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

Abstract : Intensive use of pesticides in agriculture has environmental and sanitary impacts that led to the need for less harmful techniques. Policy makers are claiming for an “ecological transition” of the sector but they are facing technological lock-ins : pesticides-based solutions remain dominant because of institutional and cognitive factors that prevent the development of other alternatives (Cowan, Gunby, 1996; Vanloqueren, Baret, 2008…). In this context, the idea of enlarging the participation of new actors in technological decisions has gained success as it is supposed to enlarge the range of available evidence and lead to better and fairer technological choices (Barber, 1984; Callon et al., 2001; Elgert, 2010)This PhD research aims at questioning the idea of participation as a way to unlock technological lock-ins , using the case of Conservation Agriculture (CA) in France and Brazil, an innovation presented as based on participatory dynamics of R&D and a way to achieve sustainable agriculture, in spite of the dependence of some practices on an intensive use of herbicides. Data was collected from academic literature, documentary analysis, and semi directive or collective interviews with 51 actors both in France and Brazil. Results show the deep changes the regime of knowledge in agriculture has undergone in the last decades under the liberalization of the sector- and why referring to the idea of participation is unefficient to counterbalance these structural changes, or can even have perverse effects.Academic literature described the evolution of agricultural policies, at the international, European and French levels, analyzing the “environmental” turn of the 1980s and the “liberal” turn of the 1990s-2000s (Fouilleux, 2003; Muller, 2000; Trouvé, 2007). But few studies focused on the impacts these changes had on how decision makers and farmers have access to scientific and technical evidence to innovate and cope with new situations. This PhD research shows how the regime of knowledge in France evolved from the modernization period (1960s) - when access to reliable evidence was an issue of public concern and funding in the State administrations and extension services; to a turning point in the 2000s when the State progressively disengaged from the debate on the technological trajectory of the sector and private firms became more and more implicated. In the case of CA, the results of a policy networks analysis show the concentration of material resources to produce robust evidence (R&D, extension services, databases ) in the hands of private firms wishing to develop technological packages based on the use of pesticides. On the other hand, local farmers trying to reduce their consumption of pesticides lack resources to systematically evaluate the innovations they produce.In this context, the idea of participation refers to organizing big national consultations (as the Grenelle de l’Environnement) that rather aim at producing consensus than shedding light on existing controversies and alternatives. It is also used to discharge the responsibility for producing pesticide-less alternatives to different kinds of partnerships at a local level (sometimes associating private firms with commercial interests in selling pesticides).This research therefore shows that, besides other institutional and cognitive factors, the issue of accessing adequate evidence is of crucial importance to understand changes in policy making and the State and at the heart of great economic and socio-political conflicts. It also highlights the importance of taking into account structural determinants and evidence-related power games in order to evaluate the impacts of “participation” on improving technological choices.
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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.. Sociologie. AgroParisTech, 2015. Français. ⟨NNT : 2015AGPT0022⟩. ⟨tel-01395768v2⟩

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