Defining the Organic Culture

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Literature Review

This section first attempts to define the organic agricultural industry through 4 perspectives; Naturalness, Sustainability, Health and Process Orientation. Then, a general look at the organic certification system and implications of inconsistent organic standards along with a short presentation of the disadvantages of delegating quality controls of organic food to individual certifications. Lastly, the Theory of Planned Behavior Model for defining customer perceptions is presented through two sub factors; Customer Intentions and Perceived Behavioral Control. Customer Intentions is again dissected into Customer Attitude and Subjective Norms. As will be seen, Customer Attitude consists of Customer Knowledge and Customer Trust. In addition, the model will be expanded by an additional factor, which is Customer Confusion. The section will conclude by looking at some effects of negative customer perceptions when organic standards are violated.

Defining the Organic Culture

Before presenting the framework which will be used to define organic agriculture in this thesis, it is worth mentioning that general attempts to define the concept within the agricultural farming have been provided ever since the beginning of its movement in the 1960’s (Løes et al., 2017; Kröger & Schäfer, 2014; Park, 2011). As the literature illustrates, these definitions are not necessarily viewed from the perspective of the food industry only, but from a variety of non-relating industries. However, providing a clear definition of the concept becomes difficult when applied across several different sectors so for illustrative purposes, imagine the possible applications of the concept even within the food industry, which this thesis will focus on. Within the context of the food industry, one of the interpretations Renko, Vuleti & Butigan (2010) had encompassed of the organic concept is organic marketing. This possible definition puts attention on retailers and other distributors of food and very central to this definition is that marketing practices shall not enforce overconsumption of food. Then, there is the definition of organic products, which are the food and beverages that are grown under environmentally and socially responsible conditions and which are free from, among others, chemicals (Wang, Zhu & Chu, 2017). Another viewpoint is organic certifications, which regard the control authorities that ensure the quality of organic products. Nevertheless, common for all definitions of the organic concept within the food industry, whether it be from a marketing, product, certification or other perspective, is that they are all connected and subtopics of the wider concept, organic agriculture (Kahl et al., 2012; Park, 2011).
In treaty-based federations, such as the European Union (EU), there is a need for clear quality frameworks which can be generalized over a large number of sectors (Polese, Del Torre, Venir & Stecchini, 2014), such as the concept of organic agricultural. Because Member States are obliged to follow EU Regulations regarding among others, organic farming, definitions and frameworks are needed. Relating treaties, such as the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), is similar. IFOAM’s organic protocol (i.e. official framework of organic food standards) is regulated through the “IFOAM Principles and Standards” and similarly, the EU through the most recent “EC Regulation 834/2007” which both KRAV and Demeter follow and base their framework of standards on (Kahl et al., 2012). The protocols define all aspects in the organic food system, from the farming stage through the production and the overall processing, and serve as fundamental requirements for all certification agencies of food, in the organic industry. Kahl et al. (2012) have developed a common understanding between the IFOAM and EU regulations, and derived at 4 major underlying principles; Naturalness, Sustainability, Health, and Process Orientation. These principles can further help define the concept of organic agriculture in this thesis, and serve as a framework when analyzing the organic food quality standards of KRAV and Demeter.


The first principle, naturalness, is the aspect of organic agriculture in the preparation of organic products that concern the inputs that go into producing the food. Kahl et al. (2012) have come up with two varieties of inputs, where one of them are the internal inputs, and the other type are external inputs. The first type, internal inputs, are those inputs that only derive from organic farms and contain no chemicals. Examples would be manure that only contains the animals’ own feces, and animal feed used for animals where the feed is either grown or developed in an organic farm. The other type, external inputs, derives from conventional farms and farms otherwise not regarded as organic. Again, exemplifying, this would typically imply fertilizers and animal feed which are not free from chemical substances. According to EU standards, organic products sold in the European Market is strongly advised to only consist of internal inputs (Kahl et al., 2012; Zanoli, Gambelli & Solfanelli, 2014). This restriction aims to ensure reliable products that can ensure a fully organically produced product. Nevertheless, most organic producers in the European Market take use of external inputs, mostly due to the lack of more viable alternatives that both impose an economic and technological impact on the business or farm (Urfi, Kormosné Koch & Bacsi, 2011).
Due to this mixed application of both internal and external inputs, naturalness can further be dissected into three levels. These levels could be described as the farm’s or producer’s process from moving away from level 1 to level 2, and from level 2 to level
In level 1 the farm uses inputs from natural origin along with the use of some synthetic inputs. In level 2, the farm gradually integrates more internal inputs and takes into account sustainability in its operations, such as taking more care of the soil through the use of manure rather than fertilizers. In the third level, a fully internal approach has been adopted and at this stage, the caring for the living organisms in the soil and the social responsibility is equally important to the farm as any other element. The difference now, is that the farm more and more values itself as a fundamental key player that can preserve and have an impact on the ecosystem it operates in (Kahl et al., 2012). Wang et al. (2017) argue that implementing a third-level approach of naturalness, with an emphasis on no-tillage, which is the restriction of equipment usage in the soil, will maximize the microbial diversity and help improve the condition of the larger ecosystem, such as the atmosphere and air quality. This specific argument is more related towards production, and will be elaborated in the next section.

