, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 287-300

Environmental beliefs and farm practices of New Zealand farmers Contrasting pathways to sustainability

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Abstract

Sustainable farming, and waysto achieve it, are important issues foragricultural policy. New Zealand provides aninteresting case for examining sustainableagriculture options because gene technologieshave not been commercially released and thereis a small but rapidly expanding organicsector. There is no strong governmentsubsidization of agriculture, so while policiesseem to favor both options to some degree,neither has been directly supported. Resultsfrom a survey of 656 farmers are used to revealthe intentions, environmental values, andfarming practices for organic, conventional,and GE intending farmers. The results show thatorganic and conventional farmers are relativelysimilar but contrast to GE intending farmers,especially with respect to perceivedconsequences of each technology. While 75%of farmers have not yet made a commitmentto either technology, one fifth were GEintending and one quarter may become organic.Organic farmers have different attitudes tonature, matched in part by conventionalfarmers. In terms of policy for sustainableagriculture, the results suggest that organicand conventional farmers are incrementallymoving towards agroecological sustainabilitywhile GE intending farmers are committed tointensive production methods of which GEproducts are potentially important. GEintending farmers reject incrementalism infavor of a revolutionary technological fix forsustainability concerns in agriculture.Overall, the results show that there areclearly two different paradigms ofsustainability among farmers. Policies that areseeking to achieve sustainable agriculture needto address the tensions that span the differentparadigms.