To what extent do farmers help people

The age of industry

Industrial agriculture produces abundant cheap food, but has largely destroyed peasant agriculture in rich countries and forced poor countries into an unjust trading system; it is highly dependent on cheap fossil fuels, consumes and pollutes enormous amounts of water, destroys soils and changes the earth's nitrogen and phosphate cycle.

Wheat cultivation in the USA: huge monocultures that are easy to work mechanically are a hallmark of industrialized agriculture. Photo: Victor Szalvay, from wikipedia, >> Agriculture (accessed May 10, 2010), License: >> c.c 2.0 US-American

Continued from: >> From farmer to industrial agriculture

(Headline of an article in Stern 22/2010 about meat production in Germany)

In June 2010, Stiftung Warentest took stock of 85 food tests since 2002, conventional foods are more often contaminated with pesticides than organically grown foods, and organic producers have been “much further” in their commitment to people and the environment. The Stiftung Warentest could not prove that organic foods are richer in bioactive substances, as supporters of organic agriculture believe. Here, however, less processed foods are significantly better than more elaborately processed, native oils compared to refined oils, for example. The differences in meat are even clearer: not only the ethical problems of factory farming (>> here), but also the meat quality speak in favor of meat from farms, and ideally in organic quality. Otherwise meat from Germany means “about as much as made in China for toys - junk” - “if it were wine, we would only drink Pennerglück” (the “star” in the above article). Despite the massive use of antibiotics, factory farming and industrial meat processing also increase the risk of food and new diseases: For example, we owe the bloody diarrhea strain O157: H7 of the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli to factory farming (>> more), and the danger of bird flu jumping over to humans is significantly increased (>> more).

The division of labor began with the industrialization of agriculture: artificial fertilizers were produced in industries, seeds were produced by large seed companies, slaughtered in slaughterhouses, and plants were increasingly used for industrial processing. Agriculture was the loser because land, the most expensive means of production, could not simply be shut down, while a factory could lay off its workers when they were not needed. Only those farmers could survive who could divide their fixed costs into the highest possible yield; The traditional rural agriculture, which still kept its own seeds, fertilized the fields with the dung of the animals and had their grain ground on site, was displaced. The rationalization of agriculture also included the expansion of the farms. In 1950 there were over 2 million businesses in Germany, and a quarter of all employees worked in agriculture. Today there are still 366,000 businesses, many of which are also run on a sideline basis; 2.3 percent of employees are still working in agriculture101 .. But eight percent of all farms are larger than 100 hectares and cultivate half of the agricultural area in Germany; four percent of the cattle farms keep 26 percent of the dairy herd and 3 percent of the farms 29 percent of the pig herd. (Based on the history of collectivization, the farms in East Germany are also larger than those in West Germany.) In 1950 a farmer fed 10 people, today he feeds 127 people.

The consequences of the death of farmers

This development was accompanied by a weakening of the rural area, which lost economic power with the jobs and then educational institutions, offices, services and finally the people - up to "dying villages". It is true that rural agriculture was always upheld in Sunday speeches, and many farmers resisted the trend and tried to survive with regional marketing (farm sales and “farmers' markets”) and ideas such as “farm holidays”; a contrary trend - among other things a result of the agricultural turnaround under Renate Künast - only established itself with organic farming, which now comprises 4.5 percent of the agricultural area. Business sizes and specialization are smaller here, and trade takes place predominantly in the region (although here, too, increasing intensification can be observed - the discounters' interest in organic goods has its price). Regional quality seals and the maintenance of the cultural landscape within the framework of agri-environmental programs also represent promising developments; an opportunity could also be the increasing use of bioenergy, “bioenergy villages” like Jühnde in Lower Saxony are forerunners here.

In any case, we shouldn't be indifferent to the development of rural areas, because a future society, whose energy consumption has to be reduced significantly (see for example >> here), needs sustainable land management and regional added value.

