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Agriculture and Aquaculture in a Changing World by Jaivime Evaristo

Agriculture and Aquaculture in a Changing World by Jaivime Evaristo

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IGEL Student Research Briefs series: Agriculture and Aquaculture in a Changing World by Jaivime Evaristo
IGEL Student Research Briefs series: Agriculture and Aquaculture in a Changing World by Jaivime Evaristo

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 Agriculture and Aquaculture in a Changing World
 Jaivime Evaristo
Like many issues perennially discussed, debated, andconditionally resolved – at least philosophically – in various environmental fora, food policy issues are, tothe say the least, inscrutably complicated. Unlike oth-er issues, however, the food system is not only funda-mentally related to human nutrition and social justice but also has recently come to be considered as a majorsecurity risk (Dyer 2008) on an increasingly globalscale.On the one hand, population growth, changes in con-sumption patterns, the effects of urbanization on thefood system, and the varying patterns of income dis-tribution (Lutz and Samir 2010; Kearney 2010; Sat-terthwaite et al. 2010; and, Cirera & Masset 2010)drive the demand for food that has become morereadily available than probably any time in history (Godfray et al 2010). On the other hand, crop yields,livestock, fisheries and aquaculture production(Jaggard et al 2010; Thornton 2010; Garcia and Ros-enberg 2010; Welcomme et al. 2010; and, Bostock etal 2010), in an ever-evolving fashion, fill the supply side of the equation. The delicate balance betweendemand and supply is also being faced by a number of exogenous factors that threaten to affect the entirefood system: the possible effects of climate change,competition for water, energy and land, and agricul-ture’s dependency on, and provision of, ecosystemservices (Strzepek and Boehlert 2010; Smith et al.2010; Power 2010; Gornall et al 2010; Jaggard et al.2010; and, Woods et al. 2010).The recent 2008 food crisis, for example, provides aglimpse into how rapidly a food security issue couldescalate; readily pushing the hungry and malnour-ished people over the one billion mark (McMichaeland Schneider 2011). There is, therefore, a growingrecognition worldwide that food policy is likely to in-crease in importance in the coming decades (Godfray et al 2010). However, this is not to quickly jump to a blanket resolution of simply developing and pursuingtechnologies that increase the supply of food, sincemany of the issues pervade beyond a straightforwardassessment using classical economics’ demand-supply (D/S) balance. The world rice crisis of 2007/08 is aperfect example of how that, despite sufficient sup-plies of the commodity, a crisis (FAO 2011) of almost
 biblical proportions could still arise. Nevertheless,it is always fundamentally qualified to anchor any analysis on a sound, fact-based D/S balance frame- work. It is on the usefulness of this framework thatthe evidence, premise, and arguments presented inthis paper are predicated. Therefore, as this paperdiscusses the topic agriculture and aquaculture ina changing world, the reader is advised to take onthe lens of this framework to be able to appreciatenot only the complexity of the topic at hand butalso the interconnectedness of a broad range of disciplines involved. In many cases, a third alter-native is proposed whenever giving justice to com-peting interests of parties involved is not possible.For example, achieving higher crop or fish yieldsfrom the same acreage without impacting nega-tively on the environment may require a new way of food production, that is, sustainable intensifica-tion (Royal Society 2009; Godfray et al. 2010).This is a recurring theme in this paper that willshape the overarching spirit of its narrative.Unfortunately, on the grand scheme of issues sur-rounding the food system, much of the policy in-terventions and the science that presumably, andideally, precede them, place a bias on the supply side rather than on the demand side. Thus, in thispaper, industrial-scale terrestrial agriculture andaquaculture will be examined more closely interms of their respective benefits, costs, and envi-ronmental risks. The effects of exogenous factorslike natural disturbances, particularly climatechange, will also be discussed. Finally, given thearguments presented in the preceding sections,some recommendations will be made as to how adeveloping country can minimize risks and envi-ronmental degradation while retaining the ability,
*Author Jaivime Evaristo is a graduate student in Univer-sity of Pennsylvania’s Master of Science in Applied Geosci-ences program. His email is evaristo@sas.upenn.edu.**IGEL is a Wharton-led, Penn-wide initiative to facilitateresearch, events and curriculum on business and the envi-ronment. IGEL Student Research Briefs are written bystudents on relevant issues in business and the environ-ment and do not represent the views of Penn, Wharton or IGEL. Learn more at http:// environment.wharton.upenn.edu
and sovereign responsibility, of feeding its people.
 Agriculture in a changing world
This section discusses the benefits, costs, and envi-ronmental risks of industrial-scale terrestrial agri-culture. Industrial agriculture views the farm as afactory with “inputs” (e.g. pesticides, feed, fertilizer,fuel) and “outputs” (cereal, meat, etc.). Its goal is toincrease yield and decrease costs of production by exploiting economies of scale (UCSUSA 2010).
Barring a peak in the early 1970s, the cost of foodglobally declined from the early 1960s up until2002, since when it has started to establish an up- ward trend (FAO 2011). Figure 1 illustrates this de-clining price trend before 2002, which was a testa-ment to the growth of aggregate agricultural produc-tion – largely due to industrial-scale agriculture as atechnological offshoot of Industrialization (Moore2010) – that outstripped the aggregate demand forfood; this was despite the fact that human popula-tion almost doubled over the same period (Speilmanand Pandya-Lorch 2009). The economies of scaleachieved by an industrial-scale terrestrial agricul-ture, therefore, is its foremost benefit.The benefit of increased yields, due to higher effi-ciency in production, means cheaper food prices andgenerally leads to increased access to food from low-er-income countries. For example, since the 1960s,industrial-scale terrestrial agriculture has been ap-plied to bring about aggregate increases in cerealoutput – the Green Revolution – in less industrial-ized countries like Mexico and India (Woodhouse2010). Another benefit of industrial-scale terrestrialagriculture, although not widely discussed in the lit-erature, is the establishment and growth of ancillary industries, particularly the large, corporate-controlled agrochemical companies (McKenzie2007).
