Organic Agriculture’s Approach towards Sustainability; Its Relationship with the Agro-Industrial Complex, A Case Study in Central Macedonia, Greece

  • Thodoris Dantsis
  • Angeliki Loumou
  • Christina Giourga


Up to now, several scientific works have noted that the organic sector resembles more and more conventional farming’s structures, what is widely known as the “conventionalization” thesis. This phenomenon constitutes an area of conflict between organic farming’s original vision and its current reality and raises ethical and social questions concerning the structure of agricultural systems of production and their interactions with the socio-economic and natural environment. The main issue of this dialogue is the concept of sustainable agriculture, which for scientists and policymakers is a means to express their vision of a better agriculture. In this article we focus on agricultural sustainability in the context of capitalist production as conducted by the two subsystems of agro-industrial system. As we have proposed in this article, the relationship between organic agriculture, defined by two essential components (prevention and direct marketing), and the agro-industrial complex, defined by two subsystems, indicates the degree of agricultural sustainability. The investigation of this relationship can be extremely useful as it may lead those involved in the discussion of sustainability to identify the key aspects of sustainable agriculture. In order to investigate the interaction of organic farming with the agro-industrial complex, a survey was conducted in Central Macedonia, Northern Greece, involving local organic farms. The results of our study indicate that a large proportion of organic producers did not differ substantially from their counterparts in conventional agriculture in so far as their relationship with the agro-industrial complex is concerned. Finally, this research highlights two scenarios for the evolution of organic farming. The first is the full absorption of organic farming to the existing economic system and the second one is the development of organic farming in a radically opposite direction to conventional farming.


Agricultural sustainability Agro-industrial complex Motives Conventionalization thesis Organic agriculture Capitalist production 



