Nature = Food Part 1: Agriculture

• Nature is the ultimate source of all food consumed by humans • Some of this food is recognizable (unprocessed vegetables and meats), while some is not (Twinkies are a good example!) • Some of the food is wild caught/harvested, while the rest is produced (cultured) for us via agriculture and aquaculture

Modern Food Supply
• World food supplies have more than kept up with human population growth over the past two centuries. – 1950 - 2.5 billion people - average daily diet was less than 2,000 calories/person. – 2001- 6.0 billion people - world food supply can provide more than 2,500 calories/person. – 2007 Currently, more than 4,000 calories of food are made per day for each American • Of course, food is more than calories and there is mounting evidence that the Western diet is full of empty calories and lacks important nutritional components (‘Unhappy meals’)

Modern Food Supply
• The most common dietary problem in wealthy countries is over-nutrition. – In North America and Europe, average daily per capita caloric intake is 3,500 calories. – Leading to serious medical problems associated with obesity (for example, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure) • Sub-Saharan Africa has not kept food production up to pace of population growth
– As a consequence they depend on foreign nations and aid organizations to provide food assistance

• Collapse of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe led to significant collapse in food production. • An overweight world diagram

Modern Food Supply
• Food security - the ability to obtain sufficient food on a daily basis • About 1 in 5 people in the developing world are considered chronically hungry. – 200 million children • Can lead to permanently stunted growth, mental retardation, and other developmental disorders. – Poverty is the greatest threat to food security

Food as nutrients
• Macronutrients – nutrients that are required in large quantities – Carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins – Water • Micronutrients – nutrients that are required in small quantities (and larger quantities can be toxic) – Vitamins and minerals • Essential nutrients – nutrients that cannot be made in an organism (biochemically) and are therefore necessary components of the organisms diet
– Omega fatty acids

• The foods we eat are essentially combinations of nutrients, essential nutrients, and energy

Food as nutrients
• • Malnourishment - nutritional imbalance caused by a lack of specific dietary components Protein Deficiency Disorders – Kwashiorkor - “Displaced Child” - Occurs mainly in children whose diet lacks high-quality protein. • Reddish-orange hair, bloated stomach – Marasmus - “To Waste Away” - Caused by a diet low in both protein and calories. • Very thin, shriveled

Food as nutrients
• Iron deficiency – The most common dietary imbalance in the world. – Leads to anemia. • Increases risk of death from hemorrhage in childbirth and affects development. – Sources of iron: red meat, eggs, legumes, and green vegetables

• Biologists estimate that there are roughly 30,000 plant species with parts that humans can eat • Majority of our food supply (90%) is derived from only 15 plant and 8 animal species • Three grains, wheat, rice, and corn, provide almost half of the calories consumed by people
– These three species are all annual plants

• 2 out of 3 people on Earth survive primarily on grains • Two major types of agricultural systems: – Industrialized – Traditional (practiced by roughly half of the world’s population)

Industrialized Agriculture
• Also referred to as high-input agriculture • Requires large amounts of energy, water, fertilizers, antibiotics, and pesticides; three of which come from fossil fuels • Produce huge output of single crops (monocultures) or livestock (which are often fed monoculture products) • Accounts for roughly 25% of the world’s cropland • Mostly in developed countries, but it is spreading into developing nations

Plantation Agriculture
• Form of industrialized agriculture practiced primarily in tropical developing countries • Cash crops, such as bananas, coffee, and cacao (chocolate and cocoa butter) • Grown for sale in developed countries

Traditional Agriculture
• Traditional Subsistence Agriculture – Only enough crops and livestock are produce to support a farm family – In good years surpluses might be sold for cash, trade, and store – Variety of different forms of subsistence agriculture: • Shifting cultivation and nomadic livestock herding are example • Traditional Intensive Agriculture – Increased inputs of labor (human and animal), fertilizer, and water – Increased outputs of crops and livestock, which are available for sale

