A video by AgroParisTech invites young agricultural engineers to desert the system so as not to perpetuate it. How do the students of the Institut Agro de Dijon see their training and their future?
It’s a shocking speech, far from the thanks expected at a graduation ceremony at AgroParisTech. On April 30, a group of freshly graduated engineers called on young agronomists to desert the system, not to perpetuate damage to the environment thanks to the knowledge they had just acquired.
At the Institut Agro de Dijon (formerly AgroSup), one of the best French agronomy and agri-food schools, the students discovered the video with amazement. Fanny is in her 1st year of agronomy: “I am very surprised because I think that the main objective of agronomy is to feed the world. We cannot abandon this mission!” Natacha, an agri-food student, finds the video of these eight students “too categorical” : “They are attacking the food industry a lot, but the solutions proposed are radical.”
Conversely, Mathilde admits that she “personally felt grateful for these students. They had the courage to share the contradictions they had noted during their training and their concerns.“
The Dijon students all agree on the warning cry launched on the state of the planet but not on the way to do it. Fanny, daughter of Lorraine farmers, feels a responsibility and does not intend to desert: “We have chosen to study in the fields of agronomy and agro-food, she specifies. We are not here by chance. Here, we learn to limit phytosanitary treatments to a minimum.“
Natacha is surprised for her part at the direct link made between agri-food and cancer: “I think there are a lot of very new products in the food industry. We can work on vegan, on organic.”
The discourse of the graduates in the video puzzles those who have chosen the Institut Agro de Dijon for its teaching in agroecology: “Perhaps it’s also because AgroParisTech has partnerships with major agrifood companies, some of which are very polluting, but each student chooses their internships according to their values. Some of my classmates don’t want to go to Total or Lactalis for example because of the latest scandals.”
It’s up to us to make things change, to try to develop new techniques.Fanny, 1st year student at AgroSup Dijon
Engineering courses now include environmental approaches in teaching. In Dijon, in the third year, among the majors of deepening, AgroSup offers an AGIR specialty, focused on the relocation of agriculture through short circuits and the protection of the environment, but also an Agroecology specialty, to reason the crop production methods and limiting inputs, or training in the diagnosis of climate change. This is an important argument for some students, like Fanny who dreamed of joining this school.
Mathilde tempers this enthusiasm: “Our courses talk about what currently exists, major crops, majority practices but not alternative methods such as permaculture. Maybe because we don’t have enough scientific data yet, but that’s a shame.”
In agri-food, alongside training related to wine or innovation, renowned in Dijon, the eco-design of food packaging and the consideration of consumer ethics are part of the lessons. Natacha believes in the policy of small steps: “We are perhaps a generation in too much of a hurry. I don’t think we have found THE solution, but let’s take advantage of each small progress and mobilize ourselves within the companies in which we will work!”
A meeting between the students and the administration of the Agro Institute had revealed this demand for agroecology in the school’s programs. To learn more about current research on global warming, student associations also organize conferences and meetings. Mathilde finds it a shame not to include these questions in the common core because it splits the school in two, “the sore Parisians who read the IPCC report and the others who never go there”. “I understand the students of AgroParisTech who say that they want to found autonomous micro-structures so as not to have an impact on the planet but, for some students, it is an aberration because it will not help the small farmers locked up in the vicious circle of the race for yield.”
This agronomy student concludes worried: “For me, what we learn in school does not prepare us mentally for the climate change that is coming. How will we do in ten years to give advice to farmers who come to see us?