The French Academy of Agriculture, established in 1761 by the King Louis XV, as the “Société d’Agriculture de la Généralité de Paris (Agricultural Society for the Paris region), became “Académie d’Agriculture de France” (French Academy of Agricuture) by a decree issued on February 23 1915.
It is committed to inform the Government and the public opinion of progresses in all aspects of agricultural sciences, being it at national or international levels, as well as to facilitate exchanges between scientists of various disciplines. Its scope encompasses agriculture, livestock raising, fishing, and sea farming, but also food and industrial products, machinery, environment, rural life…as to their scientific, technical, legal, political and social aspects.
The Academy, whose signature is “Agriculture, Alimentation, Environnement”, includes 120 members, 180 corresponding members from France and 60 members and 60 corresponding members coming from 38 countries. The Academy is divided into 10 sections:” plant production systems”, “forest and forest-based products”, “animal production”, “human and social sciences”, “interactions environment- living organisms “ , “life sciences”, “environment and rural territories”, food industries”, “agro-business and non-food products”, “economy and political sciences”.
A regular public session meeting is being held every Wednesday afternoon, unless otherwise stated, in the premises of the Academy, 18 rue de Bellechasse, Paris 7ème. In addition, members also participate in the organisation of meetings or symposiums with other institutions or sister academies, such as the Academy of Medicine, the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Veterinary Sciences etc... Each year the Academy distributes awards, medals, and grants in its spheres of competence.
The Academy’s solemn “advices” and other works are published and can be consulted at the secretariate 18 rue de Bellechasse Paris 7ème or by internet on :
Section 1 : Crop science, cropping systems and plant products
The section is mainly concerned by the scientific bases of the agronomic techniques and the socio-economic aspects of the crop production and utilisation. For each crop, it is interested in the environmental and economic constraints like with all the aspects of the technical itinerary: seeds, cropping techniques, diseases and parasites and technological qualities of the harvested products.
The scientific fields of expertise are related to crop production and utilisation, in particular: agronomy, plant breeding, plant protection and crop quality.
Thanks to the diversity of competences of the members and correspondents, collaborations with other sections allow the joint presentation of sessions in various fields, related for example to economy, industrial transformation of plant products, plant biotechnologies, plant genetic resources, biodiversity...
Section 2 : Woods and forests
Woods and forest section 2 regularly monitors work of the main board of the GREF relating to the forest environment, in particular when they result from a requisition of the Minister of Agriculture. Reflexionx are carried out on the perception of forest questions by public opinion, even though wood production remains the principal, in fact the only, financial source of the forest. That brings to debate about ecologic certification and evolution of wood trading. Among scientific and technical subjects studied, one will cite :
• The role of the forest and forest environment in the carbone dioxide economy,
• The relationship between forest and water,
• The role of genetic engineering applied to the trees,
• The technics of restoration of forests under ecological attack.
Section 3 : Animal production
Section 3 is interested in all topics related to animal breeding (fishes included) and to uses of animal derived products. Attention is paid to technical and economical developments in every type of production, as well as to scientific trends in fields of nutrition, feed production, reproduction, genome knowledge, emerging pathologies. Breeding systems depend on territorial, environmental and human factors which are shared with other people not directly involved in breeding activities. Some intensive systems are questioned because of their economical failure or their impact on natural resources (water polluted by animal dejections, greenhouse gas emissions, competition between feed and food).Animal selection aims might be modified. New skills should be required. Social acceptance for breeding techniques, animal welfare concern (leading sometimes to decline meat consumption), new sanitary and environmental rules contributed to restricting recommendations at the European level that breeders must take into account. Animal production has to face an adverse environment, at least in countries not concerned by food scarcity. Section 3, composed of members originating from a variety of professional and scientific sectors, aims to diversify dialogue inside and outside the Academy to design a sustainable future and a positive vision for breeding.
