From Organic Farming, to Agroecology, to Digitization: uniting divergent approaches in EU policy imaginaries of sustainable agriculture

Authors: Mascha Gugganig*, University of Ottawa
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Europe, Political Geography
Keywords: EU, sustainable agriculture, policy imaginaries, agroecology, digitization
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Recent years have shown a trend in European Union policy that is also observable among member states and other countries: visions of a more sustainable agriculture that is achievable through extended precision farming, robots, and overall digitization. Such framing of sustainability in close alignment with ‘xyz technology’ have shifted how and by whom sustainable agriculture can be achieved, that is, by envisioning digitized, tech-savvy farmers-gone entrepreneurs. Given the oft-criticized vagueness of the term ‘sustainability’—with the classic Brundtland triad of ecological, economic or social—these discourses suggest another dimension that criss-crosses this triad: through sustainable/sustaining technology. Yet at a closer look it becomes evident that this is not a simple story of sustainability being equated to technology. Key actors in agricultural policies in Brussels, most notably the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, have likewise promoted ‘sustainability’ in the form of organic farming, agroecology, regenerative agriculture, and related ‘low-tech’ approaches. This diversity, I argue, is not innocent, but reflects a larger trend of a decreasing popularity of the EU as a political union, and related attempts to encompass manifold approaches, in this case in agriculture. This talk addresses how merging such diverse visions and forms of agricultural practices both feed and defeat European agriculture, and what could be learned from a critical take on this EU policy imaginary of agricultural sustainabilities.

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