Shifting from Industrial Agriculture to Diversified Agroecological Systems in China

TitleShifting from Industrial Agriculture to Diversified Agroecological Systems in China
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsSi, Z., J. Koberinski, and S. Scott
Series TitleIPES-Food
Date PublishedNovember 8
Keywordsagroecology, China, food system, industrial agriculture, sustainability

In 2016, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) published a report entitled "From uniformity to diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems". This report provided a systematic review of existing studies of industrial and ecological systems of agriculture in the global context and offered constructive suggestions to facilitate the shift towards an agroecological​ system. Yet, its analysis is largely built upon general agriculture development in the world, with limited discussion on China. Meanwhile, after more than thirty years of industrialoriented​ development, the agriculture sector in China is in urgent need of an ecological transition. Despite the rapid growth of the organic agriculture sector, the problem of unequal access to healthy foods persists. On the one hand, organic food is only affordable for wealthy, elite consumers; on the other hand, the vast majority of small farmers have limited capacity for conducting organic or ecological farming due to the lack of knowledge and skills and access to the market. By adapting the analytical framework of the IPES-Food​ report to the Chinese context, this paper examines studies of Chinese agriculture and reviews the outcomes of industrial agriculture and agroecological systems in China, analyzes key factors keeping industrial agriculture in place in China, and proposes suggestions for a paradigm shift in favour of integrated agroecological systems. The paper not only sheds light on the hotspots of future agriculture research in China but also highlights some key actions for the sustainable development of China’s agriculture.