Participation et verrouillage technologique dans la transition écologique en agriculture. Le cas de l'Agriculture de Conservation en France et au Brésil.

Abstract : Technical models based on the use of pesticides in agriculture have environmental and sanitary impacts. Facing these impacts, policy makers refer to a so-called “ecological transition” of the agricultural sector that would enhance the development of technical alternatives and promote a new and sustainable technological model. In this context, the notion of “technological lock-in” gives a way to understand why intensive models and the use of pesticides in agriculture persist and what are the obstacles to the development of less harmful alternatives (Cowan, Gunby, 1996; Vanloqueren, Baret, 2008). Analyzing situations of such “lock-in”, authors emphasize the importance of cognitive factors on practices and organizations (influence of cognitive frameworks and norms of action ; role of concrete means of access to technical evidence – Stassart, Jamar, 2009; Labarthe, 2010). At the same time, “participation” is nowadays more and more cited as an efficient way to mobilize evidence in situations of technological choices (Barber, 1984; Callon et al., 2001…) This PhD research aims at questioning this assumption about participation and its efficiency in mobilizing evidence for technological choices, using the peculiar case of the development of Conservation Agriculture (CA) both in France and Brazil. CA is a innovative technological model in agriculture that rises in the public debate as a candidate for sustainable agriculture, in spite of the dependence of some practices on intensive use of herbicides, or even on “technological packages” (herbicide + herbicide resistant - GMO). In order to understand the effects of participation on decision makers’ and farmers’ capacity to access evidence and to make technological choices, I analyzed how the idea of participation actually declines in the knowledge regime in agriculture. The evolution of French agricultural policy from a “referential” of modernization in the 1960s to the referential of market in the 1980s has been studied already (Muller, 2000), though rarely focusing on the issue of access to evidence, especially scientific evidence. Yet deep changes are at pace following the liberal turn of public action and the implementation of new modes of regulation by information that led to many transformations of the role of the State (Majone, 1996). This PhD research analyzes the implied transformations in France and shows that the State did not acquire the adequate institutional and material devices that would enable it to take in charge its new regulating role of the agriculture sector and the use of pesticides. On the contrary, during the 1990s and 2000s decades, it disengaged from a proactive policy that would aim at transforming the technological model in agriculture, and it lost its prerogatives linked to the production and management of evidence in the regime. In this context, this research shows how the idea of participation is used by actors and to which concrete resources and material devices it corresponds in terms of access to evidence. Decision makers refer to the idea of participation in order to organize big national consultations (as the Grenelle de l’Environnement in France) that rather aim at producing consensus in a very controversial public debate than at evaluating the impacts of new technologies and feeding the technical content of policy measures. The idea of participation is also used to discharge the responsibility for producing pesticide-less innovations and alternatives to local and public-private or 100% private devices, such as associations gathering farmers and companies selling pesticides. But in spite of this reference to the idea of participation, the results show a lack of shared resources and open access to evidence that would be necessary to evaluate and debate the technological alternatives and their impacts. By analyzing the policy networks that are engaged in the development of CA, the results of this research confirm an increasingly fragmented situation in the actors’ conditions of access to evidence. While on the one hand private companies accumulate cognitive resources on technological innovations, inequalities of resources between farmers who are locally developing innovations are deepening. Thus the incentive to “more participation” between those actors is not enough to counterbalance the structural changes at work. On the contrary it may veil the constant retreat of the State from a proactive policy in favor of a decreasing use of pesticides in agriculture. The comparison with the Brazilian case confirms the existence of such “pervert effects” of the idea of participation as it legitimizes the de-politization of public debate on the evolutions of the knowledge regime in agriculture.
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Pauline Landel. Participation et verrouillage technologique dans la transition écologique en agriculture. Le cas de l'Agriculture de Conservation en France et au Brésil. . Science politique. AgroParisTech, 2015. Français. ⟨tel-01395768v1⟩

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