International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements


Panhellenic Network of Ecological Organizations


Research Institute of Organic Agriculture


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, P., & Kovach, M. (2000). The capitalist composition of organic: The potential of markets in fulfilling the promise of organic agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values, 17(3), 221–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altieri, M. (1995). Agroecology: The science of sustainable agriculture. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  3. Altieri, A., & Nicholls, I. (2003). Soil fertility management and insect pests: Harmonizing soil and plant health in agroecosystems. Soil & Tillage Research, 72, 203–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amin, S., & Vergopoulos, Κ. (1975). The ugly face of capitalism: Its dominance over agriculture. Athens, Greece: Papazissi Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Baldock, D., Dwyer, J. & Vinas, J. M. (2002). Environmental Integration and the CAP. A Report to the European Commission. Retrieved September 10, 2005, from
  6. Belasco, W. J. (1993). Appetite for change: How the counterculture took on the food industry. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Berry, W. (2001). Global problems, local solutions. Retrieved February 10, 2007, from
  8. Biao, X., Xiaorong, W., Zhuhong, D., & Yaping, Y. (2003). Critical impact assessment of organic agriculture. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 16(3), 297–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, L. (2004). Outgrowing the earth, the food security challenge in an age of falling water tables and rising temperatures. New York: W.·W. Norton.Google Scholar
  10. Buck, D., Getz, C., & Guthman, J. (1997). From farm to table: The organic vegetable commodity chain of Northern California. Sociologia Ruralis, 37(1), 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buttel, F. (1997). Some observations on Agro-Food change and the future of agricultural sustainability. In D.␣Goodman & M. J. Watts (Eds.), Globalising food: Agrarian questions and global restructuring (pp.␣344–365). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Campbell, H., & Liepins, R. (2001). Naming organics: Understanding organic standards in New Zealand as a discursive field. Sociologia Ruralis, 41(1), 22–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carson, R. (1960). Silence spring. Athens, Greece: Kaktos Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Constance, D. H. (2008). The emancipatory question: The next step in the sociology of agrifood systems? Agriculture and Human Values, 25, 151–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Conway, G., & Toenniessen, G. (1999). Feeding the world in the twenty-first century. Nature, 402. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from http:.//
  16. Costanza, R., Cumberland, J., Daly, H., Goodland, R., & Norgaard, R. (1997). An introduction to ecological economics. Boca Raton: St. Lucie Press.Google Scholar
  17. den Biggelaar, C., & Suvedi, M. (2000). Farmers’ definitions, goals, and bottlenecks of sustainable agriculture in the North-Central Region. Agriculture and Human Values, 17, 347–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dio, Inspection and Certification Organization of Organic products. (2006). Statistics. Retrieved September 16, 2008, from
  19. Doran, J. W. (2002). Soil health and global sustainability: Translating science into practice. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 88(2), 119–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Erzeuger-Verbraucher-Initiative. (1992). EVI Info’, St. Pölten.Google Scholar
  21. Eurostat. (2007). Organic farming in the EU. Retrieved September 20, 2008, from
  22. Fonte, M. (2008). Knowledge, food and place. A way of producing, a way of knowing. Sociologia Ruralis, 48(3), 200–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fookes, C., & Dalmeny, K. (2001). The organic food and farming: Myth and reality. Report. Bristol, UK: Soil Association.Google Scholar
  24. Fotopoulos, X., Fousekis, P., & Tzoubelekas, V. (2001). Multiculture and technical effectiveness of rural holdings in Greece. Athens: Stamoulis Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. Fotopoulos, C., Krystallis, A., & Nessc, M. (2003). Wine produced by organic grapes in Greece: Using means—end chains analysis to reveal organic buyers’ purchasing motives in comparison to the non-buyers. Food Quality and Preference, 14, 549–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Francis, C., Lieblein, G., Gliessman, S., Breland, T. A., Creamer, N., Harwood Salomonsson, L., et al. (2003). Agroecology: The ecology of food systems. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 22(3), 99–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Friedland, W. F. (1991). The transnationalisation of production and consumption of food and fibre: Challenges for rural research. In R. Almes & N. With (Eds.), Rural futures in an international world (pp. 23–42). Trondheim, Norway: Centre for Rural Research.Google Scholar
  28. Friedmann, H. (1991). Changes in the international division of labour: Agri-food complexes and export agriculture. In W. F. Friedland (Ed.), Towards a new political economy of agriculture. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  29. Friedmann, H. (1993). The political economy of food: A global crisis. New Left Review, 197, 29–57.Google Scholar
