ABSTRACT

As powerful interests compete to control the meaning of sustainability, it is crucial that it not be co-opted to support the continuation of corporate-controlled, chemical-based, monoculture agriculture. Sumner (2007) has developed an understanding of the term that provides the basis for a counter-hegemonic discourse: sustainability involves the civil commons – co-operative human constructions that protect and/or enable universal access to life goods. The more a society builds the civil commons, the more sustainable it becomes; the more it encloses the civil commons, the less sustainable it becomes. Following this logic, sustainable agriculture would entail agriculture that builds the civil commons. Agriculture that increases exports for entrepreneurs, enriches transnational corporations, functions as a sales site for GMOs or degrades the land, water and air would not qualify as sustainable agriculture. But agriculture that preserves the soil, involves community/national control of food production or contributes to nutritious school lunch programmes would qualify.