Philipp Aerni
University of Bern and ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Most countries claim to be committed to sustainable agriculture. Yet, the meaning of the term ‘sustainable agriculture’ is largely shaped by influential stakeholders in the public debate and their respective agendas. The resulting national policies to promote sustainability may therefore not always be conducive to improving the economic, social, and environmental conditions of the farming sector. Two recent surveys on sustainable agriculture conducted with stakeholders in Switzerland and New Zealand highlight how such political interests and attitudes determine the role of technology in promoting sustainable agriculture. Whereas stakeholders in Switzerland largely consider precision agriculture and agricultural biotechnology to be a threat to sustainable agriculture, their counterparts in New Zealand think these factors must be essential components of the future of sustainable agriculture. The progressive attitude about sustainable agriculture in New Zealand is related to the influence of innovative food research organizations and entrepreneurial producer associations in public policy. The defensive attitude in Switzerland is largely due to the importance of government institutions, NGOs, and large retailers in particular.

Key words: Sustainable agriculture, agricultural biotechnology, Switzerland, New Zealand.