The plurality of values in sustainable agriculture models: diverse lock-in and coevolution patterns

Gael Plumecocq, Thomas Debril, Michel Duru, Marie-Benoît Magrini, Jean Pierre Sarthou
& Olivier Therond (2018)

Ecology and Society, 23(1):21

Abstract. In Western economies, several agriculture models coexist. For instance, intensive agriculture organization, which has increased yields while causing major pollution and resource depletion, competes with alternative models, which tackle these sustainability issues and lead to lower yields. An agronomical typology of current agriculture models in Western societies is proposed that describes multiple sustainability issues through an agroecological perspective. However, in order to choose between these agroecological pathways, we must understand their social structure and the principles underlying them. Thus, our purpose is to characterize the institutional aspects of the alternative models using socioeconomic convention theory. We conducted a series of workshops with specialists in the natural sciences (agronomy, landscape ecology, and entomology) and social sciences (economics and sociology) to describe sustainable agriculture models. This characterization revealed the values underlying six different sustainable agriculture models, their forms of organization, and the institutions governing them. We discuss the implications of the coexistence of these six models in light of sustainable transition issues. From this coexistence perspective, transition (i) refers to an intertwined process of legitimation and disqualification, and (ii) means seeing pathways as the multiplicity and degree of interconnection between models. Therefore, we (i) identified the elements in each model that legitimize its mode of organization, and (ii) disqualified the elements that are incompatible with the principles underlying the model’s practices. Moreover, we emphasize that multiple transition pathways are possible based on complex, complementary combinations of different models. This revealed the intricate processes of competition and complementarity involving these models. Finally, our study on the coexistence, interdependence, and coevolution of multiple agriculture models led us to advocate a precautionary principle so that marginal innovative models are not prevented from emerging.

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