Perspectives for Agroecosystem Management:: Balancing Environmental and Socio-economic Demands

Perspectives for Agroecosystem Management:
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Environmental Considerations

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Institutional Subscription. Examples of this include the Irish Potato Famine [82] [ dubious — discuss ] , which was caused by a rainy year that created ideal conditions for the fungal blight to spread in potato fields, or the Ethiopian Famine in the early s. These factors are: 1 specialized agro-ecosystems ; 2 households with very few livelihood options other than farming; 3 situations where formal institutions do not provide adequate safety nets to protect people. Diseases affecting livestock or crops can have devastating effects on food availability especially if there are no contingency plans in place.

The genetic diversity of the crop wild relatives of wheat can be used to improve modern varieties to be more resistant to rust. In their centers of origin wild wheat plants are screened for resistance to rust, then their genetic information is studied and finally wild plants and modern varieties are crossed through means of modern plant breeding in order to transfer the resistance genes from the wild plants to the modern varieties.

Farmland and other agricultural resources have long been used to produce non-food crops including industrial materials such as cotton , flax , and rubber; drug crops such as tobacco and opium , and biofuels such as firewood , etc. In the 21st century the production of fuel crops has increased, adding to this diversion. However technologies are also developed to commercially produce food from energy such as natural gas and electrical energy with tiny water and land foot print. Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen observed that "there is no such thing as an apolitical food problem.

The 20th century has examples of governments, as in Collectivization in the Soviet Union or the Great Leap Forward in the People's Republic of China undermining the food security of their own nations.

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Governments sometimes have a narrow base of support, built upon cronyism and patronage. Fred Cuny pointed out in that under these conditions: "The distribution of food within a country is a political issue. Governments in most countries give priority to urban areas, since that is where the most influential and powerful families and enterprises are usually located. The government often neglects subsistence farmers and rural areas in general. The more remote and underdeveloped the area the less likely the government will be to effectively meet its needs.

Many agrarian policies, especially the pricing of agricultural commodities , discriminate against rural areas. Governments often keep prices of basic grains at such artificially low levels that subsistence producers cannot accumulate enough capital to make investments to improve their production. Thus, they are effectively prevented from getting out of their precarious situation.

Socialist governments have used food as a political weapon, rewarding supporters while denying food supplies to areas that oppose their rule. A government with a strong tendency towards kleptocracy can undermine food security even when harvests are good. When the rule of law is absent, or private property is non-existent, farmers have little incentive to improve their productivity.

Rather than risk being noticed and possibly losing their land, farmers may be content with the perceived safety of mediocrity. The approach known as food sovereignty views the business practices of multinational corporations as a form of neocolonialism. It contends that multinational corporations have the financial resources available to buy up the agricultural resources of impoverished nations, particularly in the tropics.

They also have the political clout to convert these resources to the exclusive production of cash crops for sale to industrialized nations outside of the tropics, and in the process to squeeze the poor off of the more productive lands. Likewise, food sovereignty holds it to be true that communities should be able to define their own means of production and that food is a basic human right. With several multinational corporations now pushing agricultural technologies on developing countries, technologies that include improved seeds, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, crop production has become an increasingly analyzed and debated issue.

Food waste may be diverted for alternative human consumption when economic variables allow for it. The waste of consumable food is even gaining attention from large food conglomerates. For instance, due to low food prices, simply discarding irregular carrots has typically been more cost-effective than spending money on the extra labor or machinery necessary to handle them. A juice factory in the Netherlands, however, has developed a process to efficiently divert and use previously rejected carrots, and its parent company is expanding this innovation to plants in Great Britain.

In recent years, France has worked to combat food insecurity, in part by addressing food waste; since the country has passed laws prohibiting grocery stores from discarding unsold food items, requiring that they instead donate the food to designated charities. Local efforts, such as the Greater Franklin Food Council in Farmington, Maine, can directly help regional food security, particularly when residents become mindful of the juxtaposition of food insecurity in their communities with their own food waste at home.

Current UN projections show a continued increase in population in the future but a steady decline in the population growth rate , with the global population expected to reach 9. Solutions for feeding the extra billions in the future are being studied and documented.

Perspectives for Agroecosystem Management:: Balancing Environmental and Socio-economic Demands

Areas are subject to overpopulation , and 25, people die of malnutrition and hunger related diseases every day. While agricultural output has increased, energy consumption to produce a crop has also increased at a greater rate, so that the ratio of crops produced to energy input has decreased over time. Green Revolution techniques also heavily rely on chemical fertilizers , pesticides and herbicides , many of which are petroleum products , making agriculture increasingly reliant on petroleum.