Fig. 2.
Estimating the effects of aggregate agricultural growthon the distribution of expenditures. Income decile 1 refers to thepoorest 10 percent of the population, and so on. Expenditure isused as a proxy for income, as is common in analysis of house-hold survey data. Source: FAO 2011
 Albeit debatable and in recent times a politically-sensitive topic, the growth of “corporate agrochemi-cal companies” may be regarded as a benefit, notonly because of the jobs and other related industriesthat it supports but also because of the privatizationof research and extension activities – effort priori-ties that may not be very high in the agenda of thepublic sector, especially in developing countries. Inaddition, both the latter and the benefits of in-creased yields from industrial-scale terrestrial agri-culture result in greater ability of a producing coun-try to export goods and services. For example,Brazil’s agribusiness export sector controls one-thirdof its GDP (McKenzie 2007). Moreover, surplusesfrom producing countries and/or the economic in-centives to export mean that the changing demandpatterns – increased demand for fish, poultry, andlivestock products in addition to staple caloricsources like rice, wheat, and maize – of more afflu-ent consumers in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America are adequately met and positively rein-forced (Delgado 2003). Production for the interna-tional market, however, requires a complex struc-
Fig. 1.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Food PriceIndex, adjusted for inflation, 1961-2010, calculated using in-ternational prices for cereals, oilseeds, meats, and dairy andsugar products. The official FAO Food Price Index has beencalculated since only 1990; in this figure it has been extended back to 1961 using proxy price information. The indexmeasures movements in international prices, not domesticprices. The United States gross domestic product deflator isused to express the Food Price Index in real rather than nomi-nal terms. Source: FAO (2011)
ture such that only industrial-scale agriculture, in-tensive or semi-intensive, can often meet this re-quirement (Rivera-Ferre 2009). Especially in devel-oping countries, industrial agriculture directed to- wards export markets is being actively promotedand supported by international development andfinancial institutions as a way to obtain foreign ex-change earnings, reimburse external debt, and pro-mote development (Lewis et al 2003; FAO 2006; Armitage 2002). Although this presumed “benefit”is oftentimes debatable (Lipton 1977; Byres 2004),the ability of industrial-scale terrestrial agricultureto generate income for the exporting country andsupport jobs, especially for the poor, is generally ac-cepted (FAO 2011). Figure 2 shows that an increasein agricultural growth has a stronger, more positiveimpact on the income of the poor than does anequivalent increase in non-agricultural growth.
Fig. 3.
Percentage of household budget spent on food by thelowest expenditure quintile of the population. Source: FAO Ru-ral Income Generating Activities project (2011)
Moreover, Figure 3 implies how cheap food pricesfrom industrial-scale terrestrial agriculture benefitespecially the poor since, on a household level, they are the ones who spend an already large majority of their income on food (FAO 2011).Finally, although usually portrayed and perceived ashaving negative environmental impacts, industrial-scale terrestrial agriculture can also produce positiveecosystem services, if managed appropriately, e.g.flood control, wildlife habitats, and carbon seques-tration (Power 2010).
Costs and environmental risks
Costs and environmental risks of industrial-scaleterrestrial agriculture are plenty. Depending on theparty examining these costs and environmentalrisks, varying levels of amplification or simplifica-tion may be observed. In general, industrial-scaleterrestrial agriculture depends on expensive inputsfrom resources off the farm, like pesticides and ferti-lizers; many of which generate wastes that harm theenvironment (Horrigan et al. 2002). According toGhosh (2010), there exists a tight coupling of energy and agriculture markets, which means that risingenergy costs, mainly from fuel and fertilizer prices,have a direct effect on food production costs. Also,since production tends to be concentrated, there is apossibility for a grand agricultural scheme to driveout small producers and undermine communities,thereby, raising a social justice issue (Weis 2010).The following are the environmental risks and costscommonly associated with industrial-scale terrestri-al agriculture (Woodhouse 2010):
Soil compaction through excessive use of ma-chinery 
Contamination of groundwater and surfacedrainage with fertilizer (phosphates and ni-trates) and pesticide residues
Reduction in ecological biodiversity (including,as a consequence, increased vulnerability to croppests)
High rates of greenhouse gas emissions due topetroleum consumption (as fuel and in fertilizermanufacture) as well as from land clearance forfood production
In arid climates, depleted groundwater and sali-nization in soils where drainage is inadequate(Mollinga 2010)In addition, industrial-scale terrestrial agriculturerequires huge capital investment for the purchase of machinery and agrochemical inputs. As this favorsfarmers who have access to capital, it tends to mar-ginalize small producers not only in terms of output, which tends to be generally more competitively priced, but also in terms of control of land and wa-ter. As Griffin et al. (2002) point out, this is an issuethat has provided the basis for arguments in favor of redistributive land reform. Another drawback to industrial-scale terrestrial ag-riculture, which has overlapping ecological and socio-economic costs, is land conversion. Although rela-tively little new land has been brought into agricul-ture over the last 50 years – notwithstanding themajor biodiversity impacts and social costs that thismodest conversion brings with it – a surge in energy prices could increase the pressure to convert new land to agriculture (Woods et al. 2010). As Godfray 

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