Topic: Moral premises of sustainability in agriculture
Keywords: Sustainable agriculture, moral premises, ethical theory, conflict
Sustainability in agriculture or sustainable agriculture have increasingly been promoted as ideals for food production. The notion of sustainability contains both analytical and normative dimensions (Omann & Spangenberg 2002). For this reason, it is not clear what ‘sustainable agriculture’ actually means. Norms are perceived differently over several regions and by individuals and are often not made explicit. Our work represents a first attempt of making underlying moral premises explicit that constitute the basis for the notion of sustainable agriculture. Various contradicting ideas have been voiced in the international political and scientific communities (Janker et al. 2018). These have different moral foundations – which we aim to highlight in our paper.
Based on talks with experts, we could identify several reappearing conflicting argumentation patterns of stakeholders, directly and indirectly involved in everyday farming businesses. These often uncover moral conflicts which influence the viability of a social system and thus impact its long-term viability, often understood as central component of sustainability. The application of the ethical decision-making framework by Bleisch & Huppenbauer (2011) helped identify diverging argumentation patterns of involved stakeholders and moral philosophical schools. Argumentation patterns were then compared in relation to the moral theories. Underlying moral premises could be identified that seem to be central for the social dynamics of a farming system. While the results cannot be seen as exhaustive, we can propose some moral premises that need to be considered when speaking of sustainable agriculture. Also, we can propose a way to make implicit moral premises of sustainability visible. Therefore, we believe that our work would be a valuable contribution for presentation in the Working groups session ‘Imagining better food futures: ethics, responsibility and accountability in food systems’.