The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers natural gas , pesticides oil , and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation. Economy the maximum U. The study says that to achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster, the United States must reduce its population by at least one-third, and world population will have to be reduced by two-thirds. The oncoming peaking of global oil production and subsequent decline of production , along with the peak of North American natural gas production will very likely precipitate this agricultural crisis much sooner than expected.

Since , human diets across the world have become more diverse in the consumption of major commodity staple crops, with a corollary decline in consumption of local or regionally important crops, and thus have become more homogeneous globally. On April 30, , Thailand, one of the world's biggest rice exporters, announced the creation of the Organisation of Rice Exporting Countries with the potential to develop into a price-fixing cartel for rice. It is a project to organize 21 rice exporting countries to create a homonymous organisation to control the price of rice.

The organization attempts to serve the purpose of making a "contribution to ensuring food stability, not just in an individual country but also to address food shortages in the region and the world". However, it is still questionable whether this organization will serve its role as an effective rice price fixing cartel, that is similar to OPEC's mechanism for managing petroleum.

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Economic analysts and traders said the proposal would go nowhere because of the inability of governments to cooperate with each other and control farmers' output. Moreover, countries that are involved expressed their concern that this could only worsen the food security. China needs not less than million hectares of arable land for its food security.

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China has reported a surplus of 15 million hectares. By contrast, some 4 million hectares of conversion to urban use and 3 million hectares of contaminated land have also been reported. During the period —, the European Union lost 0. The loss of agricultural land during the same time was the highest in the Netherlands, which lost 1. The figures are quite alarming for Cyprus 0.

Such a loss in wheat production is just 0. Additionally, the income from the new land use is often much higher than the one guaranteed by agriculture, as in the case of urbanisation or extraction of raw materials. As anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions reduce the stability of the global climate, [] abrupt climate change could become more intense. Particles in the troposphere would quickly rain out, but particles in the stratosphere , especially sulfate , could remain there for years. The Toba super volcanic eruption approximately 70, years ago may have nearly caused the extinction of humans [] see Toba catastrophe theory.

Again, primarily sulfate particles could block the sun for years. Solar blocking is not limited to natural causes as nuclear winter is also possible, which refers to the scenario involving widespread nuclear war and burning of cities that release soot into the stratosphere that would stay there for about 10 years. A sufficiently powerful geomagnetic storm could result in the sudden absence of access to electricity in large areas of the world.

Because industrial farming is increasingly dependent on constant access to electricity, for example in precision livestock farming , a geomagnetic storm could potentially have devastating effects to the food production. Agricultural subsidies are paid to farmers and agribusinesses to supplement their income, manage the supply of their commodities and influence the cost and supply of those commodities. Taxpayers heavily subsidize corn and soy, which are primary ingredients in processed foods and fatty foods not encouraged by the government, [] and are also used to fatten livestock.

Half of farmland is devoted to corn and soy, and the rest is wheat. Soy and corn can be found in sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.

Little land is used for fruit and vegetable farming. Corn, a pillar of American agriculture for years, is now mainly used for ethanol, high fructose corn syrup and bio-based plastics. The subsidies result in those commodities being cheap to the public, compared to those recommended by dietary guidelines.

By way of comparison, in one of the largest food producing countries in the world, the United States, approximately one out of six people are "food insecure", including 17 million children, according to the U. Department of Agriculture in There are also regional variations in food security. Social stigma is another important consideration, and for children, sensitively administering in-school programs can make the difference between success and failure. For instance, when John Woods, co-founder of Full Plates, Full Potential, [] learned that embarrassed students were shying away from the free breakfasts being distributed at a school he was working with, he made arrangements to provide breakfast free of charge to all of the students there.

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According to a Congressional Budget Office report on child nutrition programs, it is more likely that food insecure children will participate in school nutrition programs than children from food secure families. Students who ate school lunches provided by NLSP showed higher diet quality than if they had their own lunches.

Countless partnerships have emerged in the quest for food security. WIC alone served approximately 7. Despite the sizable populations served by these programs, Conservatives have regularly targeted these programs for defunding. On January 23, , H. The bill seeks to repeal a rule set by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture, which mandates schools to provide more nutritious and diverse foods across the food plate.

Food insecurity in children can lead to developmental impairments and long term consequences such as weakened physical, intellectual and emotional development. Food insecurity also related to obesity for people living in neighborhoods where nutritious food are unavailable or unaffordable. Gender inequality both leads to and is a result of food insecurity. Women tend to be responsible for food preparation and childcare within the family and are more likely to spend their income on food and their children's needs.

