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Should agriculture be intensified in the name of the environment ?

• 21 February 2023

Should we produce in an industrial and intensive way to preserve the climate, biodiversity and feed the world? Should we qualify organic agriculture as the worst form of agriculture for the environment and fight agro-ecology on the grounds that its yields perpetuate hunger in the world? These political arguments seem quite counter-intuitive, yet they are widely spread in the highest decision-making spheres, and are pushed by powerful and well-organized agribusiness interests. These arguments are based, often in a very caricatured way, on a significant body of science that promotes the land economy, “land sparing”. This theory promotes the concentration of highly intensive production in a minimum amount of space, in order to preserve the rest.

This theory is at the heart of a scientific trench war. It fuels the war of ideas about desirable futures for food systems and the political trajectories to get there. We dive into the heart of a scientific theory and its multiple limits, and into the heart of a controversy that shapes the political debate and reinforces the inertia of a food system that is out of breath.

The Phosphore Collection is a series of studies launched by the SIA collective (Sos Faim, Iles de Paix, Autre Terre) on the challenges of food systems. It is characterized by the analysis of contested issues that animate the decision-making arenas of food systems. It seeks to understand the reading grids that underlie the political discourses, the competing arguments and their scientific validity. Each issue is intended to be an overview of a debate, and aims to arm readers in the controversy.

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