The successes of industrial agriculture meant that the producing countries were able to export more and more agricultural products and, in addition, pushed for free access to the markets of other countries. The British economist had its theoretical justification at the beginning of the 19th century David Ricardo with his Theory of comparative cost advantages Created: According to this, a country should not strive for self-sufficiency, but rather produce those products for the market for which it has lower production costs than other countries - if it sells these, it can buy more of other things it needs on the market than it produces itself could; So overall wins in the deal. The UK, dependent on food imports, believed in this theory; exporters were initially skeptical, knowing that agriculture, with its dependence on weather conditions in free markets, was exposed to extreme price fluctuations. It was not for nothing that the USA under Roosevelt had guaranteed its farmers minimum prices in order to protect small farmers from these fluctuations. However, these minimum prices led to increased production regardless of demand; and in order to get rid of this, the US exported to the countries of Asia and Latin America, where there was a demand. In these markets, however, American grain was not competitive without subsidies, and when the United States could no longer afford these subsidies in the 1960s in the wake of the Vietnam War and a budget crisis, the restructuring was carried out under Richard Nixon's Agriculture Minister Earl Butz American agriculture with the aim of global competitiveness and, on the other hand, global support for the free market. But when prices began to drop significantly, politicians from the agricultural regions pulled the rip cord: From then on, American farmers received the price difference between production costs and world market prices as a “compensation payment”. In 2005, they were about $ 20 billion, or 22 percent of the average farmer's income. Others went the same way, and paid even more: in Europe, subsidies in 2000 were 37 percent of the average farmer's income, and in Japan it was over 50 percent.

In order to protect their own farms from destruction by the subsidized products from the USA and Europe, many states tried to protect their markets with taxes and tariffs on imported products. However, this policy failed at the latest in the 1980s: In the wake of the Latin American debt crisis (which began when Mexico stopped paying its foreign debts in 1982), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund demanded economic reforms known as the Washington Consensus as a prerequisite for debt restructuring and demanded, among other things, the opening of the markets to foreign suppliers. Foreign direct investment has also been made easier; and so the large agricultural companies from the industrialized countries invested in numerous countries that have now also become global players: In Brazil American corporations such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland as well as Chinese investors invested in farms, storage and loading facilities, ports and other infrastructure - the country is now the world's largest exporter of soybeans, as well as of sugar and coffee; and is a major exporter of chicken and beef. Meanwhile, Brazil could deliver chicken meat to the US more cheaply than they could produce it themselves - which is why the US protects its farmers with import tariffs; and yet America's food trade balance is now negative - the country imports more than it exports. The role of the USA as the most important agricultural exporter seems to be coming to an end, the axis Argentina / Brazil to India / China will probably be more important in the future. Particularly problematic here: The Expansion of the cultivation areas in the tropics In the last few decades it often extends into the tropical rainforests: They fall in Brazil for soy cultivation - in tropical regions, cultivation is possible all year round - and recently also in Asia to make room for palm oil plantations, which are used for the production of biofuels can be used (more on this >> here).

The big winners of this development are the large corporations in the agribusiness. Five companies control three quarters of the world’s trade in seeds, while three companies control 48% of the world’s grain trade. The ten largest supermarket chains in the world have a combined turnover that corresponds to the total African gross domestic product. Previously self-employed farmers have often become a dependent component of this international agrobusiness. This development raises many questions about the justification for this development - some critics of globalization believe that even lending to the Latin American countries was a long-term conspiracy with access to these markets -; More important is the question of how agriculture in the newly opened countries can be protected from the greatest social and ecological side effects for which the market is blind (>> here). American and other livestock keepers, for example, also go to Brazil because there are no laws there to deal with the manure produced. For this purpose, specifications could be built into the rules of the World Trade Organization; but this would require better public awareness in the industrialized countries. The other question is more fundamental: Should a country's food supply really be dependent on international trade and, for example, be subject to political pressure from other countries?

Agriculture in "developing countries"

Although more food is being produced on earth than ever before in history, and this would be more than sufficient to feed all people, around 800 million people are starving and another billion are malnourished (>> here). Why this is so is one of the most controversial questions in the world food discussion. The export orientation and ownership structure from the colonial era have a share: in Latin America 1.5 percent of farmers own two thirds of the land, in Africa three quarters of the farmers work on 4 percent of the land. In the industrialized countries this was sometimes seen as an opportunity: building on Ricardo's theory of comparative advantages, the countries should focus on cultivation for export or industrialization and import their food. Others, such as the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, are committed to modernizing agriculture and the >> "Green Revolution".