  30. Gafsi, M., Legagneux, B., Nguyen, G., & Robin, P. (2006). Towards sustainable farming systems: Effectiveness and deficiency of the French procedure of sustainable agriculture. Agricultural Systems, 90, 226–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gomiero, T., Paoletti, M. G., & Pimentel, D. (2008). Energy and environmental issues in organic and conventional agriculture. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 27, 239–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goodman, D. (2000). Organic and conventional agriculture: Materializing discourse and agro-ecological managerialism. Agriculture and Human Values, 17, 215–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Goodmann, D., Sorj, B., & Wilkinson, J. (1987). From farming to biotechnology: A theory of agroindustrial development. Oxford, UK: B. Blackwell Ltd.Google Scholar
  34. Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food. (2001). Program application: Organic agriculture of the agro-environmental directive for agricultural development. 2000–2006. Reg: EC 1257/99. Retrieved June 27, 2004, from
  35. Guptill, A., & Wilkins, J. L. (2002). Buying into the food system: Trends in food retailing in the US and implications for local foods. Agriculture and Human Values, 19(1), 39–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Guthman, J. (2004). The trouble with ‹organic lite’ in California: A rejoinder to the ‹conventionalisation’ debate. Sociologia Ruralis, 44(3), 301–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hall, A., & Mogyorody, V. (2001). Organic farming in Ontario: An examination of the conventionalization argument Increasing concerns have been expressed about whether the alternative character. Sociologia Ruralis, 41(4), 399–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hellenic Republic Ministry of Economy and Finance. (2001). Number of agricultural and livestock holdings, their utilized agricultural area and average area per holding Total Greece, Provisional results of Agricultural-Livestock Census 1999–2000. Retrieved May 23, 2004, from
  39. Henin, S. (1980). Rapport du group de travail. In G. Siardos & A. Koutsouris (Eds.), Sustainable agriculture and development. Athens, Greece: Zygos Publishing.Google Scholar
  40. IFOAM. (2002). Basic standards for organic production and processing. Retrieved May 23, 2003, from
  41. Ikerd, J. (1993). Two related but distinctly different concepts: Organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Small Farm today, 10(1), 30–31.Google Scholar
  42. Jarosz, L. (2008). The city in the country: Growing alternative food networks in Metropolitan areas. Journal of Rural Studies, 24, 231–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kaltoft, P. (2004, July). Has organic farming modernised itself out of business? An analysis of organic farmers reverting to conventional methods. Paper Presented at the XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim, Norway.Google Scholar
  44. Konefal, J., Mascarenhas, M., & Hatanaka, M. (2005). Governance in the global agro-food system: Backlighting the role of transnational supermarket chains. Agriculture and Human Values, 22(3), 291–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kratochvil, R., & Leitner, H. (2005, August). The trap of conventionalisation: Organic farming between vision and reality. Paper presented at the XXI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Keszthely, Hungary.Google Scholar
  46. Krystallis, A., & Ness, M. (2004). Motivational and cognitive structures of consumers in the purchase of quality food products: The case of Greek olive oil. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 16(2), 7–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. La Rosa, A. D., Siracusa, G., & Cavallaro, R. (2008). Energy evaluation of Sicilian red orange production. A comparison between organic and conventional farming. Journal of Cleaner Production, 16, 1907–1915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lampkin, N. (1994). Organic farming: Sustainable agriculture in practice. In N. H. Lampkin & S. Padel (Eds.), The economics of organic farming. An international perspective (pp. 3–8). Oxford, UK: CAB International.Google Scholar
  49. Lewis, W. J., van Lenteren, J. C., Phatak, S. C., & Tumlinson, J. H. (1997). A total system approach to sustainable pest management. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, 94, 1243–1248.Google Scholar
  50. Lewontin, R. C. (1998). The maturing of capitalist agriculture: Farmer as Proletarian. Monthly Review (New York), 50(3), 72–88.Google Scholar
  51. Lockie, S., & Halpin, D. (2005). The ‹conventionalisation’ thesis reconsidered: Structural and ideological transformation of Australian organic agriculture. Sociologia Ruralis, 45(4), 284–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Magdoff, F., Foster, J. B., & Buttel, F. H. (1998). Hungry profit: Agriculture, food, and ecology. Monthly Review (New York), 50(3), 1–160.Google Scholar
  53. Merchant, C. (1986). Perspective: Restoration and reunion with nature. Restoration and Management Notes, 4(2), 34–56.Google Scholar
  54. Meyer-Aurich, A. (2005). Economic and environmental analysis of sustainable farming practices—A Bavarian case study. Agricultural Systems, 86, 190–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Michelsen, J., Hamm, U., Wynen, E., & Roth, E. (2000). Organic farming in Europe: Economics and policy. The European Market for Organic Products: Growth and Development, 7, 5–15.Google Scholar
