National Organic Certification in the United States and the Organic Agriculture Movement
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What is "organic"? Organic Agriculture is defined most basically by how it compares economically and environmentally to conventional farms and by techniques that take advantage of and work in harmony with natural ecological systems. Ideas of ecological or sustainable agriculture predate the more recently popular idea of "organic" agriculture, but since the 1970s when the "organic movement" began to take shape, the organic foods market has been growing at an increasing pace. Accompanying the popularization of organic foods, certification schemes began to emerge at the regional, state, and eventually the national level as a way to protect against fraud and encourage additional growth of the organic market. After a long struggle to establish national organic standards and uniform guidelines for organic practices, opposition remains regarding issues of cost, corporate manipulation of regulations, and the detrimental effects of commercialization. These concerns are mostly held by small farmers and people strongly committed to the fundamental philosophies of the organic movement. Using opinions of several small-scale farmers from southwest and central Michigan, I examine how the establishment of national organic certification standards contradicts the varied and localized philosophical and practical foundations of the organic agriculture movement.
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