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Hualou Long, Yansui Liu and Tingting Li
This chapter analyses the changes of China’s farmland use level (FUL) and aims to develop a ‘farmland–grain elasticity coefficient’ (FGEC) in order to reveal the interaction between changes in use of farmland and security of grain production. The serious losses of farmland since 1978 have led to great pressure on grain production security, but increasing investments in farmland quality and human incentives have mitigated this pressure to some extent. FUL at the national level has increased due to the rapid economic development since 1978. The path of this rapid improvement shows a gradient declining from southeast coastal China to inland China with further economic development. However, the increases to the FUL may not be maintained because of the conversion of farmland and transfer of farm workers to non-agricultural activities. Agricultural structural adjustments and ongoing improvements of FUL may not always bring about sustainable and steady growth in grain outputs. In general, farmland areas and human investments interact with each other to influence grain production. At the beginning of Chinese economic reform, due to the weak agricultural base, improvements in the artificial ‘quality’ of farmlands had great positive effects on maintaining food security. Along with economic development and improvements in the agricultural base, the increase of labour investment will play only a weak role in increasing grain production and in maintaining food security, without technological breakthroughs in all aspects of agricultural production. Therefore, considering the law of diminishing marginal utility, the available area of farmland will play a key role in maintaining the security of grain production. Based on the analyses of changing agricultural production policies, and the trends and challenges of China’s agricultural production, the authors argue that both protecting farmland from a transformation to other land use types, and ensuring its effective management constitute key solutions for maintaining grain production security in China.
Lack of progress in the Doha Round of trade negotiations has not been entirely due to difficulties over agricultural issues. Nevertheless, as in the Uruguay Round, they have remained a substantial obstacle to agreement. One part of the story is weaker impetus both from the US administration and agribusiness interests for agricultural trade liberalisation. However, the European Union (EU) has also proved resistant to change, particularly over market access and the maintenance of high tariff barriers. There is an underlying political dynamic to this resistance. The EU has relatively large numbers of marginal farmers who would find it difficult to compete on world markets without protection – often located in peripheral regions with broader economic problems that are also either politically marginal or are strongly represented within a ruling party. It is hence difficult to suggest policies that might harm their interests. Interests of consumers and taxpayers are more diffuse compared with these concentrated interests, while input industries lend support to subsidies. Indeed, the latest EU reform proposals for agriculture envisage reducing the subsidy for more competitive farmers, confirming that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is conceived of primarily as a social policy, albeit a very inefficient one in meeting its objectives. France has remained a resolute defender of the CAP, although in the longer run budgetary pressures could shift its position. However, it has sought with some success to revitalise its defence of the CAP through a discourse of food security, which has some credibility given structural shifts in the global balance of supply and demand and long-term threats posed by climate change. Nevertheless, a policy of protection and subsidisation is not an effective answer to these challenges.
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.
Sarah Ruth Sippel
The global production of fruit and vegetables is one of the most dynamic areas of global agriculture. As emerging high-value crops, fruit and vegetables occupy an important part of global agricultural trade; even perishable produce is increasingly shipped globally. The production of export crops, specialising in counter-seasonal supply, has especially been fostered in the Global South as a strategy to earn foreign currency. A broad body of literature has evolved focusing on the participation of farmers, particularly smallholders, in global markets together with the conditions and implications of their integration into export chains. It is an often implicit assumption of these debates that the integration into export markets would improve the situation of farmers in comparison to supplying national markets. This assumption can be unfounded, however, as can the equally common expectation that farmers would sell to global supply chains if they were able to. This chapter addresses the assumption of the ‘desirable export market’ by discussing empirical findings from a study in the Souss, Morocco’s main fruit and vegetable export production region. It is argued that export integration as such does not equal participation in gains, which rather depends on the conditions of integration. In most cases, the domestic market is of far greater importance for local farmers and the survival of family farming in Morocco. Export production has even had detrimental effects on the rural social landscape of the region, which ultimately calls the export strategy and its implications for rural development into question. This chapter contributes to a better understanding of the importance of different market segments for rural livelihoods in a globalised agricultural setting, while emphasising the need to challenge the desirable participation in export markets.
This chapter takes a critical look at the notion that genetically modified (GM) crops are ‘pro-poor’. This is a claim – or, more properly, an article of faith – that underpins much of the global rollout of GM crops. It can be discerned in industry statements, in a host of important policy and scientific briefs, and in an influential stream of academic writings. The chapter looks particularly at the influence of the ‘GM crops are pro-poor’ notion on the US government’s flagship ‘Feed the Future’ initiative. Through interrogation of this large-scale development effort, the chapter shows the extent to which an uncritical dependence on the technologies of genetic modification threaten to undermine the livelihoods of the world’s poorest smallholder agriculturalists. The chapter argues there is much potential good to be had through the rapid development and deployment of new GM crops. The problem lies not with the technology itself, but stems, rather, from the social and political effects of a too-closed, silver-bullet mindset. The reality of programs like ‘Feed the Future’ is that the privileging of single-shot technological solutions too often crowds out the sorts of initiatives that make a demonstrable difference to the world’s poor. Just as importantly, too strong a focus on GM crops limits the extraordinary potential value of the technology itself, by cultivating blindness to the astonishing complexities of the social systems into which GM crops are inserted. The overriding concern of the chapter is ‘What does such lack of attention ultimately mean for the world’s smallholder farmers?’
