State-centered versus nonstate-driven organic food standardization: A comparison of the US and Sweden
Summary, in English
Organic food standardization is an increasingly important strategy for dealing with consumer concerns about the environment, animal welfare, health, and the economic structure of food production. But the ways in which this consumer-oriented strategy is introduced, organized, and debated vary considerably across countries. In Sweden, a nongovernmental organization [KRAV (Association for Control of Organic Production)] - consisting of social movement organizations, associations for conventional and organic farmers, and the food industry - has been quite successful in promoting organic food labeling as an eco-label. KRAV has developed a complementary position vis-a-vis the state and EU regulatory framework. In the US, the federal government controls standardization. The government frames the label as a "marketing label," thus rejecting the idea that organic food production would have any significant advantages for the environment or, indirectly, for human health. This framing is separate from the ones created by organic constituencies, leading to deeper controversies than in Sweden. The purpose of this paper is to examine why standardization has followed different patterns in the two settings. We analyze context factors (i.e., political culture, pre-regulatory arrangements, and organizational structures) and process factors (i.e., framing and organizing). What are the benefits of a state-centric versus a nonstate-driven approach regarding powerful standardization? The paper shows that both settings provide not only "threats of regulatory occupation" from actors not committed to organic principles but also avenues for substantial standardization in the future, albeit through different channels.