Table of Contents

Handbook on the Globalisation of Agriculture

Handbook on the Globalisation of Agriculture

Handbooks on Globalisation series

Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson

This Handbook provides insights to the ways in which globalisation is affecting the whole agri-food system from farms to the consumer. It covers themes including the physical basis of agriculture, the influence of trade policies, the nature of globalised agriculture, and resistance to globalisation in the form of attempts to foster greater sustainability and multifunctional agricultural systems. Drawing upon studies from around the world, the Handbook will appeal to a broad and varied readership, across academics, students, and policy-makers interested in economics, trade, geography, sociology and political science.

Chapter 4: Measuring and managing the global agricultural footprint of countries’ consumption

Stefan Bringezu, Helmut Schütz and Meghan O’Brien

Subjects: business and management, management and sustainability, development studies, agricultural economics, economics and finance, agricultural economics, environment, agricultural economics, environmental governance and regulation, environmental management


Globalisation increases the share of foreign resource supply, also for agricultural goods. Locations of production and consumption are drifting apart, leaving conditions and consequences of production hidden to consumers. Certification schemes try to bridge that gap. However, the major part of agricultural markets remains unaffected. As long as the global demand for food and non-food crops is growing, standards for selected products will be insufficient to control the global expansion of cropland, which will continue in particular in the tropics at the expense of grasslands, savannahs and forests, leading to biodiversity loss and increased GHG emissions in the coming decades. Without drastically increasing the efficiency of biomass use a sustainable supply of food and non-food biomass will not be possible, both globally and in particular regions. An essential condition for a globally safe operating space of biomass use is that the expansion of cropland will come to a halt. Measuring the global use of cropland for the domestic consumption of all agricultural goods allows countries to monitor whether their real footprint is within or beyond the safe operating space. Using data for the European Union, this chapter shows how such monitoring could provide the basis for governments to adapt the incentive framework for industry and households to increase efficiency in the use of biomass (e.g., reducing food waste). Policies could include removal of misleading incentives and subsidies, such as biofuel quotas in those countries where the real footprint is already globally oversized.

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