However, women face discrimination in access to land, credit, technologies, finance and other services. While these are rough estimates, there would be a significant benefit of closing the gender gap on agricultural productivity. The number of people affected by hunger is extremely high, with enormous effects on girls and women.

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One of the most up-and-coming techniques to ensuring global food security is the use of genetically modified GM crops. The genome of these crops can be altered to address one or more aspects of the plant that may be preventing it from being grown in various regions under certain conditions. Many of these alterations can address the challenges that were previously mentioned above, including the water crisis, land degradation, and the ever-changing climate.

In agriculture and animal husbandry , the Green Revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield by creating high-yielding varieties. Often, the handful of hybridized breeds originated in developed countries and were further hybridized with local varieties in the rest of the developing world to create high yield strains resistant to local climate and diseases.

The area sown to genetically engineered crops in developing countries is rapidly catching up with the area sown in industrial nations. Some scientists question the safety of biotechnology as a panacea; agroecologists Miguel Altieri and Peter Rosset have enumerated ten reasons [] why biotechnology will not ensure food security, protect the environment, or reduce poverty. Reasons include:.


Based on evidence from previous attempts, there is a likely lack of transferability of one type of GM crop from one region to another. For example, modified crops that have proven successful in Asia from the Green Revolution have failed when tried in regions of Africa. There is also a drastic lack of education given to governments, farmers, and the community about the science behind GM crops, as well as suitable growing practices.

In most relief programs, farmers are given seeds with little explanation and little attention is paid to the resources available to them or even laws that prohibit them from distributing produce. Governments are often not advised on the economic and health implications that come with growing GM crops, and are then left to make judgments on their own. Because they have so little information regarding these crops, they usually shy away from allowing them or do not take the time and effort required to regulate their use. Members of the community that will then consume the produce from these crops are also left in the dark about what these modifications mean and are often scared off by their 'unnatural' origins.

This has resulted in failure to properly grow crops as well as strong opposition to the unknown practices. A study published in June evaluated the status of the implementation of Golden Rice , which was first developed in the s to produce higher levels of Vitamin A than its non-GMO counterparts. This strain of rice was designed so that malnourished women and children in third world countries who were more susceptible to deficiencies could easily improve their Vitamin A intake levels and prevent blindness, which is a common result.

Golden Rice production was centralized to the Philippines, yet there have been many hurdles to jump in order to get production moving. The study showed that the project is far behind schedule and is not living up to its expectations. Although research on Golden Rice still continues, the country has moved forward with other non-GMO initiatives to address the Vitamin A deficiency problem that is so pervasive in that region. Livestock biodiversity is also threatened by the modernization of agriculture and the focus on more productive major breeds. Therefore, efforts have been made by governments and non-governmental organizations to conserve livestock biodiversity through strategies such as Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources.

Common GM crops include cotton, maize, and soybeans, all of which are grown throughout North and South America as well as regions of Asia. One of the biggest threats to rice, which is a staple food crop especially in India and other countries within Asia, is blast disease, which is a fungal infection that causes lesions to form on all parts of the plant. The latter can be helpful in extreme climates with little arable land and also decreases deforestation, as fewer trees need to be cut down in order to make room for crop fields.

This addresses various health concerns associated with such pesticides and can also work to improve biodiversity within the area in which these crops are grown. In a review of Borlaug's publication entitled Ending world hunger: the promise of biotechnology and the threat of antiscience zealotry , [] the authors argued that Borlaug's warnings were still true in , [].

GM crops are as natural and safe as today's bread wheat, opined Dr. Borlaug, who also reminded agricultural scientists of their moral obligation to stand up to the antiscience crowd and warn policy makers that global food insecurity will not disappear without this new technology and ignoring this reality global food insecurity would make future solutions all the more difficult to achieve. The body of scientific evidence concluding that GM foods are safe to eat and do not pose environmental risks is wide.

The UN Millennium Development Goals are one of the initiatives aimed at achieving food security in the world. The first Millennium Development Goal states that the UN "is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty" by This approach emphasizes the physical availability of food; the social, economic and physical access people have to food; and the nutrition, safety and cultural appropriateness or adequacy of food.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated in The State of Food Insecurity in the World that countries that have reduced hunger often had rapid economic growth, specifically in their agricultural sectors. These countries were also characterized as having slower population growth , lower HIV rates, and higher rankings in the Human Development Index. In The State of Food Insecurity in the World , the FAO restated its focus on economic growth and agricultural growth to achieve food security and added a focus on the poor and on "nutrition-sensitive" growth.

