Handbook on the Globalisation of Agriculture
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Handbook on the Globalisation of Agriculture

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.
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Chapter 2: Agriculture and environment: fundamentals and future perspectives

Ros Taylor and Jane Entwistle


The complexities of agricultural systems are central to the discussions in this chapter. The underpinning environmental constraints of agriculture are explored together with how farming practice has striven to overcome these limitations and extend agricultural opportunities. At the same time, worldwide, agriculture has triggered major changes to ecosystems and Earth environments, driving forest clearance and extension of ‘grasslands’ and generating changes in hydrological regimes, edaphic properties, local climates and biodiversity loss. Getting it right in terms of future agricultural processes able to feed the world’s people, while maintaining, and benignly enhancing, the natural resource base is a major challenge. As history shows, getting it wrong can lead to catastrophic environmental failure, pollution and resource loss and, it is asserted, even to societal collapse. A key consideration is to understand the challenging underpinning interdisciplinary science. The process of photosynthesis is examined and options to improve crop productivity, including through its genetic modification, are discussed. At the same time the implications of rising carbon dioxide levels are investigated. The challenges for achieving reliable and good-quality water supplies are explored and the importance of maintaining optimal growing environments, including consideration of livestock ‘comfort’, is reviewed. The essential need for suitable soils and the characteristics that ensure, and detract from, good soil resources are discussed. By integrating work from disparate specialist studies of plant and animal behaviour, genetics, soils and water management, climatic modification and ecosystem processes we can deepen our understanding of agricultural systems and see where solutions to current challenges may be found.

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