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Divergent Paradigms of European Agro-Food Innovation: Strategies for Shaping a Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy

Levidow, L.   Birch, K.   Papaioannou, T

Science, Technology and Human Values   38 (1) 94-125

January 2013   (Published online March 2012)


The Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) has gained prominence as an agricultural R&D agenda of the European Union. Specific research policies are justified as necessary to create a KBBE for societal progress. Playing the role of a master narrative, the KBBE attracts rival visions; each favours a different diagnosis of unsustainable agriculture and its remedies in agro-food innovation. Each vision links a technoscientific paradigm with a quality paradigm: the dominant life sciences vision combines converging technologies with decomposability, while a marginal one combines agro-ecology with integral product integrity. From these divergent visions, rival stakeholder networks contend for influence over research policies and priorities, especially within the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) on Food, Agriculture, Fisheries and Biotechnology (FAFB), which has aimed to promote a Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy. Although the FAFB programme has favoured a life sciences vision, agro-ecological approaches have gained a presence, thus overcoming their general lock-out from agricultural research agendas. In their own way, each rival paradigm emphasises the need for collective systems to gather information for linking producers with users, as a rationale for the public sector to fund distinctive research priorities.