Edited by Jeff Bennett, Xuehong Wang and Lei Zhang
Chapter 1: Agriculture and the Environment
1. Agriculture and the environment Jeff Bennett Agriculture and the environment are inextricably linked. Agriculture is dependent on the environment as an input factor to the production process. The condition of the environment is dependent on the agricultural activities that use it. In considering this interrelationship, the general principle has been that increased agricultural production comes only at a cost to the environment. This has certainly been the case in China over the last century. While agriculture has increased its scale in both input and output terms, that expansion has been achieved only with signiﬁcant environmental deterioration. Yet this generalized inverse relationship between agriculture and the environment is increasingly being challenged. First, a greater understanding of agriculture’s dependency on the environment has led to the recognition that environmental degradation caused by agricultural practices can compromise production. Hence, agricultural output and environmental condition can both be declining. For example, intensive cropping over an extended period can degrade the soil condition to the point where yields deteriorate. Second, the relationship between agriculture and the environment can be direct but with both moving in a positive direction. With growing public concern about environmental degradation, there has been more and more reluctance to allow further reductions in the availability of environmental services. However, government regulations that prevent environmental degradation or force environmental improvements at the expense of agricultural livelihoods are politically fraught with difﬁculties. Hence policies that improve environmental conditions as well as farm proﬁtability are keenly sought. Advances in agricultural...
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