenthal
  • Ruth Bartel-Kratochvil
  • Werner Zollitsch
Review Article

Abstract

Organic farming is widely perceived as being more environmentally friendly than conventional farming. As a form of sustainable agriculture, it receives substantial support from policy for its contribution to environmental protection as well as the provision of amenities such as biodiversity and cultural landscapes. Consumers are attracted to organic foods as they are produced without synthetic chemicals and comply with higher animal welfare standards. Although organic farming certainly has the potential to fulfil these expectations, studies have shown that some certified organic farms do not. Their practices comply with the regulations, but not with the principles of organic farming. This trend has been called ‘conventionalisation’ of organic farming. In this paper we review the studies that discuss the conventionalisation of organic farming, focusing on the farm level and on evidence from Europe. We argue that to strengthen organic farming’s transformative potential, the debate must move beyond its focus on the bifurcation between artisanal and conventionalised organic farms, so as to capture the full range of empirical heterogeneity. Our core argument is that to adequately understand the dynamics within organic farming and their potential impact on the ability of organic farming to fulfil the expectations of consumers and policy-makers, it is not sufficient to focus on structural changes. Instead, we need to assess whether or not the observed changes comply with the principles and values that are the fundament of organic farming.

organic agriculture conventionalisation debate Europe plant production animal husbandry 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aeberhard A., Rist S. (2009) Transdisciplinary co-production of knowledge in the development of organic agriculture in Switzerland, Ecol. Econ. 68, 1171–1181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen P., Kovach M. (2000) The capitalistic composition of organic: The potential of markets in fulfilling the promise of organic agriculture, Agr. Hum. Values 17, 221–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alrøe H., Noe E. (2008) What makes organic agriculture move: protest, meaning or market? A polyocular approach to the dynamics and governance of organic agriculture, Int. J. Agr. Resour., Gov. Ecol. 7, 5–22.Google Scholar
  4. Andreoli M., Tellarini V. (2000) Farm sustainability evaluation: Methodology and practice, Agr. Ecosyst. Environ. 77, 43–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bähr M., Botschen M., Laberenz H., Naspetti S., Thelen E., Zanoli R. (2004) The European Consumer and Organic Food. Organic Marketing Initiatives and Rural Development, Vol. 4, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.Google Scholar
  6. Baars E., Baars T. (2007) Towards a philosophical underpinning of the holistic concept of integrity of organisms, NJAS-Wageningen J. Life Sci. 54, 463–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Besson Y. (2008) Une histoire d’exigences: philosophie et agrobiologie. Paper presented at the conference “Développement et innovation en agriculture biologique” (DinABio) held 19–20 May 2008 in Montpellier, France.Google Scholar
  8. Best H. (2008) Organic agriculture and the conventionalization hypothesis: A case study from West Germany, Agr. Human Values 25, 95–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. BMLFUW (2007) Grüner Bericht. Bericht über die Lage der österreichischen Landwirtschaft 2007 [Report on the status of agriculture in Austria in 2007], BMLFUW (Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management), Vienna.Google Scholar
  10. Bowler I. (1992) The industrialisation of agriculture, in: Bowler I. (Ed.), The geography of agriculture in developed market economies, Longman, Harlow, pp. 7–31.Google Scholar
  11. Braband D., Geier U., Köpke U. (2003) Bio-resource evaluation within agri-environmental assessment tools in different European countries, Agr. Ecosyst. Environ. 98, 423–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brand K.W. (Ed.) (2006) Von der Agrarwende zur Konsumwende? Die Kettenperspektive [From the agricultural-turn to the consumption turn? The chain perspective]. Ergebnisband 2. Ergebnisse Sozial-Ökologischer Forschung Band 5. Oekom Verlag.Google Scholar
  13. Buck D., Getz C., Guthman J. (1997) From farm to table: The organic vegetable commodity chain of northern California, Sociol. Rural. 37, 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burch D., Lawrence G. (2005) Supermarket own brands, supply chains and the transformation of the agri-food system, Int. J. Sociol. Agr. Food 13, 1–18.Google Scholar
  15. CEC (2004) European action plan for organic food and farming, Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, COM(2004)415 final, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 7 p.Google Scholar
