What is sustainable agriculture? Empirical evidence of diverging views in Switzerland and New Zealand
Public debates on sustainable agriculture tend to be shaped by dominant political stakeholders with a particular political agenda. They simultaneously contribute and respond to the formation of public opinion. In this paper, we investigate to what extent stakeholder attitudes and interests help explain national conceptions of sustainable agriculture and how these conceptions diverge between countries with different agricultural policies. For that purpose, we conducted two stakeholder perception surveys in Switzerland and New Zealand. The data analysis revealed that there are significant differences in perception between the two countries. While Swiss respondents felt that Swiss agriculture is already quite sustainable and that international trade and new technologies are likely to render it less sustainable, New Zealand respondents generally thought that economic and technological change is necessary to make agriculture more sustainable. The conservative Swiss attitude is in accordance with the country's defensive agricultural policy while the more progressive New Zealand attitude is clearly linked to its need to reconcile agricultural sustainability with national competitiveness.
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