Staggered by Queen’s speech

Yesterday Queen Beatrix held her annual Queen’s speech (Troonrede). I was astonished by her words about the Dutch agricultural sector. The text – written by our ‘demissionary cabinet’ – promoted a production- and export-oriented agriculture based on new technologies and innovations.

  “Nederland is de op één na grootste exporteur van land- en tuinbouwproducten. Het innovatieve en duurzame karakter van onze agrarische sector staat wereldwijd hoog aangeschreven. Ons land kan een belangrijke bijdrage leveren aan de mondiale voedselzekerheid door te blijven werken aan verbetering van de huidige technologieën. De overheid schept hierbij randvoorwaarden voor duurzame productiemethoden.” – Troonrede 21 september 2010 

These words could have been written decades ago – in the era of maximizing agricultural production when high levels of technology promised to solve the problems – only this time such promises are headed under the name ‘sustainable production methods’. But by now, we should have learned our lessons over time; technology can help to find solutions, but only if these also fit into our social and cultural world.

Listening to the Queen’s speech, maybe I am the one who’s mistaken here. Apparently, we are in this era of maximal production, maybe even more than we have ever been. Despite alarming societal organizations and increased social concerns about for example the way animals are treated in our society, ‘we’ keep on producing food in a production-oriented way. I was astonished by the lack of the nuances in this speech: what about regional production? and organic agriculture? What about animal welfare issues? What about environmental load? What about the consequences of our production for African agriculture and food supply? Do the writers of this speech really believe that we can solve such issues by merely focusing (and hoping!) for new technologies?!

I appreciate – just as many citizens in my research (see former blogs) – several achievements of technological developments, but it is all about making trade-offs. How far do we want to go? Unfortunately such decisions are often money-based without giving much thought to social consequences. I am really disappointed that our ‘demissionary cabinet’ carries out such a message. Moreover, my concerns about the future of agriculture and equal food production – both in the Netherlands and world-wide – had been confirmed: Where are we going?! I had hoped for a more nuanced vision, including themes such as regional production, animal welfare and the environment.