  56. Miele, M., & Pinducciu, D. (2001). A market for nature: Linking the production and consumption of organics in Tuscany. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 3(1), 149–162.Google Scholar
  57. Milestad, R. (2003). Building farm resilience challenges and prospects for organic farming. Retrieved June 27, 2004, from
  58. Murdoch, J., & Miele, M. (1999). Back to nature’: Changing ‹worlds of production’ in the food sector. Sociologia Ruralis, 39(4), 465–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Newby, H. (1978). The rural sociology of advanced capitalist societies. International perspectives in rural sociology. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  60. Noe, E. (2004, July). The paradox between dissemination and reproduction of organic farming as an alternative, sustainable development of agriculture. A case study of the dissemination processes in Northwest Jutland. Paper Presented at the XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim, Norway.Google Scholar
  61. O’Hara, S. U., & Stagl, S. (2001). Global food markets and their local alternatives: A socio-ecological economic perspective. Population & Environment, 22(6), 533–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Padel, S. (2001). Conversion to organic farming: A typical example of the diffusion of an innovation? Sociologia Ruralis, 41(1), 40–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Panhellenic Network of Ecological Organizations. (2002). Congress on principles of the regarding organic agriculture, animal rearing and rural development in Greece. Retrieved January 22, 2003 from
  64. Pimentel, D. (1973). Food production and the energy crisis. Science, 182, 443–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Pimentel, D., Krummel, J., & Dritschilo, A. (1976). Food, energy, and population. Science, 193, 1074–1076.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Raynolds, L. T. (2004). The globalization of organic agro-food networks. World Development, 32(5), 725–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Rigby, D., & Cáceres, D. (2001). Organic farming and the sustainability of agricultural systems. Agricultural Systems, 68(1), 21–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Rima, I. H. (1983). The history of financial analysis. Athens, Greece: Gutenberg.Google Scholar
  69. Rosset, P. M., & Altieri, M. A. (1997). Agroecology versus input substitution: A fundamental contradiction of sustainable agriculture. Society & Natural Resources, 10(3), 283–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Selfaa, T., Jussaume, R., & Winte, M. (2008). Envisioning agricultural sustainability from field to plate: Comparing producer and consumer attitudes and practices toward ‹environmentally friendly’ food and farming in Washington State, USA. Journal of Rural Studies, 24, 262–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stagl, S. (2002). Local organic food markets: Potentials and limitations for contributing to sustainable development. Empirica, 29(2), 145–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Starr, A., Card, A., Benepe, C., Auld, G., Lamm, D., Smith, K., et al. (2003). Sustaining local agriculture barriers and opportunities to direct marketing between farms and restaurants in Colorado. Agriculture and Human Values, 20(3), 301–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tate, W. B. (1994). The development of the organic industry and market: An international perspective. In N. H. Lampkin & S. Padel (Eds.), The economics of organic farming, An international perspective (pp. 11–25). Guildford, UK: Cab International.Google Scholar
  74. Tovey, H. (1997). Food environmentalism and rural sociology: On the organic farming movement in Ireland. Sociologica Ruralis, 37(1), 22–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Trewavas, A. (2001). Urban myths of organic farming. Organic farming began as an ideology but can it meet today’s needs? Nature, 410, 409–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Verhoog, H., Matze, M., Van Bueren, E. L., & Baars, T. (2002). The role of the concept of the natural (naturalness) in organic farming. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 16, 29–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Vlodakis, G., Desyllas, M., & Bisti, M. (2001). Elements of organic agriculture. Athens, Greece: Technical Institute Section of Agriculture, Food and Environment.Google Scholar
  78. Vos, T. (2000). Visions of the middle landscape: Organic farming and the politics of nature. Agriculture and Human Values, 17(3), 245–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Whatmore, S. (1990). Farming women: Gender, work and family enterprise. London: Macmillan Academic and Professional Ltd.Google Scholar
  80. Whiffen, H. J., & Bobroff, L. B. (1993). Managing the energy cost of food. Retrieved February 15, 2007, from
  81. Wilkins, J. (2005). Eating right here: Moving from consumer to food citizen. Agriculture and Human Values, 22(3), 269–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Willer, H., Yussefi-Menzler, M., & Sorensen, N. (2008). The world of organic agriculture: Statistics and emerging trends 2008. Retrieved June 15, 2008, from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thodoris Dantsis
    • 1
  • Angeliki Loumou
    • 2
  • Christina Giourga
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of the AegeanMytileneGreece
  2. 2.Department of Technology of Agricultural productsTechnological Educational Institute of KalamataAntiKalamosGreece

Personalised recommendations