, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 245-256

Visions of the middle landscape: Organic farming and the politics of nature

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The proposed federal regulation oforganic agriculture in the United States raisesquestions both about the nature and character oforganic farming, as well as its relation to theagro-food system at large. The regulatory process hasengendered a public debate about conventional andalternative approaches to agricultural production,which in turn raises issues of environmental politicsand society-nature relations. An analysis oftranscripts from public hearings, organic farmingmovement literature, and interviews with organicpractitioners and advocates reveals the broaderecological, social, and political ramifications. Inexamining the proposed federal rule and its criticalopposition, we encounter two different worldviews; twoconflicting visions of agriculture, rural life, andnature itself. Whether this is a fundamental impasse,or a controversy that can be fruitfully resolved,remains an open question. But organic farming hasarrived at a critical juncture, both fraught withperil, and full of opportunity. The enormous publicresponse to this issue indicates the renewed potentialon the part of civil society to participate ingrassroots environmental social movements in supportof alternative agriculture.