Section 4 : Social sciences
As everywhere, although perhaps with some specificities, complementarities and tensions between social choices and individual values are present in any agricultural and rural setting. They are embedded into history and geography, which depend upon the economic and social context as well as on natural conditions. Social sciences help understanding the corresponding systems evolution, and keeping them under control. Here is “the raison d’être” of the AAF “social sciences” section.
Section 4 fellows are therefore preoccupied by long run tendencies in the multiple ways men are managing space occupation, food production, and environment, either in France or in Europe, or even in the whole world. In so doing, they are anxious to make a distinction between what comes under necessity, which must be undergone, and what is a consequence of chance, over which action is possible. Thus, their works stand “upstream” those of section 10, “agricultural policy”, even if, of course, they keep special links with the latter. More generally, because of their interest in the interaction between techniques and society, they need to maintain links with, and participate to the works of, all other sections.
Section 5 : Physics and chemistry of environments and of living beings.
Section V is concerned with basic science. It deals with physical and chemical aspects of life in agroecosystems and is thus interested in most topics studied by other sections, except socio-economical issues or society problems. Its main goal is to provide other sections with scientific help on processes, interactions, energy and mass transfer, and on methods to measure or model these processes.
It covers a very wide field ranging from the geosphere (bedrock and soil), the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and includes all their living elements (micro-organisms, plants, animals, Man). It also deals with soil-plant and plant-animal-environment interactions, and with the fate in soil and water of inorganic and organic elements released by human activities related to plant and animal production.
Thanks to the diversity in the competence of its members and correspondents, section V has a good expertise level on the following topics : soil physicochemical and microbiological properties, mineral nutrition of plants, animals and man, pollution of soils, water and food chains by organic and inorganic contaminants, biogeochemical cycles (especially carbon, water, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), vegetation-environment interactions with energy and mass balances and their consequences on climate through carbon sequestration and the greenhouse effect.
The section can not deal with everything but is ready to give an advice based on scientific arguments when specific problems arise in its field of competence, originating from the other sections and from society.
Section 6 : Life sciences
Section 6, Life sciences, was created by an act of parliament on 14/06/1995. This section consists mainly of the disciplines of biochemistry, cell biology, microbiology, molecular genetics, physiology, pathology and entomology, without excluding the basic sciences (e.g. mathematics, chemistry...). The section is mainly focused on the understanding of processes which constitute the unity and the diversity of life. Taking into account both progress in fundamental research and social development, its mission is to evaluate knowledge and techniques in a prospective and targeted fashion. One of its major interests is the study and the control of integrated biological systems (Integrative Biology and Biosystems).
This Section, while being very fundamental by vocation, is also multi-disciplinary in nature and actively encourages interfaces with all the other Sections of the Academy. Section VI exploits this cross-disciplinarity in the field of Life Sciences to disseminate knowledge in biology; this allows a better analysis of the impact of recent progress in biology on society and its application to agriculture. The excellence of research in biology must go hand in hand with the relevance of the questions of agronomists and technologists.
Over and above the disciplinary and technological divisions, the guiding theme of Section VI is to understand the biological processes which make up the unity and the diversity of life. Biochemistry has always been a basic discipline in this Section. It has focused its interest on the analysis of cellular and molecular processes. In parallel, physiology has evolved actively, particularly in light of the fabulous progress in cellular and molecular biology. The recent progress of molecular genetics and functional genomics will allow the understanding of biological processes as a whole, both in space (molecule, cell, organs, organisms and populations) and in time (development, senescence, death). Genetics, pathology, entomology, parasitology, ecology and population biology also benefit from the development of molecular biology and genomic approaches. Finally, symbiotic and mycorrhizal processes constitute systems for which understanding is of major importance in biology and agriculture. They are dependent in particular on new knowledge of molecular processes, which condition the recognition between individuals, including the chemical communication between animals and between animals and plants.