  16. Coombes B., Campbell H. (1998) Dependent reproduction of alternative modes of agriculture: Organic farming in New Zealand, Sociol. Rural. 38, 127–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DARD (2008) The code of good agricultural practice for the prevention of pollution of water, air and soil (COGAP), UK Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Available on-line at: http:// www.ruralni.gov.uk.Google Scholar
  18. Darnhofer I. (2005) Organic farming and rural development: Some evidence from Austria, Sociol. Rural. 45, 308–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Darnhofer I. (2006) Organic farming between professionalisation and conventionalisation — The need for a more discerning view of farmer practices. Paper presented at Joint Organic Congress, Odense, Denmark, May 30–31, 2006. Available on-line at: http://orgprints. org/7390/.Google Scholar
  20. De Wit J., Verhoog H. (2007) Organic values and the conventionalization of organic agriculture, NJAS-Wageningen J. Life Sci. 54, 449–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. DeLind L.B. (2000) Transforming organic agriculture into industrial organic products: Reconsidering national organic standards, Hum. Organ. 59, 198–208.Google Scholar
  22. Degré A., Debouche C., Verhève D. (2007) Conventional versus alternative pig production assessed by multicriteria decision analysis, Agron Sustain. Dev. 27, 185–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dietl W., Lehmann J. (2004) Ökologischer Wiesenbau — Nachhaltige Bewirtschaftung von Wiesen und Weiden [Ecological grassland management — Sustainable management of meadows and pastures], Österreichischer Agrarverlag, Leopoldsdorf.Google Scholar
  24. DuPuis E.M., Gillon S. (2009) Alternative modes of governance: organic as civic engagement, Agr. Hum. Values 26, 43–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. EC (2004) European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming. Commission Staff Working Document SEC(2004)739. Annex to the Communication from the Commission COM(2004)415final, 33 p. Available on-line at: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/.Google Scholar
  26. EC (2007) Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91. Published in the Official Journal of the European Union L 189, on 20.7.2007.Google Scholar
  27. EEC (2001) Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91 of 24 June 1991 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs. Published in the Official Journal L 198, on 22.7.1991.Google Scholar
  28. Eurostat (2001) Organic farming. Statistics in Focus, Environment and Energy, Theme 8 — 5/2001, EuroStat, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  29. Eurostat (2007) Different organic farming patterns within EU-25. An overview of the current situation. Statistics in Focus, Agriculture and Fisheries, 69/2007, EuroStat, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  30. Fairweather J. (1999) Understanding how farmers choose between organic and conventional production: Results from New Zealand and policy implications, Agr. Hum. Values 16, 51–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. FiBL (2006) Ampferregulierung. Vorbeugende Möglichkeiten ausschöpfen [Dock regulation — Using preventive methods]. Merkblatt von Bioland, KÖN, Bio Austria und FiBL, 16 p. Available at http:// www.fibl.org.Google Scholar
  32. Flaten, O., Lien G., Ebbesvik M., Koesling M., Valle P.S. (2006) Do the new organic producers differ from the ‘old guard’? Empirical results from Norwegian dairy farming, Renew. Agr. Food Syst. 21, 174–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Follett J. (2009) Choosing a food future: Differentiating among alternative food options, J. Agr. Environ. Ethics 22, 31–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Frederiksen P., Langer V. (2008) Patterns of resource use on Danish organic farms: Aspects of farmbased rural development, Int. J. Agr. Resour., Gov. Ecol. 7, 96–109.Google Scholar
  35. Goodman D. (1999) Agro-food studies in the ‘age of ecology’: Nature, corporeality, bio-politics, Sociol. Rural. 39, 17–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Green K., Foster C. (2005) Give peas a chance: Transformations in food consumption and production systems, Technol. Forecasting Social Change 72, 663–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Guthman J. (1998) Regulating meaning, appropriating nature: The codification of California organic agriculture, Antipode 30, 135–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Guthman J. (2000) Raising organic: An agro-ecological assessment of grower practices in California, Agr. Hum. Values 17, 257–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Guthman J. (2004a) Agrarian dreams. The paradox of organic farming in California, University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  40. Guthman J. (2004b) The trouble with ‘organic lite’ in California: A rejoinder to the ‘conventionalisation’ debate, Sociol. Rural. 