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Australia's organic trilemma: Public versus private organic food standardisation

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posted on 2023-05-26, 05:43 authored by Hall, SB
The Australian organic food industry has reached a political impasse. Despite being one of the fastest growing sectors of the food economy, the organic industry in Australia remains largely self-governed. There is no specific legislation for domestic organic food standardisation and labelling at the state or federal level as there is in the USA and the EU. The situation has engendered deep division within the sector. While there is recognition among most organic industry actors about a need for regulatory reform and greater engagement with government, there is disagreement over the appropriate nature and extent of government intervention. Some sectoral actors seek government regulation to facilitate the maturation and expansion of the organic industry and to protect consumers and producers from labelling fraud. Others fear that government regulation may undermine the values and traditions of the Australian organic agriculture movement. Drawing upon the social theories of Jurgen Habermas, Niklas Luhmann and Gunther Teubner, the thesis argues the Australian situation represents an example of a regulatory trilemma. Inappropriate government regulation may: (1) be ignored and thus redundant; or (2) it may destroy the inherent structure and normative dynamics of Australia's organic food system; or (3) be counteracted by positive systemic resistance from the organic sector. The thesis finds a reflexive approach provides a sound basis for establishing the limits of government regulation of the organic sector and represents an effective response to the trilemma.

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