The major progress in biological knowledge during these last ten years is related to the sequencing of genes and the genomes (massive analyses of genomes), the attribution of a function to the genes (functional genomics with high flow), the integration of various functions into the cellular identity. It includes also the understanding of the mechanisms of the construction of tissues and organs during the development of animals and plants, the decoding of the neuronal and cerebral activities, biodiversity and the environment. Plants, for example, because of their immobility, are able to express different genetic programs in response to constant environmental fluctuations, which are manifested at the molecular level by modifications of the enzymatic equipment (stress-related-proteins and proteins involved in defence against pathogens and predators).
Research capacities are evolving very rapidly with the blossoming of new technologies, and, consequently, we must anticipate a fast turnover of methods and specific investigations. The new conceptual and experimental tools are opening up new perspectives. From now on, unity, identity, diversity and evolution constitute the leading theme of the integrated approaches of life sciences. The challenge of the ongoing revolution is to reconcile knowledge and society. Section VI aims, through its specific action, to contribute to the anticipated effort and thus to hold its place in the analysis and circle of action of the Academy of Agriculture.
Section7 : Natural Resources, Space Planning and Management, Environment
The Section mainly thinks about the interactions between natural resources, environment planning and environment protection.
Its principal goal is to conceive a space management which takes into account the needs and desires of the society.
Works of the Section, since its creation in 1995, have been relied on the triptyque : man, nature and technics, the space management being considered in its ecological, technical, economical, sociological, juridical and ethical dimensions.
The Section is taking up today the existing relations between three main poles :
- the Anthroposphere (populations, demography, representations and organizations, social demand …)
- the Biosphere (physical environment : water, soil and climate, natural resources, biogeochemical cycles, ecosystems …)
- and the Technosphere (agricultural practices, space plannings, production systems, management and organization systems …)
The study of the relations between those three poles and feedbacks helps to improve understanding of rural and agriculture activities in order to propose some orientations in terms of space planning, environment improvements, and more largely sustainable development.
The Section searches to identify and formulate the questions to update, taking into account the available knowledge, and to emerge new domains.
For that it develops multidisciplinary works with other sections of the Academy.
Section 8 :
The section 8 activities are mainly centred on two themes :
– Food industry and consumers: The agrofood industry has not only to take into account but also to anticipate the consumers expectations in order to comply at best with them.
This indeed very large objective stretches from the food products conception (composition, presentation…) to the industrial processes going through raw materials and foodstuffs preservation (cooking methods, sterilization,…)
– Crisis linked to the real or assumed presence of pathogens or contaminants in foodstuffs: The section 8 members are surprised by the disproportion generally pointed out between the facts and the press reports. They are bent on emphasizing the harmful consequences such a way of acting could have for many a company.
Section 9 : Farming inputs, and non-food production
Activities of Section 9 : Section groups professional people on :
1. technical equipment covering thé whole range of farm machinery
2. farming inputs in the broader sense, covering seeds, fertilizers, crop protection products, fuel products and média
3. non-food value chains for agricultural products notably the textile and biofuel area
4. professional administrative bodies and research organisations implementing these activities
Section 9 focuses on past and future developments regarding the :
• use of farming inputs and technical equipment within integrated production systems which are economically profitable, environmentally friendly and supporting a sustainable agriculture ;
• non-food use of all agricultural products.
Section10 : Agricultural and rural economy and policies
The purpose of section 10 is to deal with the past, the present and the future of the agricultural and rural world in its political, sociological, economic and financial aspects. It treats the problems from all their sides, individual, local, national, European and on a world-wide scale. The issues of the occupation of the land, the internal functioning of the firms and their relations with the external world are also dealt with.
Effectively, section 10 is interested in 5 different fields :
1) agricultural and rural development policies led by the goverments,
2) agricultural markets, including the evolution of prices and marketing methods for farm produce,
3 )production structures of farms and how they are distributed over the territory,
4) production systems and management methods used,
5) professional organisations of the agricultural and rural world.
Throughout the last years, section 10 has endavoured to bring to light some major aspects of the big current problems such as the Commun Agricultural Policy, intensive agriculture, multifunctioning in agriculture, American, Russian and developing countries farming economies.