44, 301–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Guptill A. (2009) Exploring the conventionalization of organic dairy: Trends and counter-trends in upstate New York, Agr. Hum. Values 26, 29–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hall A., Mogyorody V. (2001) Organic farmers in Ontario: An examination of the conventionalization argument, Sociol. Rural. 41, 399–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Häring A.M., Dabbert S., Aurbacher J., Bichler B., Eichert C., Gambelli D., Lampkin N., Offermann F., Olmos S., Tuson J., Zanoli R. (2004) Organic farming and measures of European agricultural policy. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 11, University of Hohenheim, Department of Farm Economics, Hohenheim.Google Scholar
  44. Hazel L.N. (1943) The genetic basis of constructing selection indexes, Genetics 28, 476–490.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Hendrickson M., James H. (2005) The ethics of constrained choice: How the industrialization of agriculture impacts farming and farmer behavior, J. Agr. Environ. Ethics 18, 269–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Holt G. (2006) A conceptual model of willingness to pay for organic food in the UK, in: Holt G., Reed M. (Eds.), Sociological perspectives of organic agriculture: From pioneer to policy, CABI, Wallingford, pp. 88–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. IFOAM (2005) Principles of organic agriculture, 4 p., IFOAM International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Bonn, available on-line at: http://www.ifoam.org/.Google Scholar
  48. Jordan S., Shuji H., Izawa R. (2006) Conventionalization in the Australian organic industry: A case study of the Darling Downs region. In Sociological perspectives of organic agriculture: From pioneer to policy, CABI, Wallingford, pp. 142–156.Google Scholar
  49. Kaut A., Mason H., Navabi A., O’Donovan J., Spaner D. (2008) Organic and conventional management of mixtures of wheat and spring cereals, Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28, 363–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Knickel K. (2008) Evaluating the environmental performance of farms in regionally adaptive and participatory ways, Paper presented at the conference on “Using evaluation to enhance the rural development value of agri-environmental measures” held 17–19 June 2008 in Pärnu, Estonia.Google Scholar
  51. Konefal J., Mascarenhas M., Hatanaka M. (2005) Governance in the global agro-food system: Backlighting the role of transnational supermarket chains, Agr. Hum. Values 22, 291–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lamine C., Bellon S. (2009) Conversion to organic farming: A multidimensional research object at the crossroads of agricultural and social sciences. A review, Agron. Sustain. Dev. 29, 97–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Langer V. (2002) Changes in farm level structure following conversion to organic farming in Denmark, Ame. J. Alternat. Agr. 17, 75–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Langer V., Frederiksen P. (2005) The development of farm size on Danish organic farms — A comment to the the conventionalisation debate. Presented at the ISOFAR, 21–23 September 2005 in Adelaide, available on-line at: http://orgprints.org/4406/.Google Scholar
  55. Langmeier M., Frossard E., Kreuzer M., Mäder P., Dubois D., Oberson A. (2002) Nitrogen fertilizer value of cattle manure applied on soils originating from organic and conventional farming systems, Agronomie 22, 789–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Letourneau D., Bothwell S. (2008) Comparison of organic and conventional farms: challenging ecologists to make biodiversity functional, Front. Ecol. Environ. 6, 430–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lobley M., Butler A., Reed M. (2009) The contribution of organic farming to rural development: An exploration of the socio-economic linkages of organic and non-organic farms in England, Land Use Pol. 26, 723–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lockie S., Lyons K., Lawrence G., Mummery K. (2002) Eating “green”: Motivations behind organic food consumption in Australia, Sociol. Rural. 42, 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lockie S., Halpin D. (2005) The ‘conventionalisation’ thesis reconsidered: Structural and ideological transformation of Australian organic agriculture, Sociol. Rural. 