For example, economic growth should be used by governments to provide public services to benefit poor and hungry populations. The FAO also cited smallholders, including women, as groups that should be involved in agricultural growth to generate employment for the poor. For economic and agricultural growth to be "nutrition-sensitive", resources should be utilized to improve access to diverse diets for the poor as well as access to a safe water supply and to healthcare.

The FAO has proposed a "twin track" approach to fight food insecurity that combines sustainable development and short-term hunger relief. Development approaches include investing in rural markets and rural infrastructure. To obtain short-term food security, vouchers for seeds, fertilizer , or access to services could promote agricultural production. The use of conditional or unconditional food or cash transfers was another approach the FAO noted. Conditional transfers could include school feeding programs , while unconditional transfers could include general food distribution, emergency food aid or cash transfers.

A third approach is the use of subsidies as safety nets to increase the purchasing power of households. The FAO stated that "approaches should be human rights-based, target the poor, promote gender equality, enhance long-term resilience and allow sustainable graduation out of poverty. The FAO noted that some countries have been successful in fighting food insecurity and decreasing the number of people suffering from undernourishment.

Bangladesh is an example of a country that has met the Millennium Development Goal hunger target. The FAO credited growth in agricultural productivity and macroeconomic stability for the rapid economic growth in the s that resulted in an increase in food security. Irrigation systems were established through infrastructure development programs. Two programs, HarvestPlus and the Golden Rice Project, provided biofortified crops in order to decrease micronutrient deficiencess.

On this day, the FAO hosts a variety of event at the headquarters in Rome and around the world, as well as seminars with UN officials. In particular, the WFP provides food aid to refugees and to others experiencing food emergencies. It also seeks to improve nutrition and quality of life to the most vulnerable populations and promote self-reliance. In April , the Food Assistance Convention was signed, the world's first legally binding international agreement on food aid.

The May Copenhagen Consensus recommended that efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition should be the first priority for politicians and private sector philanthropists looking to maximize the effectiveness of aid spending. They put this ahead of other priorities, like the fight against malaria and AIDS. The main global policy to reduce hunger and poverty are the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals. In particular Goal 2: Zero Hunger sets globally agreed targets to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by The United States Agency for International Development USAID proposes several key steps to increasing agricultural productivity , which is in turn key to increasing rural income and reducing food insecurity.

Since the s, the U. According to Tim Josling, a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University , food stamps or other methods of distribution of purchasing power directly to consumers might fit into the range of international programs under consideration to tackle food insecurity. There are strong, direct relationships between agricultural productivity, hunger, poverty, and sustainability.

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Three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas and make their living from agriculture. Hunger and child malnutrition are greater in these areas than in urban areas. Moreover, the higher the proportion of the rural population that obtains its income solely from subsistence farming without the benefit of pro-poor technologies and access to markets , the higher the incidence of malnutrition. Therefore, improvements in agricultural productivity aimed at small-scale farmers will benefit the rural poor first.

Food and feed crop demand is likely to double in the next 50 years, as the global population approaches nine billion. Growing sufficient food will require people to make changes such as increasing productivity in areas dependent on rainfed agriculture ; improving soil fertility management; expanding cropped areas; investing in irrigation ; conducting agricultural trade between countries; and reducing gross food demand by influencing diets and reducing post-harvest losses.

According to the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture , a major study led by the International Water Management Institute IWMI , managing rainwater and soil moisture more effectively, and using supplemental and small-scale irrigation, hold the key to helping the greatest number of poor people. It has called for a new era of water investments and policies for upgrading rainfed agriculture that would go beyond controlling field-level soil and water to bring new freshwater sources through better local management of rainfall and runoff.

With more money, farmers are more likely to diversify production and grow higher-value crops, benefiting not only themselves but the economy as a whole. It may be that an alliance between the emergency food program and community-supported agriculture is beneficial, as some countries' food stamps cannot be used at farmer's markets and places where food is less processed and grown locally. The minimum annual global wheat storage is approximately two months. Insurance is a financial instrument, which allows exposed individuals to pool resources to spread their risk.

They do so by contributing premium to an insurance fund, which will indemnify those who suffer insured loss. Insurance can be designed to protect many types of individuals and assets against single or multiple perils and buffer insured parties against sudden and dramatic income or asset loss.

