This paper has undergone quite a few revisions, and the author is thankful to many scholars, and colleagues at the Foundation for Agrarian Studies for their comments on multiple drafts. The author particularly thanks Sethu C A for the numerous discussions that they have had on different aspects of the paper. The author also thanks Barbara Harriss-White, Judith Heyer, Madhura Swaminathan, R Ramakumar, and T Jayaraman for their inputs at different points. Their comments make it evident that there is much need to further expand this line of argument and scope for more empirical work in this regard. Sandipan Baksi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is with the Foundation for Agrarian Studies, Bengaluru.
The sustainable development framework of the United Nations presents the possibility to orient and expand the ends and means of sustainable agriculture and build consensus around it. The approach of alternative agriculture that has grown in the last few decades prevents this consensus building. A few fundamental features of the paradigmundermining the importance of agricultural productivity, lacking in appreciation for the critical role of agricultural science and technology, and romanticising the traditional systems of knowledge and organisation of productionharm the cause of sustainable agriculture. They appear to threaten the foundational understanding of sustainability defined in anthropocentric terms, one that strives for integrating intra- and inter-generational development and justice.