Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research

No 2022/8: Forever Niche: Why do organic vegetable varieties not diffuse?

Sebastian Rohe (), Marie Oltmer (), Hendrik Wolter (), Nina Gmeiner () and Julia Tschersich ()
Additional contact information
Sebastian Rohe: Universitf of Oldenburg, Postal: Germany
Marie Oltmer: University of Oldenburg, Postal: Germany
Hendrik Wolter: University of Oldenburg, Postal: Germany
Nina Gmeiner: University of Oldenburg, Postal: Germany
Julia Tschersich: Utrecht University, Postal: The Netherlands

Abstract: While organic food has increased its market share in conventional food retail, virtually all organic vegetables are still conventionally bred. For decades, organically bred vegetable varieties remained a market niche, despite their socio-ecological benefits. This paper conceptualizes actors and activities around organic breeding as a Technological Innovation System (TIS) and analyzes what prevents these varieties from widely diffusing into conventional supermarkets. The investigated barriers relate to knowledge, market formation, investments, and legitimacy. The study is based on interviews with breeding initiatives and food retailers in Germany. Theoretically, the paper adds an innovation systems-perspective on the diffusion of organic varieties, a blind spot in the emerging debate so far. Furthermore, it contributes to the literature on sustainability transitions by introducing a novel empirical topic to the debate and reframing the TIS framework to analyzing fresh produce. Identifying existing barriers provides suggestions for practitioners seeking to successfully diffuse organic vegetable varieties.

Keywords: agri-food transitions; Commons; organic breeding; diffusion; technological innovation systems; food retail

JEL-codes: O30; O31; O33; Q13

Language: English

32 pages, May 18, 2022

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