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Open AccessArticle

Sustainable Agriculture in the United States: A Critical Examination of a Contested Process

Department of Sociology, Campus Box 2446; Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, 77341-2446, USA
Sustainability 2010, 2(1), 48-72;
Received: 30 October 2009 / Accepted: 22 December 2009 / Published: 28 December 2009
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability: An Impossible Future?)
PDF [273 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


This paper investigates the political economy of the development of sustainable agriculture programs and initiatives in the United States. Sustainable agriculture emerged as part of a growing critique of the negative environmental consequences of unquestioned modern farming methods. The USDA/Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Program created in 1990 and the National Organics Program created in 2002 are the current government-sponsored programs in support of sustainable agriculture. Recently, private approaches to develop a national sustainable agriculture standard for the U.S. have emerged. The events of the cases developed in the paper reveal that because the concept of sustainability is deeply contested, agribusiness is able to exploit the ambiguity surrounding the definition of sustainable and exercise power in attempts to frame sustainable agriculture in their favor. Most recently, this contested process has focused on whether genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) will be included as part of the national sustainable agriculture standard. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainable agriculture; USDA; organics; GMOs sustainable agriculture; USDA; organics; GMOs
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Constance, D.H. Sustainable Agriculture in the United States: A Critical Examination of a Contested Process. Sustainability 2010, 2, 48-72.

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