Example Kenya: Kenya has a two-tier agriculture. In the days of the British, coffee, tea and pineapples were grown here for export, and there are still several hundred large export operations today. There are also around 10 million smallholders who mostly grow maize and sorghum and keep chickens and goats. When the green revolution came to Kenya, productivity initially grew by 4 percent a year, the same as in Asia. In Asia, however, this increase continued; Kenya's productivity had fallen back to the level of the 1960s at the end of the 1980s. The reasons were, on the one hand, corrupt governments that manipulated prices for their own good, and on the other hand, the fact that the seeds of the green revolution were not adapted to the conditions in Africa: the plants did not need a lot of the water that was available in Asia but everywhere in Africa - 85 percent of arable land depends on rainwater, and Kenya's problems began with a drought in 1984. Hybrid seeds also have to be constantly bought, something that African smallholders, where credit systems lacked, could not afford. Fertilizers had to be used on an ever larger scale just to keep the yield (this is probably due to the fact that their use destroys the organic matter in the soil, making it harder for them to hold water and minerals). Then when fertilizer prices rose in the wake of the 1979 oil crisis and the governments of industrialized countries were no longer willing to subsidize fertilizers (the free market supporters, who pointed out that these subsidies prevented the emergence of a local fertilizer industry, had - probably also under the impact of increasing spending on energy and the frustration of corruption in recipient countries - enforced), the Green Revolution in Kenya collapsed.

In places where, as in Asia, the Green Revolution has established itself, it has in some cases doubled yields; according to some estimates, up to 700 million people owe their food to the Green Revolution. But there was also a price for this: in many of these areas, for example in the Punjab, the Indian bread basket, in which 20 percent of Indian wheat and 12 percent of Indian rice are produced on 1.5 percent of India's surface, the groundwater has sunk today and contaminated with pesticides. In India the government is trying to solve the problems with the construction of water treatment plants.But numerous farmers have also become so indebted for seeds, fertilizers and pesticides that many saw suicide as the only way out - estimates range up to 60,000 suicides for the years 1988 to 2006.

In the countries where the Green Revolution failed, the donor countries relied on the cultivation of Export goodsif they even took care of the agriculture. In Kenya, after the Brazilian coffee plantations were damaged by the cold in the early 1990s, they turned to growing coffee. Vietnam did, however, and the Vietnamese Robusta coffee was worse than the Kenyan Arabica coffee - but cheaper. Big deal therefore went to Vietnam, which overtook Colombia as the second largest coffee producer (after Brazil) in 2000. The oversupply led to falling prices, and since coffee is not price elastic (according to the theory of economists, falling prices should lead to rising consumption and this again to rising prices; coffee drinkers, however, usually no longer drink when coffee becomes cheaper) and also the oversupply cannot simply be reduced (the trees that are expensively brought to production maturity continue to produce), prices remained permanently low. This situation is typical of many export crops, and free market supporters see this as a natural process whereby the weaker suppliers go out of business. The American aid organization U.S. However, AID has determined that the coffee crisis alone cost half a million people their jobs; People who were subsequently often poached in Africa "bush meat"Hunted or in Central and South America devoted to cocaine cultivation - this price does not see the free market.

In Kenya, exporters are now relying on high-quality fresh fruit and vegetables, such as green beans, baby corn and baby carrots. However, this cultivation is firmly integrated into the global trading system and therefore suffers from the price pressure of the trade and increasing quality requirements that small farmers cannot meet. In particular, however, the sector is suffering from rising fuel costs (the goods are transported by air), which in turn calls its future into question.

