Forney, J. (2016) Blind spots in agri-environmental governance: some reflections and suggestions from Switzerland (preprint version)

Attempts of making our food systems more sustainable have (partly) failed. Food production still contributes significantly to biodiversity losses, global warming and depletion of natural resources. Based on the postulation that this failure in the governance of environmental issues in agri-food systems relates notably to social and cultural aspects, this paper explores the literature in the social sciences looking for explanations. A first statement is that research around agri-environmental governance (AEG) issues remains globally split into two subgroups, one focusing on public policies and the other on the civil society or market aspects of environmental certification, with very little exchange or transversal analysis between the two. Drawing on the literature and on long term fieldwork and research in Switzerland, I identify three dimensions of AEG that open new paths towards more sustainable food systems: an encompassing approach of the food system; the encouragement of collective knowledge creation and the promotion of autonomy. Joining other emerging scholarships, this paper calls for developments in the research on AEG that produce encompassing theoretical frameworks, which transcends pre-exiting categories in order to allow new conceptualisation of governance practices in complex or hybrid systems. The integration of the food, knowledge and autonomy dimensions should help in creating innovative and transformative governance instruments.

Environmental governance; Food system; Autonomy; Knowledge; Social transformation