“The Innovation Imperative”: The Struggle Over Agroecology in the International Food Policy Arena

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    As the gravity of the global social and ecological crises become more apparent, there is a growing recognition of the need for social transformation. In this article, we use a combination of narrative case study and discourse analysis to better understand how transformative concepts, such as agroecology, are shaped as they as they enter mainstream discursive arenas. We probe the different characteristics of the “innovation frame” and how they qualify and give meaning to agroecology. Our case study narrates the recent emergence of agroecology in the UN space and its relationship to the discursive frame of innovation. We then undertake a systematic discourse analysis of comments provided in an online consultation process on the “Agroecology and Other Innovations” report by the 2019 High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) in the World Committee on Food Security. We examine how different actors positioned themselves vis-a-vis the innovation frame and we analyse the discursive strategies used to advance particular political agendas. Our analysis reveals three primary sub-frames within the innovation frame (Evidence; Technology; Rights) which were deployed by both proponents and detractors of agroecology. We focus on the notion of social agency, and its different presentations, within the three sub-frames which raises a number of problematics of the innovation frame, not only for agroecology, but for sustainability transformations more widely.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number619185
    Number of pages15
    JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright © 2021 Anderson and Maughan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

    Both authors contributed equally to the analysis and authorship
    of this article.


    British Academy (pf170070)


    • Agroecology
    • innovation
    • Food Policy
    • technology
    • critical discourse analysis
    • FAO
    • agricultural policy
    • FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)
    • agroecology
    • food policy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Horticulture
    • Food Science
    • Agronomy and Crop Science
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
    • Global and Planetary Change
    • Ecology


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