The smallholders have also suffered particularly from the practice of the industrialized countries to export their surplus production supported by guaranteed prices (with further subsidies called "export refunds") to developing countries. Even today, the chicken carcasses and wings that we don't want to eat end up in West Africa - and generate prices that drive local producers bankrupt. Sometimes the policy - based on the European and American model - is carried out by the states themselves, for example in India, which also subsidized agricultural producer prices. As in Europe, this increased productivity - unlike in Europe, however, hunger also increased, since small farmers benefited less from the subsidies than large farmers, but in India they did not find work in industry and services as they did in Europe. In addition, smallholders in particular, who often have no or poorly secured land titles, suffer from the as Land grabbing known practice of selling agricultural land to large companies from other countries (leading here: China and the Gulf States) - in the hope that they will increase production (and bring foreign currency into the country). Experts are now backing to support smallholders, because they suffer particularly from hunger in the world, see the following box.

The hunger in the world

Are worldwide around 800 million people are undernourished; 20,000 people starve to death every day. Another billion people suffer from “silent hunger”in which the amount of food is sufficient, but important nutrients such as iron, zinc or vitamin A are missing. Most of the time, hunger is only due to a lack of food in crisis regions. Many starving countries are food exporters. In 1943, three million people died of starvation in Bengal, Britain, while the police and army protected full shops; during the famine in Ethiopia in 1972-74, the country exported food. Even today people in many countries go hungry mainly because their own harvest is not enough for the whole year or a balanced diet and they have no money to buy what is missing. 70 percent of the hungry are farmers, and they are among the approximately 1.1 billion people on earth who live on less than a dollar a day.

In 2000, the international community promised in the Millennium Development Goals to halve the proportion of starving people in the total population by 2015. This goal was not achieved in almost half of the countries. In the meantime, there have been setbacks, in particular due to rising prices for staple foods, which led to unrest in many countries - in early 2007 in Mexico, in 2008 in Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Egypt, Haiti - and, according to the World Bank, in a further 29 countries ...

To help smallholder farmers, international organizations such as the World Food Organization (FAO) are back on agriculture: that the share of agriculture in development aid has steadily declined (from 6.2 billion dollars in 1982 to 2.3 billion dollars in 2002; in In 2006 it was just three percent) is heavily criticized by FAO boss Jacques Diouf (>> here - interview in ZEITonline). A turning away from the ideology of the free market can also be observed, as it is clear that small farmers from developing countries have no chance here against subsidized agriculture from industrialized countries, which also benefits from an excellent infrastructure: The FAO, for example, relies on protected, local markets on which smallholders can sell their surplus (see e.g. >> World Agricultural Report 2008). For this, the local infrastructure must also be improved - that is, storage facilities must be created and roads and railways built so that the harvest does not spoil and reach the markets. What the smallholders should grow, however, is controversial: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, relies on seeds that are adapted to the conditions in Africa through genetic manipulation; others warn that doing so risks repeating the mistakes of the green revolution and that work should therefore focus on improving soil quality. Sustainable agriculture in particular can even generate higher yields on small areas than industrial agriculture (more on this >> here), and is therefore ideal for smallholders in developing countries.

That the poor countries succeed in the fight against hunger is not only a moral must in a world in which there is actually enough to eat, but is also in our own interest: In a globalized world, hunger will not increase without it we feel this too.

Dependence on fossil fuels

The increase in yields in industrialized agriculture was mainly due to a massive increase in inputs (fertilizers, use of machines). However, this and the globalization of agriculture also meant that agriculture today is just as dependent on cheap oil and gas (for fuel and for the production of fertilizers) as the rest of industrial society; in industrial agriculture today, 1.6 calories (250) are expended per calorie of food energy generated (in traditional, non-mechanized agriculture at least 10 calories per calorie expended); until the food is on our table, more than 6 calories per calorie of food energy are added for transport, processing, packaging, sales, storage and preparation (250). The end of cheap oil (>> more) endangers the sustainability of agriculture as it is practiced today; and agriculture contributes significantly to climate change (more >> here).

Since the increase in inputs no longer brings an increase in yields, the productivity of agriculture increases more and more slowly; now it is below the population growth. Grain stocks have been shrinking since 1999 as consumption grows faster than production. The use as a raw material for biofuels also contributes to the increasing consumption (>> more). Representatives of conventional agriculture see further possibilities for increasing production, especially in the use of green genetic engineering (>> more).

