Accepted Paper:

Paths to Agricultural Sustainability in Japan: Life Sciences or Agro-ecology?  


Tomiko Yamaguchi (International Christian University)

Paper short abstract:

Two approaches of agricultural knowledge generation and transfer -- life sciences and agro-ecology -- present vastly different views of the path to building sustainable agrifood systems. The differences between these visions manifest in their efforts to enroll public support.

Paper long abstract:

The idea of sustainable agrofood systems has become an important goal of the policy agenda in Japan, as reflected by the recently revised Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas Basic Act. The dominant discourse suggests that interventions are required at this juncture to ease pressures resulting from the decline in the food self-sufficiency ratio (from 73% in 1965 to 39% in 2014), from the aging and declining farm population (an average of 66.7 years old as of 2014), and from further integration with the global market. Proposed solutions to the problem of sustainable food systems run the gamut from technoscientific to ecological perspectives. Using the analytical framework proposed by Levidow et al. (2012), this paper examines two contrasting approaches to the generation and transfer of knowledge: life sciences and agro-ecology. Our goals are to explicate the problems identified, visions proposed, and activities undertaken to gain wider acceptance of the innovations and practices involved in each of these paradigms. The study finds that even though both approaches embrace the idea that "sustainability" is the key to shaping future agrofood systems, two distinct processes to attain this ideal are articulated, with different visions of the way to obtain public engagement and support. The paper draws information from published reports with regard to new plant breeding techniques, participant observations conducted in public forums on the theme of organic farming and interviews with organic farmers.

Panel T092
Transition to Sustainable Food Systems: Integrative Perspectives on Production and Consumption