Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 14 (2):217-229 (2001)
|Abstract||Debates over the future of agriculture in North Americaestablish a dialectical opposition between conventional,industrial agriculture and alternative, sustainable agriculture.This opposition has roots that extend back to the 18th century inthe United States, but the debate has taken a number ofsurprising turns in the 20th century. Originally articulated as aphilosophy of the left, industrial agriculture has utilitarianmoral foundations. In the US and Canada, the articulation of analternative to industrial agriculture has drawn upon threecentral themes: the belief that agriculture is, in some way, tiedto democracy; the belief that complex bureaucratic organizationsare inherently opposed to human interests; and the belief thatthe family farms characteristic of 19th century North Americatend to produce people of superior moral character. It has proveddifficult to weave these themes into a coherent vision ofagriculture for the 21st century. Often, risk and health-basedconcerns are the basis for public criticism of conventionalagriculture, but these do not conflict with the utilitarianorientation of the industrial model, and are easily incorporatedinto it. If there is to be a philosophical debate over the futureof agriculture, we must find some way to rehabilitate thequasi-Aristotelean view of agriculture that emerges from thethree critical themes noted above.|
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