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Sustaining Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions

Economic Issues

Clement A. Tisdell

This innovative book identifies socio-economic processes which transform the stock of genetic resources and ecosystems and discusses sustainability issues raised by variations in this stock. It focuses subsequently on the socio-economics of the conservation and change in the stock of human developed germplasm and ecosystems. Particular attention is given to crops, livestock, GMOs, reduced economic value due to biological erosion, alternative agroecosystems, and property rights in germplasm. The book concludes with an exploration of the economic topics dealing with changes in the stock of wild germplasm and natural ecosystems, and discusses the associated valuation problems.
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Chapter 5: Crops and the socio-economics of biodiversity loss and change

Clement A. Tisdell


The development of agriculture and other bio-industries (such as aquaculture) has been, and continues to be, a major source of environmental change. Their development has resulted in additions to and large losses in the genetic stock. Moreover, natural ecosystems have been lost and transformed by cultivation systems supporting these industries.

After agriculture began to develop early in the Holocene era (about 9000 years ago),1 it eventually produced more varied and greater quantities of food and other primary products. Increasing agricultural production has enabled the globe to sustain a massive increase in its human population which is expected to reach around 9.5 billion by 2060 (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2012).2 Despite its past achievement, there are increasing concerns about whether agriculture and other bio-industries will meet the needs of this increased population mainly because of their environmental consequences and constraints. Undesirable consequences of agricultural expansion can include increasing genetic loss, rising CO2 levels and, in many cases, unwanted changes to natural or near natural ecosystems. These combined changes can result in human welfare being lower than it need be, and can reduce prospects for continuing economic development.

The global stock of germplasm is continually changing. Changes in this stock have significant economic consequences and to a considerable and increasing extent are a product of socio-economic processes. In the next section of this chapter, important socio-economic factors that result in a loss of existing germplasm are identified and discussed. To...

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