The Changing Politics of Organic Food in North America
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The Changing Politics of Organic Food in North America

Lisa F. Clark

The Changing Politics of Organic Food in North America explores the political dynamics of the remarkable transition of organic food from a ‘fringe fad’ in the 1960s to a multi-billion dollar industry in the 2000s. Taking a multidisciplinary, institutionalist approach that integrates social movement theory, public policy analysis and value chain analysis, it tells the story of how the organic movement responded to the social, economic and political changes brought on by the rise of industrial agriculture in the twentieth century.
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Chapter 5: Globalizing organics: the role of trade agreements and international organizations in regulating trade in organic food

Lisa F. Clark


Although the production standards and labeling guidelines covering organic food have only been formalized since the late 1990s, regulations covering organic food have been part of the international policy discourse on food and agriculture for over 20 years. Organic food made its global policy debut when in 1992 Finland notified the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT of its ‘Draft Decree on Indications Referring to Organic Agricultural Production for Foodstuffs’. The notification states that products can only be labeled ‘organic’ if they are subject to ‘inspections and surveillance under the Decree’ (Finnish Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1992). The purpose of the notification to the Committee on TBT was to establish a set of standards for organic products produced in the European Economic Community (EEC), or imported into the EEC, as there was little reference to organic food in the trade policy prior to Finland’s notification. The decree became Council Regulation (EEC) no. 2092/91 and continues to be the set of standards and regulations for organic agriculture in Europe. The European guidelines presented to the Committee on TBT signaled the official entry of organic food into the global trade regime. However, as far back as the 1940s, with the establishment of the Soil Association in the UK and the emergence of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in the 1980s, organic agriculture received considerable attention from the international community as an alternative to industrialized food production.

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