Panel 6: Just Agricultural Futures



Panel 6: Just Agricultural Futures

A Tale of Two Sofias: Contested Visions for an Argentine Agriculture in 2050

Ingrid Elísabet Feeney, University of California, Santa Barbara

This presentation explores the distinct modes of knowledge production which lie behind competing visions for the future of Argentine agriculture, using two figures as an entry point. The first is the animated star of one of Monsanto Argentina’s PR campaigns: Sofia, the nine billionth person on the planet, born January 1st, 2050. The second is an environmental justice activist, who is a core member of the ongoing four-year blockade against the construction of a Monsanto plant in Argentina (more).

Food Sovereignty: A strategy for generating a just future and reducing climate impacts

David Barkin, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana

This talk introduces the concept of a food sovereignty approach to rural development. Through this approach’s forward looking strategy to social mobilization, its confrontation of the scourge of rural disintegration while also addressing the pressing issue of environmental balance, the presenter argues the necessity of such a system to bring about a more just and sustainable future. (more).

Tomorrow’s Fields: Social Farming in 2050

Catherine Day, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This talk imagines a U.S. agriculture in 2050 that has allowed for a resurgence of democratic input into farming, thereby shifting how agricultural knowledge. Such features of a new agricultural system will be discussed and how the new blending of ideas will spur innovation towards more ecologically-oriented agriculture practices that leave behind dependence on fossil fuels and embrace species diversity (more).

Q & A

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12 replies
  1. Michael Gasser, Radical System Change Santa Cruz says:

    Hi everybody. Our presentation, The End of Private Property, is in another panel (9. Future Polities/Economies), but it is mostly about the future of agriculture, so we hope some of you will go over there and look at it. We’re especially interested in hearing about how property and commoning are involved in the communities you work with.
    Michael G. & Michelle G.

  2. Cathy Day, UW-Madison says:

    Hello, everyone! My talk is built on thoughts that have emerged from my dissertation fieldwork on farmer networks in the U.S. I welcome your comments and questions as I work to incorporate some of these ideas into my future work.

  3. Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh says:

    Hi David, just heard your presentation. Clear and concise, gives a really good overview of agroecological approaches. Its striking (but perhaps not surprising) how close the principles and pillars you spoke about are to the Radical Ecological Democracy or Eco-swaraj notion emerging in India from myriad local initiatives in various fields (food, water, energy, governance, education, health, arts, etc), about which I speak briefly in my presentation (Panel 9). One question though: you mention that these principles could also be applied to sectors other than food, including production of industrial items that are ‘necessary’ for us such as computers and cellphones. Is this a foregone conclusion that we need these or similar technologies, and if so, can they really be sustainable? India now has 800 million cellphone connections, imagine 4-5 billion people having cellphones, will there be any technology at all (even if we can eliminate coltan) that would make this sustainable, even if produced at local levels? I think the principle that localised production in the hands of producers, ecological sustainability, etc are absolutely important, but this could well mean that we have to rethink many of our existing technologies and consumer habits. What do you think?

    • DavidBarkin says:

      I agree — that is why we are working together — (I hope) your presentation in #9 along with the others are strong, as I suggested in my comment. The problem of global mass consumption of anything is going to be a problem — but really the point of departure will have to be basic needs. I just saw a book by Francine Mestrum on Social Commons, that is surprisingly focused on Europe, in spite of being published in Malaysia (!) —

      Here in the Western Hemisphere, I am impressed by the tremendous outpouring of international solidarity (with contributions) with the Native Americans in North Dakota — resulting in an interesting dilemma for the powers that be and epistemologies. Their approach to food production is quite innovative!

