“Big Organics” is often derided by advocates of sustainable agriculture. The American food authors Michael Pollan and Julie Guthman, for example, argue that as organic agriculture has scaled up and gone mainstream it has lost its commitment to building an alternative system for providing food, instead “replicating what it set out to oppose.”
New research, however, suggests that the relationship between organic and conventional farming is more complex. The flow of influence is starting to reverse course.
Even with the upscaling, the market position of organic agriculture remains limited.
In Canada, organic sales grow by nearly 10 percent per year, and the total value of the organic market is around $5.4 billion. Yet the reality is that the industry is still dwarfed by conventional agriculture.
There are more than 4,000 certified organic farms in Canada, totalling 2.43 million acres. But this accounts for only 1.5 percent of the country’s total agricultural land.
Also, aside from the two organic heavyweights—coffee (imported) and mixed greens (mostly imported)—the market share of organic groceries is pretty small, at around three percent.
Yet the influence of organics is felt well beyond its own limited market.