Soil destruction

The removal of the natural vegetation cover, if it is not replaced by vegetation of the same quality, increases >> soil erosion. In human history there has been three episodes of erosion: With the expansion of agriculture from the river valleys into former forest areas, with the repopulation of large areas of land as a result of European emigration after 1840, and since the 1950s with the deforestation of tropical rainforests in favor of agriculture (>> more). The latter happens in particular in favor of cattle husbandry - be it that the rainforest becomes pastureland, or that soy is grown as fodder. In poor countries, there is also the fact that hunger drives small farmers to plow unsuitable areas on steep slopes.

This soil erosion can also be reduced in conventional agriculture with modern, soil-conserving cultivation methods, but around 10 million hectares of agricultural soil are still lost every year (1100) - that is much more than can be newly formed. In addition, many agricultural soils contain fewer and fewer organic components, which in healthy soil contain just as much water and nutrients as the mineral components - their proportion decreases because organic material such as manure as fertilizer is replaced by artificial fertilizers (more:> > The destruction of the soil).

Intervention in the global nitrogen, phosphate and potassium cycles

The use of artificial fertilizers interferes with the global nitrogen, phosphate and potassium cycles, the consequences of which nobody can estimate. Around 1990 the production of nitrogen fertilizers (the most important technical contribution to nitrogen formation) and the formation of nitrogen in combustion processes (>> here) exceeded the binding of nitrogen from the air through natural processes; the nitrogen cycle has been dominated by humans ever since. Animal husbandry alone causes 65 percent of this: Since the production of liquid manure is no longer bound to land in factory farming, it is also concentrated in certain regions where the soil has long been unable to absorb the resulting quantities. Most of the fattening systems do not yet have wastewater treatment, and so a large part ends up in the overburdened fields and nitrate and phosphorus from there into the groundwater. In the phosphate cycle, the technical contribution now exceeds the natural amount by ten times. Since most of the fertilizers applied do not reach their actual target, the cultivated plants, these two substance flows in particular contribute significantly to water pollution, be it from groundwater, water in rivers and lakes or seawater (>> more), and to climate change (through the formation of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, >> here). On the mainland, fertilization favors those plant species that get along well with the nutrients - also in the fields. This reduces the diversity of our food - and the genetic basis for further breeding (see the following section).

Decline in biodiversity

The conversion of forests and wetlands, which already destroyed natural ecosystems through traditional agriculture (>> more), increased again through the use of machines. Most of the 15 million square kilometers of arable land on earth was previously forests: 8 million square kilometers of temperate forests, 2 million square kilometers of tropical forests, and 1 million square kilometers of boreal coniferous forest have been converted to arable land; most of the rest were once grasslands (such as the prairies of the United States). The wetlands, around half of which have been drained worldwide, were also particularly hard hit. Today's Everglades in Florida, for example, are only a remnant of the former wetlands, which were drained mainly for sugar cane cultivation. Forests have also been turned into pastureland - the green pastures of Ireland or New Zealand were once woodlands. Today, the destruction of natural habitats continues, especially in the tropical rainforests (>> more) - overall, the destruction of natural habitats in favor of agriculture is the most important driving force behind the decline in biological diversity (>> more).

Loss of genetic diversity in crops

But agriculture itself also suffers from a loss of biological diversity: With industrial agriculture, there was also a concentration on a few, particularly high-yielding crops. Half of the world's food is now provided by wheat, rice and maize; twelve plant species make up 80 percent of the harvest. Even within these species, the diversity is declining: Instead of the diversity of numerous (many thousands), each adapted to the special local conditions, a few high-yielding varieties dominate the fields today, and not only genetic diversity is lost, but also the centuries-old experience with their breeding and with their cultivation. The nutrition of mankind is thus becoming more and more dependent on a few high-yielding varieties, but the limited genetic diversity makes the high-yielding species more and more susceptible to pathogens and to environmental changes such as climate change. For example, the potato rot in 1845 was only able to destroy the Irish potato harvest to such an extent because predominantly a single variety was cultivated, and at the moment plant breeders and agronomists are almost desperately looking for a type of wheat that can withstand a rapidly spreading, particularly aggressive variant (Ug99) of the grain rust is resistant. Seed stores such as the “Svalbard Global Seed Vault” located in Norway should help against the loss of genetic diversity in cultivated plants; pure storage can, however, replace further development by local farmers and their know-how.