Crop insurance is purchased by agricultural producers to protect themselves against either the loss of their crops due to natural disasters. Two type of insurances are available: [] claim-based insurances and index-based insurances. In particular, in poor countries facing food security problems, index-based insurances offer some advantages, including indices that can be derived from globally available satellite images that correlate well with what is insured. These indices can be delivered at low cost, and the insurance products open up new markets that are not served by claim-based insurances.

An advantage of index-based insurance is that it can potentially be delivered at lower cost. A significant barrier that hinders uptake of claim-based insurance is the high transaction cost for searching for prospective policyholders, negotiating and administering contracts, verifying losses and determining payouts.

Index insurance eliminates the loss verification step, thereby mitigating a significant transaction cost. A second advantage of index-based insurance is that, because it pays an indemnity based on the reading of an index rather than individual losses, it eliminates much of the fraud, moral hazard and adverse selection, which are common in classical claim-based insurance. A further advantage of index insurance is that payments based on a standardized and indisputable index also allow for a fast indemnity payment.

The indemnity payment could be automated, further reducing transaction costs. Basis risk is a major disadvantage of index-based insurance. It is the situation where an individual experiences a loss without receiving payment or vice versa. Basis risk is a direct result of the strength of the relation between the index that estimates the average loss by the insured group and the loss of insured assets by an individual.

The weaker this relation the higher the basis risk. High basis risk undermines the willingness of potential clients to purchase insurance. It thus challenges insurance companies to design insurances such as to minimize basis risk. The Food Justice Movement has been seen as a unique and multifaceted movement with relevance to the issue of food security. It has been described as a movement about social-economic and political problems in connection to environmental justice , improved nutrition and health, and activism.

Today, a growing number of individuals and minority groups are embracing the Food Justice due to the perceived increase in hunger within nations such as the United States as well as the amplified effect of food insecurity on many minority communities, particularly the Black and Latino communities.

A number of organizations have either championed the Food Justice Cause or greatly impacted the Food Justice space. An example of a prominent organization within the food justice movement has been the Coalition of Immokalee Workers , which is a worker-based human rights organization that has been recognized globally for its accomplishments in the areas of human trafficking, social responsibility and gender-based violence at work. The Coalition of Immoaklee Workers most prominent accomplishment related to the food justice space has been its part in implementing the Fair Food Program , which increased the pay and bettered working conditions of farm workers in the tomato industry who had been exploited for generations.

This accomplishment provided over 30, workers more income and the ability to access better and more healthy foods for themselves and their families. Another organization in the food justice space is the Fair Food Network, an organization that has embraced the mission of helping familIes who need healthy food to gain access to it while also increasing the livelihoold for farmers in America and growing local economies. Started by Oran B. Bees and other pollinating insects are currently improving the food production of 2 billion small farmers worldwide, helping to ensure food security for the world's population.

Research shows that if pollination is managed well on small diverse farms, with all other factors being equal, crop yields can increase by a significant median of 24 percent. How animal pollinators positively affect fruit condition and nutrient content is still being discovered. As of [update] , the concept of food security has mostly focused on food calories rather than the quality and nutrition of food. The concept of nutrition security evolved over time. In , it has been defined as "adequate nutritional status in terms of protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals for all household members at all times".

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Not to be confused with Food safety. Measure of availability and accessibility of food. Further information: List of famines. Main article: Food security in Mexico. Further information: Hunger in the United States. See also: Malnutrition. See also: Water resource policy. See also: Land degradation and Desertification. See also: Climate change and agriculture. Main article: Food versus fuel. See also: Political corruption. See also: Food waste. Further information: — world food price crisis and Food prices.

Further information: World population. Further information: Agriculture and petroleum and Peak oil's effects on agriculture. Further information: Global catastrophic risk. Further information: Agricultural policy of the United States. Main article: Gender and food security. Main article: Food Justice Movement. Food portal Globalization portal. FAO, UN. Financial Times. Retrieved 17 Jan Retrieved 26 October Retrieved Retrieved June 8, Archived from the original PDF on 4 November Retrieved 1 November Progressive Planning. The multiple dimensions of food security" PDF.

Retrieved 26 November The right to adequate food. Geneva: United Nations. The Journal of Nutrition. Archived from the original on Bibcode : Sci Archived from the original on 31 July Retrieved 31 July Washington, D. Food Policy. Public Health. Rome: FAO. Archived from the original PDF on 21 October Retrieved 21 October Retrieved November 13, Retrieved 2 November BBC News. October 16, Policy Forum.

Environmental Stewardship: A Conceptual Review and Analytical Framework

Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Retrieved 27 September The Straits Times. March 8,