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Abstract

Sustainability of agriculture is strongly related to the multifunctional role implicitly or explicitly recognized to it in the framework of the European Union CAP. This multifunctional role entails a multicriteria approach when assessing the performance and value for society of farming systems. Multicriteria assessment of agricultural systems is characterized by the existence of many criteria often conflicting among then, many stakeholders and decision-makers with competing interests, and lack of information. Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is a multicriteria methodology that allows dealing with these problems, in a relatively easy, flexible and economical manner, and therefore it is a potentially useful tool in this field, although its application with this purpose has not been found in the literature. Therefore, this paper aims (1) to present AHP as a useful methodology to effectively assess and compare the multifunctional performances of agricultural systems, and (2) to apply AHP in the comparison, on the basis of experts' knowledge, of multiple functions -economic, technical, sociocultural and environmental- of conventional, organic and integrated olive producing systems in a region of Spain, and test the hypothetical superiority of the alternative systems with respect to the conventional one in the medium/long term and the average conditions of the region. Results confirm this global superiority thus providing a scientific base to endorse institutional and social support regarding the promotion and implementation of these alternative farming techniques. However, environmental issues are the more conflictive among experts and require a more in depth research in the future to clarify many of them.

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