Regulation of Agroecosystems: A Social Systems Analysis of Agroecology and Law

Egon Noe, Hugo Fjelsted Alrøe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


There are two main challenges for law and policy to foster a sustainable development of agri-food systems through regulation. The first challenge is that the regulation of a certain aspect often does not lead to the intended outcomes. Regulative measures can only perturb, disturb or irritate agroecosystems because they are self-organising and autopoietic systems. All regulation of autopoietic systems depends on self-regulation because it is the ability of the agroecosystem to observe the disturbance and its internal schema of logic that will define the reaction. The second challenge is that regulation of one aspect often leads to unforeseen and unwanted side effects regarding other aspects. These unintended effects call for more regulations to deal with them, leading to a paradoxical situation of an increasingly growing web of regulation and effects, a situation that is concretely reflected in the exponential growth rate of the amount of positive law on agriculture and environment. These challenges are amplified by the increasing complexity created by specialisations in science, law and farming practice, a complexity that cannot be dealt with by further specialisation. In this chapter, we argue, based on social systems theory, that there is a need for a second-order platform of agroecological regulation where different scientific and law perspectives can meet and communicate about sustainable development and regulation of agroecosystems. But it requires that each perspective acknowledges its own blind spots and acknowledges that the agroecosystem can be seen from many other perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw and Agroecology : A Transdisciplinary Dialogue
EditorsM Monteduro, P Boungiorno, S Di Benedetto, A Isoni
Publication date2015
ISBN (Print)9783662466162
ISBN (Electronic)9783662466179
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Agri-food systems
  • Perspectivism
  • Polyocular framework
  • Secondorder science
  • Sustainability


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