Alison Blay-Palmer and Irena Knezevic
Food provides a meaningful lens to create and build more sustainable communities. Given the challenges currently facing humanity it offers a shared basis for transformation. It can act as a platform for social equity, personal well-being, ecological resilience and robust economies. Through food, we have the capacity to tackle climate change, water quality and quantity degradation, the global diabetes crisis, and gross social inequity. While acknowledging that each community food system is as unique as the space/place where it emerges, there are some factors that seem to increase levels of sustainability. The proposed chapter will extend earlier theoretical work on sustainable food systems and assess existing frameworks in light of empirical work through a selection of case studies in Ontario, Canada. These case studies are grounded in work from six universities and represent a scan of over 200 projects in the province. Each case study will be assessed through the lens of complex adaptive systems theory with a view to understanding more about the role of the principles derived from chaos and complexity theory including diversity, connectivity, self-organization, nested hierarchies and iterative feedback loops.
Brian Ilbery and Damian Maye
Alternative food systems, or networks (AFNs), have been of increasing academic interest since the main ‘productivist’ agricultural regime was challenged in the early 1990s. AFNs represent forms of food provision that operate through a variety of short food supply chains and are thus different from conventional (productivist) agri-food systems that have dominated the agri-food landscape of most developed market economies. The chapter begins by reviewing changing theoretical approaches to the study of AFNs in Europe and critiques the simplistic conventional-alternative binary often referred to in the literature, emphasising instead the complex, dynamic and hybridised nature of many agri-food systems. Drawing on a range of case study evidence from the UK, the chapter then traces the evolution of research on AFNs, from an initial interest in ‘locality’ foods, with its focus on the rural development dynamic and regional benefits of encouraging regional speciality food and drink products, to more recent interest in ‘local’ foods, where the building of capacity in local communities and the health and educational benefits of local food and drink products are emphasised. This evolution reflects a change in approach to studying AFNs, away from an analysis of the weaker dimensions of food networks and towards the stronger dimensions of food networks. Nevertheless, the conventional-alternative divide in agri-food systems remains a battlefield that is likely to intensify with increasing concerns over food security issues and the need to feed an ever-expanding global population. The chapter closes with some suggested future research directions for the study of European AFNs.
For decades, earnings from farming in many developing countries have been depressed by a pro-urban bias in own-country policies, as well as by governments of richer countries favouring their farmers with import barriers and subsidies. Both sets of policies reduced national and global economic welfare and inhibited agricultural trade and global economic growth. They almost certainly added to inequality and poverty in developing countries, since three-quarters of the world’s billion poorest people depend directly or indirectly on farming for their livelihood. During the past three decades, however, numerous developing country governments have reduced their sectoral and trade policy distortions, while some high-income countries also have begun reducing market-distorting aspects of their farm policies. This chapter surveys the changing extent of policy distortions to prices faced by farmers over the past half-century in high-income, developing and transition economies. It also provides a summary of new empirical estimates from a global economy-wide model that show how much could be gained by removing remaining interventions. It concludes with words of caution as to what could occur if a failure to conclude the WTO’s Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations led to protection growth in emerging economies.
In this chapter, I review the effects of farming practices on biodiversity, focusing in particular on the potential role of organic agriculture in preserving biodiversity. From the literature review, it emerges that organic farming, when properly managed, can provide greater potential for biodiversity than its conventional counterpart, as a result of greater habitat variability and more wildlife-friendly management practices, along with the exclusion of agri-chemical pesticides. Organic agriculture also has positive effects on soil biophysical and ecological characteristics – long-term soil fertility. Indeed, an increasing body of evidence indicates that landscape heterogeneity is a key factor in promoting biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. Benefits may be also achieved by conventional agriculture when reducing the inputs of agri-chemicals and better integrating crop production with soil protection and landscape ecological structures. I highlight that farming and environmental conservation have to be understood within the whole structure of the food system, and that analysis should be made and actions towards agricultural sustainability and biodiversity conservation should be taken accordingly. That means working in parallel on the social, economic and political dimensions of our society. Individual farmers cannot take that challenge alone, or bear the whole cost of the effort. Long-term experiments and multicriteria analysis of the range of feasibility and viability of organic and low-input agriculture should also be carried out in a number of different scenarios.