45, 284–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Lockie S., Lyons K., Lawrence G., Halpin D. (2006) Going organic: mobilizing networks for environmentally responsible food production, CABI, Wallingford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lotter D.W. (2003) Organic agriculture, J. Sustain. Agr. 21, 59–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Lund V., Röcklingsberg H. (2001) Outlining a concept of animal welfare for organic farming systems, J. Agr. Environ. Ethics 14, 391–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Luttikholt L.W. (2007) Principles of organic agriculture as formulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, NJAS-Wageningen J. Life Sci. 54, 347–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Mäder P., Fließbach A., Dubois D., Gunst L., Fried P., Niggli U. (2002) Soil fertility and biodiversity in organic farming. Science 296, pp. 1694–1697.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Malkina-Pykh I., Pykh Y. (2008) Quality-of-life indicators at different scales: Theoretical background, Ecol. Ind. 8, 854–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Meul M., van Passel S., Nevens F., Dessein J., Rogge E., Mulier A., van Hauwermeiren A. (2008) MOTIFS: A monitoring tool for integrated farm sustainability, Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28, 321–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Michelsen J., Hamm U., Wynen E., Roth E. (1999) The European market for organic products: Growth and development. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 7., University of Hohenheim, Department of Farm Economics, Hohenheim.Google Scholar
  68. Michelsen J. (2001) Recent development and political acceptance of organic farming in Europe, Sociol. Rural. 41, 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Milestad R., Wivstad M., Lund V., Geber U. (2008) Goals and standards in Swedish organic farming: trading off between desirables, Int. J. Agr. Resour., Gov. Ecol. 7, 23–39.Google Scholar
  70. Moore O. (2008) How embedded are organic fresh fruit and vegetables at Irish farmers’ markets and what does the answer say about the organic movement? An exploration using three models, Int. J. Agr. Resour., Gov. Ecol. 7, 144–157.Google Scholar
  71. Nieberg H., Offermann F., Zander K. (2007) Organic farms in a changing policy environment: Impacts of support payments, EU-enlargement and Luxembourg reforms. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 13, University of Hohenheim, Department of Farm Economics, Hohenheim.Google Scholar
  72. Niemeijer D., de Groot R.S. (2008) A conceptual framework for selecting environmental indicator sets, Ecol. Indicators 8, 14–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Niggli U. (2007) Mythos „Bio”. Kommentare zum gleichnamigen Artikel von Michael Miersch in der Wochenzeitung „Die Weltwoche“ vom 20. September 2007. Commentary, FiBL, Frick, available on-line at: http://orgprints.org/11368/.Google Scholar
  74. Norton L., Johnson P., Joys A., Stuart R., Chamberlain D., Feber R., Firbank L., Manley W., Wolfe M., Hart B., Mathews F., Macdonald D., Fuller R. (2009) Consequences of organic and non-organic farming practices for field, farm and landscape complexity, Agr. Ecosyst. Environ. 129, 221–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Obach B. (2007) Theoretical interpretation of the growth in organic agriculture: Agricultural modernization or an organic treadmill? Soc. Nat. Res. 20, 229–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Padel S. (2007) How do ethical values of organic agriculture relate to standards and to current practice? in: Zollitsch W., Winckler C., Waiblinger S., Haslberger A. (Eds.), Sustainable food production and ethics, Wageningen University Press, Vienna, pp. 26–30.Google Scholar
  77. Padel S. (2008) Values of organic producers converting at different times: Results of a focus group study in five European countries, Int. J. Agr. Resour., Gov. Ecol. 7, 63–77.Google Scholar
  78. Padel S., Foster C. (2005) Exploring the gap between attitudes and behaviour — Understanding why consumers buy or do not buy organic food, Br. Food J. 107, 606–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Padel S., Roecklingsberg H., Verhoog H., Alroe H., De Wit J., Kjeldsen C., Schmid O. (2007) Balancing and integrating basic values in the development of organic regulations and standards: Proposal for a procedure using case studies of conflicting areas, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, available on-line at: http://orgprints.org/ 10940/.Google Scholar
  80. Renting H., Oostindie H., Laurent C., Brunori G., Barjolle D., Moxnes Jervell A., Granberg L., Heinonen M. (2008) Multifunctionality of agricultural activities, changing rural identities and new institutional arrangements, Int. J. Agr. Resour., Gov. Ecol. 7, 361–385.Google Scholar
