Farm to Fork: Updating Narratives About Agriculture

What if “agriculture” is no longer what it used to be when the CAP was developed in the 60s? If we agree on this point, then it is time to refresh the master narratives used to describe its role in society. This Uncomfortable Knowledge Hub (UKH) series consists of one teaser video and three video lectures exposing the presence of three elephants in the room when coming to the sustainability of agriculture. One longer publication resource is also available at the end of this webpage.

What is uncomfortable knowledge?

Uncomfortable knowledge is a concept introduced by Steve Rayner*. As Rayner puts it: “to make sense of the complexity of the world so that they can act, individuals and institutions need to develop simplified, self-consistent versions of that world”. The chosen, self-consistent narratives and explanations necessarily leave out some relevant aspects of the issue in order to remain simple and useful. In this situation “knowledge which is in tension or outright contradiction with those versions must be expunged. This is uncomfortable knowledge which is excluded from policy debates, especially when dealing with ‘wicked problems’”.

*Steve Rayner, 2012. Uncomfortable knowledge: the social construction of ignorance in science and environmental policy discourses. Economy and Society 41(1): 107-125.

What is quantitative storytelling?

Quantitative storytelling (QST), the systematic approach used to present material on the Uncomfortable Knowledge Hub, does not claim to present the “truth” about a given issue, nor that all the numbers used in the story are uncontested. When dealing with wicked issues, all numbers can always be calculated in a different way and narratives are always contested. QST simply presents alternative stories useful to check the quality of existing narratives and to enrich the diversity of insights about a given issue.

Videos

What challenges are faced by the Farm to Fork strategy?​ (1 min 57 sec)

The Farm to Fork strategy requires a deep reconsideration of the role of agriculture and the heavy dependence on imports by EU security. It is not sure that a pure technological solution will be capable of resolving the modern predicament.

Today EU agriculture is a specialized societal organ needed to feed the cities (6 min 46 sec)

Today EU agriculture is a specialized societal organ needed to feed the cities. Current economic drivers of agricultural change do not help rural development or protect agro-ecosystems. How did this come to pass? What form of agriculture is being practiced in Europe, and what does it imply for Europe’s metabolic profile?

Today EU agriculture is heavily and dangerously dependent on imports (5 min 40 sec)

Today EU agriculture is heavily and dangerously dependent on imports. Externalization and agribusiness can be understood as no good for food security and for farmers. Why is agribusiness so special, and what does it imply for relations between the production, consumption, import and export of agricultural goods? What does it imply for Europe’s agricultural workforce?

Today agricultural production is no longer the most relevant component of the food system​ (9 min 33 sec)

Today agricultural production is no longer the most relevant component of the food system. The characteristics of the initial phase of agricultural production are more and more irrelevant in determining the overall characteristics of the food system. What new role does post-harvest serve? How can we use that knowledge to inform dietary concerns?

Resources

Teams Involved