Naming Organics: Understanding Organic Standards in New Zealand as a Discursive Field

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Abstract

The New Zealand organic industry has grown rapidly over the last ten years. While New Zealand did have a small organic agriculture social movement from the 1970s, the size and scope of the industry increased rapidly during the 1990s as a result of large export companies establishing organic product lines. This transformation, and the eventual resistance to corporate styles of organic exporting, provides a useful case study of the way in which organic standards are constructed, reconstructed and circulated. By using discourse analysis the processes by which ideas of ‘organic’ were formed in the 1980s and then solidified (and contested) in the 1990s can be explored and various consequences identified. Rather than displaying a linear logic, by which organic agriculture movements are seemingly inevitably commoditized and corporatized, the New Zealand case provides evidence of the peculiar nature of organic agriculture as a part of the standardizing global food system.

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