    • DavidBarkin says:

      I agree that there is a need to rethink technologies — and the possibilities accompanied by great changes in consumption patterms and social oegranization. It would be important to consider what kinds technological innovations are compatible with these changes. Food Sovereignty is a key to begin to get the decentralization the would be required

  4. Justyna Poray-Wybranowska, York University says:

    Hi Ingrid Elísabet,
    Thanks so much for drawing attention to such a pressing current issue. I like the way you frame your talk as a “tale of two Sofias”, each standing in for a different way of envisioning and responding to technological and biochemical “advances” in agribusiness. The difference between the two knowledge systems you describe seems to me to boil down to the question of what counts as progress, or rather, progress for whom? The video of the first (Monsanto’s) Sofia really emphasizes that. This first knowledge system is all about personal, immediate gain, whereas Sofia Gatica’s efforts are community-oriented, geared towards improving living conditions for the population of the region at large. I think the ad speaks volumes about the knowledge system Monsanto operates on.
    I feel that your talk was really a tale of three Sofias (I am adding Sofia Gatica’s daughter Sofia into the discussion). This third Sofia is significantly absent and silent, as are the countless people who suffer because they live in parts of the world where they are in close proximity to pesticide spraying on a regular basis. This issue is not talked about nearly enough, so I’m glad that you brought it up in your talk.
    Thanks again. I learned a lot.

  5. DavidBarkin says:

    Ingrid: Very nice thesis topic — effective comparison and it is nicely displayed — DO you have suggestions for my presentation in this panel? It seems that this panel theme is not particularly effective in attracting attention.


  6. Madison Jones, University of Florida says:

    Hi, All,

    I wanted to drop a quick note to say I really like the connections you draw between concepts of sovereignty and equity with regard to the ecological and agricultural systems we depend on. I wonder if we might extend this concept of sovereignty further to other aspects of contemporary global culture, especially dependence on fossil fuels. The contrast you highlight, the disparity between the markets who cannot sufficiently supply to meet the ever-growing need, and the ontology of techno-petroleum dependent systems of the agro-industrial complex, is something I see as relevant to many other parts of our culture. We have become so dependent on these systems that they are naturalized into nearly every part of our lives. I look at transportation using a similar lens (panel 16). I wonder how we might theorize ways out of petro-ontology without resorting to pastoral rejection of technology. I imagine that the answer is community governances working with technology to produce a more fragmented, autonomous system for meeting the needs of the population through solidarity.
    Having grown up with a farm in rural Alabama, I was really interested in how Cathy’s vision for future farming resembled just the system David theorized, one that connects to agrarian growing practices like the Three Sisters to contemporary knowledge about how ecological systems work. I was especially drawn to the idea of renovating networks and how this might establish autonomous farming systems which resemble but also surpass agrarian communities of the past through technology and communication.

    Thanks for the great panel!



  7. Márgara Averbach, Universidad de Buenos Aires says:

    Hi, Ingrid, as an Argentinian person, I have listened carefully to you talk. I did know the story, of course… and I loved the way you presented it. What I would add is a problema which has to do with a global perspective: when President Correa, in Ecuador, attempted to get world help not to explote oil in the jungle of his country, he had to give up the plan because there was no answer. The way our Third World (let us call them like that, old way but easy to understand, I imagine) countries are situated in the world is difficult.., I am against Monsanto and I participate of the struggle when I can but, as Naomi Klein says in That Changes Evewrything, the governments here, even when they do look at the people, they need the money soy brought to the country… Anyway, let us continue this struggle… There is also one point that I think needs to be added to that picture and that is the situation of First Nations, indigenous peoples…, etc. They are also part of the fight and the expansion of the soy frontier is damaging them greatly because of the need for land. Anyway, thank you for your talk… I really enjoyed it.

  8. Rick Thomas, UC Santa Barbara says:


    I really appreciated your talk and apologize for only just now getting to comment on it. Your concise and eloquent explanation of the six pillars of food sovereignty were very well stated and gave me a much better understanding of agroecology. It seems like an ideal direction to go in, though would require a huge change in current consumer policies and mindset of the populace. Knowing this, what do you think is the absolute greatest hindrance of moving away from food security and moving towards food sovereignty?

    • DavidBarkin says:

      Thanks very much for this comment… The most important obstacle to moving away from food security as an approach is the corporate capture of international trade and agricultural production policy including subsidies. A further limitation is the structure of “anti-poverty” programs that assume that small-scale farmers are incapable of implementing their own indpendent production structures that might respond to the needs of the regional markets and people’s meeds.

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