Food and Superfood: Organic Labeling and the Triumph of Gay Science Over Dismal and Natural Science in Agricultural Policy

14 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2012 Last revised: 14 Nov 2012

See all articles by James Ming Chen

James Ming Chen

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: April 3, 2012


The nearly silent and seamless convergence of American and European standards for organic labeling represents a pivotal moment in contemporary agricultural policy. Effective June 1, 2012, the United States and the European Union have each agreed to treat the other jurisdiction’s system of organic certification as equivalent to its own. Because organic labeling under the Organic Foods Production Act serves as the practical (if legally imperfect) vehicle by which American farmers and agribusinesses market food produced without resort to genetically modified organisms, the United States and European Union’s organic equivalence arrangement provides a quiet, partial solution to one of the longest, bitterest trade disputes dividing the dominant cultures of the North Atlantic. Beyond its impact in two of the world’s biggest markets for organic food, the Organic Equivalence Arrangement signals something even deeper within the making of global agricultural policy. The silent substitution of organic labeling for transatlantic harmonization of policies on genetically modified organisms represents the triumph of aesthetics and environmental philosophy over the traditional drivers of agricultural policy and food and drug law in the United States: production costs, retail prices, consumer protection, and federal supervision of all aspects of science affecting food and agriculture. In a stunning reversal of the usual presumption that philosophical beauty should not dictate legal truth, transatlantic convergence on organic labeling gives the gay science of poetry a striking victory over the dismal science of economics and the natural science of conventional agriculture.

Keywords: agriculture, agricultural policy, organic labeling, organic food, Organic Foods Production Act, Organic Equivalence Arrangement, GMO, consumer protection

JEL Classification: K23, K32, N5, Q18

Suggested Citation

Chen, James Ming, Food and Superfood: Organic Labeling and the Triumph of Gay Science Over Dismal and Natural Science in Agricultural Policy (April 3, 2012). Idaho Law Review, Vol. 48, p. 213. 2012; University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-07. Available at SSRN:

James Ming Chen (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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