2006 volume 38(2) pages 227 – 239

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Law J, 2006, "Disaster in agriculture: or foot and mouth mobilities" Environment and Planning A 38(2) 227 – 239

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Disaster in agriculture: or foot and mouth mobilities

John Law

Received 10 August 2004; in revised form 18 January 2005

Abstract. This paper is an exploration of the dynamics of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001. Following Perrow’s analysis of the catastrophic breakdown of technological systems, the author treats the UK agricultural system as a set of flows that are both tightly coupled and complex. This suggests that the stability of the agricultural system is precarious, and that when it is disrupted (as it was with the arrival of the foot and mouth virus) the consequences may be large scale and catastrophic. The foot and mouth outbreak, and more generally, aspects of global agriculture, are thus understood as ‘normal accidents’.

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