Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

James K. Boyce

Second Advisor

Mwangi wa Githinji

Third Advisor

Krista Harper

Subject Categories



This dissertation investigates the impact of organic farming for achieving the environmental and social objectives of sustainability in Europe over the past 20 years. Organic farming is considered the poster child of rural development in Europe, often seen as a model of the integration of small-scale production with environmental considerations. Since this model runs counter to the logic of developing capitalist structures in agriculture, I revisit the Marxian predictions regarding the "agrarian question". Furthermore, I trace the discursive changes in support of small-scale production in the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and assess whether small farms have improved their situation under the revised CAP. Subsequently, I use statistical analysis in order to assess the socio-economic and the environmental consequences of the rise in organic farming. Contrary to what is often assumed, organic farms in Europe display larger average sizes and lower rates of labor intensity than their conventional counterparts, casting doubts on the efficacy of organic farms to allow family farmers to remain in the countryside as high-value producers. I argue that this this development should be viewed as further evidence of the "conventionalization" of organic farming. In order to explain the process which led to such an outcome, I proceed to explain the different ways through which organic farms could overcome traditional problems which impeded the capitalist development of agriculture. Regarding the environmental implications, I evaluate the rise of organic farming by assessing its impact for different countries' overall pesticide and fertilizer intensity. My results are mixed, with higher organic shares being correlated with decreased application of fertilizer, but less significant results for pesticide intensity.


Included in

Economics Commons