Theory, Evidence and Policy
Edited by Boelie Elzen, Frank W. Geels and Ken Green
Chapter 5: A Transition Towards Sustainability in the Swiss Agri-Food Chain (1970–2000): Using and Improving the Multi-level Perspective
Frank-Martin Belz INTRODUCTION1 This chapter presents a case study of transitions, namely the shift from industrialized agriculture to sustainable agriculture in Switzerland in the period 1970–2000. This shift is not yet completed, but has progressed a long way. In the beginning of the 21st century, Switzerland is one of the leading Western countries in sustainable agriculture, balancing economic, ecological and social dimensions. Most of the arable land is cultivated according to ecological criteria, a large proportion according to integrated production and organic farming (see Figure 5.1). I will brieﬂy describe the contrast between the three agricultural practices as a ﬁrst mapping of the transition. The industrialization of agriculture began in the ﬁrst half of the 20th century and spread all over Western countries after the Second World War. In industrialized agriculture much use is made of agrochemicals (fertilizers, pesticides) and mechanization, which maximize yield per acre and revenues. In order to reduce cost there is a high degree of specialization (for example, plant production, animal farms) and labour is substituted with technology. Agricultural products are supplied to cooperatives or to food retail chains. There is hardly any direct contact between the producer and the consumer. Organic farming takes a holistic point of view and respects the principles of nature. The main aim of organic farming is to maintain and increase long-term fertility and biological activity of soils using locally adapted biological and mechanical methods as opposed to reliance on external inputs. Another aim is to maintain and encourage...
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