This Research section forms the heart of what, ambitiously, we are already calling the College for Enlightened Agriculture.
For because the present powers that be are committed to the status quo – agriculture conceived as big business, big finance, high tech, and bureaucracy – they naturally gear all their research efforts to those ideals. The problems thrown up by truly Enlightened Agriculture are neglected. So although it’s been recognized at least since classical times that agriculture needs a special economic structure the main effort in the highest circles is still to try to cram it, procrusteanly, into the dogma of the neoliberal market: high capital (borrowed), maximum yield, and so on. Or then again, Enlightened Agriculture must be primarily organic – what people do unless there is very good reason to do otherwise – and organic farming requires a more subtle kind of science. Modern biotech including the much-vaunted GMOs is basically an extension of industrial chemistry which conceptually is rooted in the determinism of the 18th century; while organic farming is an exercize in applied ecology where cause and effect is, as the physicists say, “non-linear”. The difference is profound. Organic farming requires a quite different kind of thinking. There is some excellent organic research already in train but again, like most research that is truly to the point, it is marginalized. Tax-payers’ money and corporate profits are invested in the status quo.
All good research begins with a well-identified research project – a puzzle that in practice should be solvable – and the first task must be to identify what really needs to be done, and what in practice could be done. This is the task of this section – to raise the right research questions. If we had more people and resources we could carry out at least some of this research, or at least set it in train. Then we really would have a College for Enlightened Agriculture.