Enquiries on the Challenges of the 21st Century
A debate introduced by
Alain Peeters and Piet Vanthemsche
In the wake of the second industrial revolution, the concern to feed the growing world population focused on petrol based agriculture, allowing for the production of (a certain types of) food on an industrial scale. Business and financial models stimulated the growth of large agro-industrial businesses, at the detriment of local small farms.
Today the impact of fossil fuel based human activity on our ecosystem is no longer a matter of dispute. Scientists call the present era the ‘anthropocene’, affirming the responsibility of humans for large geological changes. This evolution – with climate change and species extinction as maybe the most dramatic symptoms – inevitably has an enormous impact on the agro-industry. Since a business that does not adapt to changing conditions cannot thrive, there is an urgent need to ‘undertake’ something, i.e. to change course to allow the farming sector to adapt to the new ‘anthropocene’ context. Is the current business able to realise change or are they too institutionalised, too defensive on established interests?
So, what kind of ‘agricultural entrepreneurship’ do we need in order to make the transition happen? Can large agro-businesses reposition themselves in this new landscape, or are new business models required? What other systemic factors – such as legislation, cultural values, paradigms and concepts, financial practices, education ... – hinder or facilitate the breakthrough of this ‘new entrepreneurship’? What is the role of umbrella organisations in fostering the transition and in defending the long term interest and survival of agriculture?
Prof. Dr. Alain Peeters is an agronomist and an agro-ecologist with an extensive theoretical knowledge and practice in general agronomy and ecology in temperate and tropical areas. He has 35 years of experience in agricultural and environmental research as well as in environmental protection and management.
Dr.Piet Vanthemsche is a veterinary surgeon by profession. He held various senior management positions at the Belgian Agriculture Ministry, is guest professor at the universities of Ghent and Leuven. He is President of the Alliance of Agri-Agencies, member of European Food Safety Agency EFSA and European representative of the Word Farmers’ Organisation.
Royal Academy of Belgium, Rubens auditorium, (Entrance D) Hertogstraat 1 rue Ducale B-1000 Brussels. Doors open at 17:30.
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