Food Labels and the Environment: Organic Regulation and Its Problems in the US and EU

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An increasing number of consumers make purchasing choices informed by ethical and political values, which has expanded the market for so-called "eco-labeled" goods (Micheletti, 2003; Bryant and Goodman, 2004; Bureau and Marette 2000). The rise of supply and demand for eco-labels is indicative of a more general shift away from traditional command and control forms of regulation toward market-based strategies (USAID, 2005). However, labeling systems are far from simple, and raise important concerns for international regulatory harmonization: behind a state-ratified label lies a complex regime of governmental regulation, consumer and producer, cultural values, authoritative knowledge, and trade politics. Perhaps for this reason, they have been controversial both within and across regulatory jurisdictions. Process-based labeling of food has received increasing attention in recent years in light of controversies over genetically modified foods, concerns about animal cruelty, the use of chemicals in food production, and the social impacts of labor practices (Henneberry and Armbruster, 2003). Heated cross-Atlantic battles over gentically modified organisms (GMOs), recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and geographic indicators reveal persistent differences in the regulatory domains of environment, food, agriculture, and sustainability. The story of organic has been lurking in the shadow of these more contentious battles, and the United States (US) and European Union (EU), along with other key actors, have been working to achieve harmonization

Kendra Klein

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