From Agribusiness to Food Democracy: Comparative Study on Agricultural Policy and Organic Farming in France and in Japan

Abstract : Food and agriculture are main fields of human sciences. This paper elucidates changes in food and agriculture that have progressed in France and in Japan during the 20th century and presents some attempts to create a new agri-food system. Agribusiness has developed as a branch of industry since the beginning of the 20th century. After the invention of agricultural machinery, it invented chemical fertilizer and pesticide, and genetically modified crops from the 1980s. Such technologies now strongly affect agriculture worldwide and in Japan. Contrary to this type of agriculture is a type promoted by the French government and the European Union commission, which established new agricultural policies in the 1990s. These policies reformulate the fundamental idea of agriculture: Agriculture is not a purely economic activity, but a multi-functional activity that must be regarded as the core factor of environmental protection, local community maintenance, and local economic revitalization. From this perspective, the EU and France have provided financial support and a path to rapid growth of organic farming. The ratio of the organic farmland in 2016 was 21.9% in Austria, 18.2% in Sweden, and 14.5% in Italy. More interesting is the case of France, where the ratio of organic farming was only 1.9% in 2007, but where it has advanced rapidly to 3.6% in 2011, and 6.6% in 2016. By contrast, the proportion of Japan remains extremely low: only 0.1% in 2007 and 0.2% in 2011. The reasons are multiple, but apparently include failure of government agricultural reform policy, indifference of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives which profit from agrichemical sales, and lax ethics of farmers opposed to drastic changes in agriculture. However, governmental policy is not the unique factor for the promotion of organic farming. Some farmer and consumer activities have also made great contributions to the progress of organic farming. Furthermore, such activities are developing rapidly also in Japan. These activities have common features such as relationships based on producer-consumer trust, active involvement, disclosure of information related to production, and self-determination of producers and consumers in deciding what to produce and eat. These features are common with those of democracy. This is the reason we qualify these practices as “food democracy”. Based on concrete cases, this paper is aimed at showing the future of agriculture and food systems by examining the possibilities and limits of these practices.
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Shoichiro Takezawa. From Agribusiness to Food Democracy: Comparative Study on Agricultural Policy and Organic Farming in France and in Japan. 2019. ⟨hal-02304979⟩

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