Accepted Paper:

How can one eat or farm organic without "living organic"? Ethnography of values and practices of Belgian organic producers and consumers  


Audrey Vankeerberghen (Université de Liège)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic research in Belgium, this paper aims to better understand the values underlying the practices of organic producers and consumers as well as their interactions with the economic, political et legal developments of the organic movement.

Paper long abstract:

Through the analysis of Belgian organic producers and consumers' life stories, we will highlight the motivations and values that have brought them to adopt organic practices as well as the evolutions or transformations that these values have undergone over time. We will show how producers and consumers have built their « organic » identity by defining themselves as different from other organic producers or consumers. One of the main criterias of this differentiation is « to have - or not - an organic mentality/philosophy », which is defined by some as having - or not - an « ethical commitment ».

To understand how, « today, one can eat or farm organic without «living organic », as highlighted by one of the producers interviewed, we must consider the historical development of the organic movement. On one hand, the organic market has expanded over the last decades, creating new products and opportunities. On the other hand, organic farming has transformed over time, becoming increasingly institutional and regulated. It has developed into a production method which is, today, defined by European regulations and subsidized by States. This paper will analyze how the legal and administrative framework has influenced the organic movement and the definition of its values.

Today, the act of producing or buying organic does not necessarily involve an « ethical commitment». This paper will therefore seek to describe what constitutes a supposedly ethical commitment for organic producers or consumers and under which conditions this commitment can still exist.

Panel W001
Ethical consumption: consumers and producers, markets and ethics