  81. Rigby D., Cáceres D. (2001) Organic farming and the sustainability of agricultural systems, Agr. Syst. 68, 21–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Rinnofner T., Friedel J.K., de Kruijff R., Pietsch G., Freyer B. (2008) Effect of catch crop on N dynamics and following crops in organic farming, Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28, 551–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Rosin C., Campbell H. (2009) Beyond bifurcation: Examining the conventions of organic agriculture in New Zealand, J. Rural Stud. 25, 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Rosset P., Altieri M.A. (1997) Agroecology versus input substitution: a fundamental contradiction of sustainable agriculture, Soc. Nat. Resour. 10, 283–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Schermer M. (2006) Regional rural development: The formation of ecoregions in Austria, in: Holt G., Reed M. (Eds.), Sociological perspectives of organic agriculture, CABI, Wallingford, pp. 227–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Slee B. (2007) Social indicators of multifunctional rural land use: The case of forestry in the UK, Agr. Ecosyst. Environ. 120, 31–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Smith E., Marsden T. (2004) Exploring the ‘limits to growth’ in UK organics: Beyond the statistical image, J. Rural Stud. 20, 345–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Stock P.V. (2007) ‘Good farmers’ as reflexive producers: An examination of family organic farmers in the US Midwest, Sociol. Rural. 47, 83–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Sundrum A. (2005) Vom ökologischen Landbau zur ökologischen Landwirtschaft [From organic agriculture to organic farming], Ökologie Landbau 1/2005(133), 17–19.Google Scholar
  90. Sylvander B., Bellon S., Benoit M. (2006) Facing the organic reality: The diversity of development models and their consequences on research policies, in: Organic farming and European rural development 58–59. Odense, available on-line at: http://www.orgprints.org/ 8247/.Google Scholar
  91. Thomas F., Groß D. (2005) Von der Bewegung zur Branche. Der Ökolandbau und seine sozialen und regionalen Ziele — Eine Diskussion über Anspruch, Realität und Perspektiven [From movement to trade sector], in: AgrarBündnis (Ed.), Landwirtschaft 2005, Der kritische Agrarbericht, pp. 61–70.Google Scholar
  92. Tomlinson I. (2008) Re-thinking the transformation of organics: The role of the UK government in shaping British organic food and farming, Sociol. Rural. 48, 133–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Tovey H. (1997) Food, environmentalism and rural sociology: On the organic farming movement in Ireland, Sociol. Rural. 37, 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Trewavas A. (2001) Urban myths of organic farming, Nature 410, 409–410.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. USDA (2007) Organic agriculture: US organic farm sector is diverse. Briefing Rooms, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, on-line: http://www.ers.usda. gov/briefing/organic/Farmsector.htm.Google Scholar
  96. van Cauwenbergh N., Biala K., Bielders C., Brouckaert V., Franchois L., Garcia Cidad V., Hermy M., Mathijs E., Muys B., Reijnders R., Sauvenier X., Valckx J., Vanclooser M., van der Veken B., Wauters E., Peeters A. (2007) SAFE — A hierarchical framework for assessing the sustainability of agricultural systems, Agr. Ecosyst. Environ. 120, 229–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. van der Ploeg J.D. (1995) From structural development to structural involution: The impact of new development in Dutch agriculture, in: van der Ploeg J.D., van Dijk G. (Eds.), Beyond Modernization: The impact of endogenous rural development, van Gorcum, Assen, pp. 109–146.Google Scholar
  98. van Ittersum M.K., Ewert F., Heckelei T., Wery J., Alkan Olsson J., Andersen E., Bezlepkina I., Brouwer F., Donatelli M., Flichman G., Olsson L., Rizzoli A., Van der Wal T., Wien J.E., Wolf J. (2008) Integrated assessment of agricultural systems — A component-based framework for the European Union (SEAMLESS), Agr. Syst. 96, 150–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Verhoog H., Matze M., Lammerts van Bueren E., Baars T. (2003) The role of the concept of natural (naturalness) in organic farming, J. Agr. Environ. Ethics 16, 29–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Watson C., Walker R., Stockdale E. (2008) Research in organic production systems — past, present and future, J. Agr. Sci. 146, 1–19.Google Scholar
  101. Willer H., Youssefi-Menzler M., Sorensen N. (Eds.) (2008) The world of organic agriculture. Statistics and emerging trends 2008, IFOAM and Frick: FiBL, Bonn, available at: http://www.fibl.org/.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ika Darnhofer
    • 1
  • Thomas Lindenthal
    • 1
  • Ruth Bartel-Kratochvil
    • 1
  • Werner Zollitsch
    • 1
  1. 1.BOKU - Univ. of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations