“In the disastrous route for the environment that Breton agriculture has followed, the historical responsibility of agribusiness and the State is engaged”

Dor several years, tension has been mounting around agricultural issues in Brittany. On all sides, militant collectives are flourishing against pesticides, green tides, factory farms, methanization projects, the abusive leveling of embankments, while journalists have recently denounced a certain “law of silence” maintained by the elites. political and economic in the region. They respond that the Breton agricultural model, which currently produces 56% of pigs, 40% of meat and laying poultry and 20% of French milk on approximately 6% of French territory, has supported the economic development of this poor region. .

But environmental history, attentive to the flow of materials and the damage caused by this “progress”, offers another story: that of the unprecedented opening of the nitrogen and carbon cycles, of exhaustion and soil erosion, water and air pollution, standardization and saturation of environments.

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This story is first of all that of the construction of an agronomic science where public research and industrial interests intersect. Developed within the National Institute of Agronomic Research (created in 1946) and specialized technical institutes, this rationality integrates the systematic use of technosciences, disqualifying any alternative. It is relayed to the base by cohorts of engineers and agricultural advisers, who evolve in a complex and fluid institutional environment where representatives and agents of the State, cooperatives, private firms and organizations rub shoulders. professionals.

It is therefore easier to understand how the young post-war modernist farmers quickly appropriated this modernizing gospel: it was presented to them from the start, backed by scientific authority, as an unsurpassable horizon. The human and social sciences are not foreign to this evolution: the movement – ​​particularly strong in Brittany – of ethnologization and museumification of a peasant civilization perceived as immobile, naturally doomed, has participated in the disqualification of vernacular knowledge and practices, as shown by Margot Lyautey, Léna Humbert and Christophe Bonneuil in History of agricultural modernization in the XXe century(Rennes University Press, 2021).

Maximum exploitation

The rationalization of production is manifested in particular by the great movement of regional agricultural specialization, reinforced from the middle of the 20th century.e century across the country, and of which the Breton agricultural model is a perfect expression. While livestock farming is disappearing from the lands of the Ile-de-France region, Brittany is considerably increasing its livestock and embarking on off-ground production.

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