Green Revolutions
• Green Revolution – systematic application of new technology to improve crop yields – Three steps involved: • Developing and planting monocultures of selectively bred or genetically-engineered highyield varieties of crops; emphasis placed on plant growth instead of seed growth and development • Use of large quantities of fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, and water to increase yield • Increase frequency and intensity of cropping (more crops per year and increased acreage) – Two recognized green revolutions: • 1950-1970 developed world • 1970 – current developing world

Why Livestock?
• One of the principal uses of animals in agriculture is to transform plant material into high-quality protein ( Protein conversions) • In traditional agriculture, livestock graze land, taking nutrients in and then they defecate and return some of the nutrients to the same field • In industrial agriculture, livestock are fed grains (corn particularly, which they are not “designed” to do) and not necessarily in a field, so the manure does not fertilize a field • Per capita meat consumption has increased 29% between 1950 and 1996 • 1/5th of the world’s population consume roughly half of the world’s grain production through livestock

Organic Revolution
• Began in the mid-1900s in response to growth of industrial agriculture • Focus placed back on soil fertility and sustainability – No inorganic fertilizers or pesticides used – Organic fertilizers (i.e., manure, compost, peat, etc) and “natural” pesticides are used (i.e., soaps, plant derived pesticides, etc.) – No antibiotics added to animal feed – Reduced amounts of fossil fuels; smaller in scale so less demand/need for fossil fuels – Animals and plants lead a more natural life • Boom in “organic” foods has led to modern industrial organic revolution – Reversing some of the trends of the initial organic revolution – Better than contemporary, non-organic industrial agriculture, but there are naysayers.

Benefits of Traditional Methods
• In stark contrast to monocultures, many traditional agricultural methods involve interplanting – Interplanting – simultaneously growing several crops on the same plot • Types of interplanting – Polyvarietal cultivation – several varieties of the same crop – Intercropping – two or more different crops are grown in the same plot (grain plus legume) – Agroforestry – mixed crop and shrub/forest farms; shrubs/trees provide nitrogen or firewood – Polyculture – most complex form of interplanting with many different types of plants and animals growing together • Studies have shown this method to produces/maintains the soil ecosystem and produces higher yields (higher than monocultures)

The problems with/caused by modern agriculture
• Agriculture, particularly the industrialized forms, has a profound and significant negative impact on air, soil, water, and biodiversity resources • Humans and human health is also negatively impacted • Negative aspects of cost the US $150-200 billion per year (Pimentel estimate), a cost which is not reflected in the actual cost of food • What are the specific negative impacts and their costs?

The problems with/caused by modern agriculture
• Biodiversity loss – Loss of habitat through conversion of grasslands and forests along with wetland draining – Fish kills from agricultural runoff – Extermination of predators – Loss of genetic diversity due to monocultures – Genetic pollution from bioengineered or selectively bred organisms that “escape” and interbreed with native species – Spread of diseases from agroecosystems to natural ecosystems

The problems with/caused by modern agriculture
• Soil – Loss of soil fertility – Salinization of soil – Waterlogging – Desertification – Soil loss through erosion

The problems with/caused by modern agriculture
• Air – Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use – Other air pollutants from fossil fuel use – Air pollution from pesticide sprays – Toxic odors from livestock waste (manures and their associated smells)

The problems with/caused by modern agriculture
• Water – Aquifer depletion – Increased runoff, due to land clearing and plowing – Sediment pollution from runoff – Fish kills from pesticide runoff – Surface and groundwater pollution from pesticides, antibiotics, and fertilizers – Over-fertilization of lakes, rivers, and coastal ocean from fertilizers, livestock wastes, and food processing wastes

The problems with/caused by modern agriculture
• Human Health – Nitrates in drinking water – Pesticide contamination of foods, drinking water, and air (all have significant and measurable concentrations) – Contamination of drinking water with diseases from livestock – Bacterial contamination of meat and produce

Overweight world

Protein making machine efficiency
Animal Beef cattle Pigs Chicken Fish (catfish or carp) Kilograms of grain required per kilogram of body weight 7 4 2.2 2