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Sustainability and Health

The other two principles that define organic agriculture, are sustainability and health. These two principles are listed together as that is how they appear in the framework. Another reason is their close linkage, as will be seen. It is however important to understand the very fine line in the difference between the two principles. But first, let us look at sustainability which, from the work of Kahl et al. (2012), are related to the actual production of organic food. Imagine the possible issues that are linked to a farm’s production of organic food, which may range from the condition of the soil, to making sure that the workers who perform the production activities are paid a fair wage or to what extent its production activities affect the ecosystem. Likewise, whereas the principle of naturalness concerned the inputs going into organic agriculture to improve the ecosystem, a sustainable organic agricultural production enforces a reduction in tillage (Wang et al., 2017). When there is an emphasize on the sustainability concerns in the organic agriculture, Hole et al. (2005) show that there will be an abundance in soil organisms, insects and plants, resulting in a healthier ecosystem. This result is then likely to have an impact on other areas of the ecosystem, such as the water quality in the society the farm(s) operate in. As can be seen, sustainability is then also a social matter, in which should strive to “give back to the society” and thereby acknowledge its responsibility in improving the living conditions, such as access to clean water.
Kahl et al. (2012) then go on with defining the health aspect of organic agriculture, which is summarized as the “physical, psychological and social well-being” of most often, the animals but to so some extent, the workers in the organic farm. Focusing on the animals’ health however, Bengtsson, Ahnström and Weibull (2005) points at the sustainable production and especially non-usage of tillage in the soil as a predicting factor for a healthy environment in the farm. The reason is a condition in which the soil can prosper and grow naturally will increase life of necessary microorganisms and prevent pests and other bacteria dangerous to animals, from establishing (Cabaret, 2003; Alecu & Alecu, 2015). It is this focus along with the separation of animals, focus on “free movement” and the breeding process where animals used for organic production only derives from organic farms, that researchers have found to be determining for preventing diseases in the organic farm (Thamsborgs, 2002; Vaarst, Padel, Hovi, Younie & Sundrum, 2005).

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Process Orientation

The fourth principle is the process orientation of organic agriculture. While there is a constantly bigger emphasis on biodiversity in the organic vocabulary (Vlahova & Arabska, 2015), the definition of organic from a process perspective attempts to define exactly how that can be achieved. The process orientation, which to a more degree corresponds with the biodynamic direction within organic agriculture more than the regular organic direction, is the whole process that concerns the farm’s engagement in the inputs that go into the production, its engagement in the production activities and the preservation of the ecosystems. According to the EC Regulation 834/2007, the organic agriculture is therefore a holistic approach, or system approach, of food production where all the steps from naturalness to sustainability and health is addressed (EU Commission, 2007). Key here is the detachment from the idea that each activity in the organic agriculture should be isolated from other activities, and more towards the view that all activities combined have an impact on the social, economic and ecological conditions at large and therefore need to be synchronized. Kahl et al. (2012) have not provided a clear formulation of the holistic approach either, but their definition still somewhat corresponds with that of the EU Commission; “The holistic approach is a whole food chain approach oriented towards consumer expectations, a whole food approach with food as a result of combined nutrients and an understanding of living organisms in relation to food and the health of the consumer”.
There are real-time evidences of farms that have implemented the system approach into their organic agricultural operations and succeeded, like in Brazil, where organic farms have been struggling with the late blight disease attacking and decomposing potato- and tomato crops. As a result, a holistic approach in the organic production system to fight the disease, was put in practice in 2003 (Nazareno, Pereira, Medeiros, 2008). Applying this system approach has involved challenging the status quo of traditional control measures of crops, and pushed forward new ways of protecting and preserving crop fields to improve the ecosystem. A part of this movement has been to replace the potato- and tomato cultivars originating from the European Market, and reducing crop rotation, a practice of traditional farming in which dissimilar crops are grown in the same area in sequenced seasons (Smith, Smith & Stirling, 2011). Because of this new method, organic farms in Panara, Brazil, now develop resistant cultivars for producing potatoes and tomatoes, which are new plant combinations resistant to the late blight disease, a method which otherwise is not regarded as a practice of GMO, which strongly contradicts with the principles of all organic agriculture (Bain & Selfa, 2017).
The new plant combinations from the Panara farms are therefore a fortunate direction contributing to preserve the social, economic and ecological areas of organic agriculture, and is a case in point of the potential upsides of adopting a holistic approach.

2.Literature Review 
2.1Defining the Organic Culture
2.2Certification System of Organic Agriculture
2.3Customer Perceptions and the Factors of the Theory of Planned Behavior
3.1Research Philosophy
3.2Research Approach
3.3Research Design
3.5Data Collection
3.6Data Analysis
3.7Reliability and Validity
4.Empirical Findings and Analysis 
4.1Descriptive Statistics
4.2Normality Test
4.3Spearman’s Correlation Matrix
4.4Linear Regression Analysis
6.1Findings and Non-Findings
6.4Suggestions for Future Studies
7.Reference list

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