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Do organics standards have a real taste of sustainability? A critical essay

de Lima, Felipe Alexandre, Neutzling, Daiane Mulling and Gomes, Marcus ORCID: 2021. Do organics standards have a real taste of sustainability? A critical essay. Journal of Rural Studies 81 , pp. 89-98. 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.08.035

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Organic standards are conceived of as a governance mechanism that not only aims to ensure that consumers’ requirements in terms of transparency are met but also promotes sustainable food systems. Although third-party certification (TPC) and Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) have been predominantly employed in the governance of organic food production, a gap remains in the knowledge and research that delve into their dynamics in terms of sustainability. Against this background, we ask, Do organic standards contribute to sustainable food systems by being socially just, ecologically regenerative, economically robust, and politically inclusive? Drawing on a critical review of the governance of organic food systems, we present the potentials and pitfalls of the institutionalization of organic standards. We employ four sustainability elements to scrutinize the real taste of sustainability vis-à-vis TPC and PGS. Our critical review shows that while various pitfalls hinder the overall sustainability of organics in regard to TPC, its potentials are focused solely on ecological and economic aspects; consequently, farmers can build up their capacity for best practices regarding organic production and gain access to specialty markets, whose main promise is premium prices. Conversely, PGS foster the social, ecological, economic, and political sustainability of organic food systems, as they enable many potentials, such as bringing farmers and consumers together while developing standards and promoting agroecological practices. However, the conventional power dynamics that arise from the prominence and legitimacy of TPC can pose challenges to participatory endeavors. In this regard, technical knowledge might constrain farmers’ confidence in the sense that lay knowledge is not adequate for managing organic production. We therefore emphasize the need to critically evaluate the private market-driven trends regarding the institutionalization of organic standards, which have undermined the pioneering values of the organic movement.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Additional Information: Released with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0743-0167
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 October 2020
Date of Acceptance: 11 August 2020
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 21:39

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