ifoam96.gif (1141 bytes)
Book of Abstracts

11th IFOAM
Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996
Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract front page
Subject index
Athor index


Implications of A Paradigm Shift in Agriculture S16

Wynen, Els

Eco Landuse Systems, 3 Ramage Place, Flynn, ACT, 2615, Australia

See also:
News from:


Interest in organic agriculture is increasing in many parts of the world. Researchers working within conventional farming often assume that organic agriculture is similar (of the same paradigm) to conventional agriculture, and claim that this justifies their involvement in the area. Settling the question of whether organic and conventional agriculture belong to the same or different paradigms is important for policy, especially in the area of research direction. It is argued in this paper that organic and conventional agriculture belong to two different paradigms, as defined by Kuhn (1970). Policy implications are discussed in the areas of subsidies and taxes on input use (fertilisers, pesticides, landuse); and regulations (marketing). However, the main focus of the paper is on differences in research requirements under the two paradigms. Topics are likely to differ under the alternative approaches, with more emphasis on soils and biological processes in organic farming. Differences also occur in the importance of pests and diseases and in pest management methods. Other points of discussion are on-farm rather than research-station work; and regional rather than national-based research.

Those within the dominant paradigm have an interest in maintaining the status quo ('same paradigm'). This means that, as those involved with research funding allocation are likely to have made their mark in conventional agriculture, they are inclined to fund projects which fit into that paradigm and researchers who 'play by the rules' of the dominant (conventional) paradigm. However, if it is accepted that organic agriculture belongs to a different paradigm, those with research credentials in conventional farming do not necessarily have the relevant expertise in organic farming. Awareness of the difference in paradigm is essential to argue the case for the necessity not only of a considerable shift in research direction, but also in the planning, resource allocation and implementation phases of projects.

Kuhn, S. (1970), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University ofChicago Press, Chicago.

(Note: A more thorough treatment of this topic can be found in: 'Research Implications of a Paradigm Shift in Agriculture: The Case of OrganicFarming' (58 pages). The publication can be obtained for A$10, (plus A$5for domestic or A$10 for overseas mailing) from: Centre for Resource andEnvironmental Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, 0200,Australia.)