Sustainable Agriculture in the United States: A Critical Examination of a Contested Process
This paper investigates the political economy of the development of sustainable agriculture programs and initiatives in the United States. Sustainable agriculture emerged as part of a growing critique of the negative environmental consequences of unquestioned modern farming methods. The USDA/Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Program created in 1990 and the National Organics Program created in 2002 are the current government-sponsored programs in support of sustainable agriculture. Recently, private approaches to develop a national sustainable agriculture standard for the U.S. have emerged. The events of the cases developed in the paper reveal that because the concept of sustainability is deeply contested, agribusiness is able to exploit the ambiguity surrounding the definition of sustainable and exercise power in attempts to frame sustainable agriculture in their favor. Most recently, this contested process has focused on whether genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) will be included as part of the national sustainable agriculture standard.
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