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Global trends in agriculture and food systems

Knudsen, Marie Trydeman; Halberg, Niels; Olesen, Jørgen E.; Byrne, John; Iyer, Venkatesh and Toly, Noah (2006) Global trends in agriculture and food systems. In: Halberg, Niels; Alrøe, Hugo Fjelsted; Knudsen, Marie Trydeman and Kristensen, Erik Steen (Eds.) Global Development of Organic Agriculture - Challenges and Prospects. CABI Publishing, chapter 1, pp. 1-48.

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Increasing globalization affects agricultural production and trade and has consequences for the sustainability of both conventional and organic agriculture.
During the last decades, agricultural production and yields have been increasing along with global fertilizer and pesticide consumption. This development has been especially pronounced in the industrialized countries and some developing countries such as China, where cereal yields have increased a remarkable twofold and 4.5-fold respectively since 1961. In those countries, food security has increased, a greater variety of food has been offered and diets have changed towards a greater share of meat and dairy products. However, this development has led to a growing disparity among agricultural systems and populations, where especially developing countries in Africa have seen very few improvements in food security and production. The vast majority of rural households in developing countries lack the ecological resources or financial means to shift into intensive modern agricultural practices as well as being integrated into the global markets. At the same time, agricultural development has contributed to environmental problems such as global warming, reductions in biodiversity and soil degradation. Furthermore, pollution of surface and groundwater with nitrates and pesticides remains a problem of most industrialized countries and will presumably become a growing problem of developing countries. Nitrate pollution is now serious in parts of China and India. The growing global trade with agricultural products and the access to pesticides and fertilizers have changed agricultural systems. Easier transportation and communication has enabled farms to buy their inputs and sell their products further away and in larger quantities and given rise to regions with specialized livestock production and virtual monocultures of e.g. Roundup Ready soybeans in Argentina. Since 1996, the Argentinean area devoted to soybeans has increased remarkably from 6 to 14 million ha, covering approximately 50% of the land devoted to major crops in 2003. Since 1997, Brazilian Amazon has seen a deforestation of more than 17,000 km2 each year with medium or large-scale cattle rangers presumably being the key driving force.
Organic farming offers a potentially more sustainable production but has likewise been affected by globalization. Organic farming is practiced in approximately 100 countries of the world and the area is increasing. European countries have the highest percentage of land under organic management, but vast areas under organic management exist in e.g. Australia and Argentina. Europe and North America represents the major markets for certified organic products, accounting for roughly 97% of global revenues. The international trade with organic products has two major strands: i) trade between European and other Western countries (USA, Australia, New Zealand); and ii) South–North trade, involving production sites, most importantly in Latin America, which ship to major Northern organic markets. The recent development holds the risk of pushing organic farming towards the conventional farming model, with specialization and enlargement of farms, increasing capital intensification and marketing becoming export-oriented rather than local. Furthermore, as the organic products are being processed and packaged to a higher degree and transported long-distance, the environmental effects need to be addressed. Organic farming might offer good prospects for marginalized smallholders to improve their production without relying on external capital and inputs, either in the form of uncertified production for local consumption or certified export to Northern markets. However, in order to create a sustainable trade with organic products focus should be given to issues like trade and economics (Chapters 4 and 5), certification obstacles, and ecological justice and fair trade (Chapters 2 and 3). Furthermore, the implications of certified and non-certified organic farming in developing countries need to be addressed (Chapters 6 and 9) including issues on soil fertility (Chapter 8) and nutrient cycles (Chapter 7) and the contribution to food security (Chapter 10).

EPrint Type:Book chapter
Keywords:agriculture, organic, global, trends, environmental, socio-economic, soybean, beef, eco-localism
Subjects: Environmental aspects
"Organics" in general > History of organics
Food systems
Farming Systems
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF II (2000-2005) > V.1 (SYNERGY) Coordination and synergy
Denmark > DARCOF III (2005-2010) > GLOBALORG - Sustainability of organic farming in a global food chains perspective
Denmark > SOAR - Research School for Organic Agriculture and Food Systems
Related Links:http://ecowiki.org/GlobalPerspective/HomePage
Deposited By: Knudsen, Researcher Marie Trydeman
ID Code:9203
Deposited On:07 Sep 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:34
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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