Topic: The future is participation: Charting the waves of the global organic movement
In 1970 the President of the Soil Association, Fritz Schumacher, signalled a shift in strategy in the movement’s strategy from scientific proofs towards standards and consumer-driven change. Over 40 years later the International Federation of Organic Movements (IFOAM) a body in part-founded by the Soil Association, signalled another shift in strategy with the ‘Organic 3.0’ document. The Organic 3.0 paper was the product of a global discussion within a federation of movements bringing towards organic agriculture even higher ambitions for social justice, environmental and climate change goals.
Recently elements of the organic movement have been re-imagined by some in the term ‘agro-ecology’, whilst in urban agriculture, for many practitioners’ organic methods are the default, although they are often only loosely linked with the burgeoning rural organic farming sector and new industries such as cosmetics and textiles have risen with only limited scholarly attention. Nearly two decades ago many social science scholars had dismissed the oppositional potential of this cultural movement. But currently, we find it prominent in campaigns to ban pesticides across the EU, defending animal production against the arguments of vegans, encouraging farmer-led scientific innovations, shortening food chains and adding new areas of debate such as textiles to its scope of concern. Often it is doing so not by advancing consumer but forms of participation with the products of agriculture that open new possibilities of citizenship.
This paper sets out to explore the ‘waves’ of the organic movement, starting from its emergence in the late nineteenth century through to its latest configuration around the ‘Organic 3.0’ document. In doing so, it starts with an account of how scholars have understood the development of social movements, including periods of repeated mobilisation and contestation. While there is a consideration of the history of the movement, sufficient to characterise the earlier waves of the movement the focus of this work is on the current wave and how that may develop.