Chemical risk and the self-calculating farmer: diffuse chemical use in Australian broadacre farming systems

Lockie, Stewart (1997) Chemical risk and the self-calculating farmer: diffuse chemical use in Australian broadacre farming systems. Current Sociology, 45 (3). pp. 81-97.

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Abstract

Diffuse chemical use and pollution in agriculture create a number of risks, generating concern about food contamination, environmental degradation, health and safety and agricultural sustainability. While ecological inter-dependence ensures these risks have global implications, they do raise the interesting paradox that at the point of application farmers seem to constitute both cause and victim. However, while Australian broadacre farmers profess high levels of anxiety about using agricultural chemicals, their use continues to intensify. Farmers argue they have little choice in this if they are to maintain economic viability, but there is clearly more at work here than the playing out of the structural imperatives of capitalist accumulation. Technological innovation and productivity improvement are important elements of farmers' self-understandings of good farming practice, leading them into close association with agri-science institutions that promote intensification. Concerns about chemical use are alleviated by technologies of knowledge that lend an aura of objectivity to information that almost inevitably promotes input use. Further, a number of discursive strategies are employed by agri-businesses to associate chemical use with risk reduction, as well as with environmental and social responsibility. While the idea that farmers are simply dominated by more powerful interests is problematic, the diffuse deployment of disciplinary power through a range of social practices makes the likelihood of any fundamental realignment of the trajectory of agricultural development from within seem remote.

Item ID: 31272
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1461-7064
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2016 01:18
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160804 Rural Sociology @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160802 Environmental Sociology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960413 Control of Plant Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960504 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Environments @ 60%
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