Social Dimensions of Organic Coffee Production in Mexico: Lessons for Eco-Labeling Initiatives

David B. Bray, JOSE Plaza Sanchez, and Ellen Conteras Murphy
Publication Date: 
Significant attention has been given to the relationship between small coffee farms and biodiversity in recent years. This article argues that the interest in “birdfriendly” coffees and other forms of biodiversity marketing have much to learn from the 15-year development of another relatively successful, environmentally friendly coffee product: certified organic coffee.
This Mexican case study argues that organic coffee emerged as a result of a series of institutional transformations that, in interaction with particular ecosystems, have left their imprint on the agricultural landscape. The emergence of organic coffee in Mexico arose from more than a decade of populist agrarian organizing and accompanying organizational innovations, and depended upon the substantial amount of preexisting “social capital accumulation” in the Mexican countryside. Eco-labeling efforts focus on certijication criteria and marketing, andpay insufjcient attention to the social processes that can lead to the outcome of a sustainable product and sustainable agricultural landscapes.