Industrial agriculture promotes monocultures (easier to machine). These are a paradise for pests, which in turn are fought with chemical means:

Environmental damage and poisoning from pesticides

Pesticides were used because of their poisonous effect on plant pests, and it soon turned out that they also acted on other living things. For example, DDT led to the heraldic bird, the bald eagle, being threatened with extinction in the USA (>> more). In Central America performed in the 1970s and 80s DBCP (Dibromochloropropane, an anti-worm remedy) caused 30,000 workers on Dole Food Company's banana plantations to become sterile. (The drug was also used there after the sterility side effect of workers in the manufacture of DBCP had long been known.)

In Germany alone, over 30,000 tons of chemical pesticides (also known as pesticides or pesticides; mainly weed killers and agents for combating mold) are used and over 100,000 tons are produced. In developing countries, poisonous pesticides, which have long been banned in the USA or Europe, are often sprayed without protective clothing and masks. In 1990, the World Health Organization estimated that three million people are poisoned by pesticides every year. Pesticides accumulate in various food chains (that is, their concentration increases from level to level (>> here)), right up to humans. Pesticides deplete the flora and fauna in the soil; and traces of pesticides can be found again and again in groundwater and in food. Even in low concentrations, pesticides can cause cancer and affect the nervous system; some pesticides also act like hormones and can therefore affect fertility and behavior. (Organic food is significantly less contaminated with pesticides, see >> above)).

Enormous water consumption

By irrigation, agriculture is the by far the most important water consumer worldwide - 69 percent of the water goes into agriculture (more on this >> here). Almost all major hydraulic engineering projects that have changed the face of the earth (more on this: >> Water use) also served to supply water to agriculture. Another source of water for agriculture is groundwater, which is often overexploited in agricultural regions (more on this >> here); in many regions of India and China, for example, the water table is falling continuously. According to estimates by the American author Lester R. Brown, around ten percent of global wheat production is based on overuse of groundwater. Brown therefore speaks of a "bubble economy", a kind of food production that is artificially boosted by overusing water and comparable to a stock market bubble.

Further information on this topic: Page >> Water use by humans

Climate change

With its carbon dioxide and methane emissions, industrialized agriculture also contributes to >> climate change. Animal husbandry plays a particularly large part in this: Rainforests are cut down, especially for cattle husbandry, the greenhouse gas methane escapes from cattle stomachs, as well as from rice fields under water. Overall, agriculture accounts for 18 percent of climate change, almost as much as the United States. In addition, the global interdependence of agriculture reduces the environmental impact Long-distance transportfor animal feed, for example, but also for products.

Over 40 percent of organic production ...

... the earth is used by humans. Peter Vitousek and colleagues first researched and published this value in 1986; In 2001, the American biologist Stuart Pimm followed up the investigation and wrote an entire >> book about it. The biological production on the mainland amounts to 120 to 130 billion tons of biomass per year (>> here); We eat about a billion tons of it directly. (You can understand this for yourself: a person needs an average of 2,500 calories per day, the energy content of 500 grams of biomass. So: 0.5 kilograms x 365 days x 6.6 billion people = 1.2 billion tons of biomass. Eat a sixth we in the form of meat (in 2000, according to the World Food Organization FAO) remain 1 billion tons of plants - that is, one percent of global biomass production.

Meat costs even more biomass; our livestock eat more green stuff than we do: in 2000 they consumed around 2 billion tons of biomass. This sixth of our food uses twice as much biomass as the other five sixths - we therefore eat a total of 3 billion tons of biomass. But that's not the whole truth, because a large part of the plants used for food are lost - arable land is produced 26 billion tons of biomass a year. The total use of biomass on pastureland is 17 billion tons of biomass a year: This includes the fact that around half of today's pasture land once housed more productive ecosystems (such as tropical forests), and in some regions overgrazing led to desertification.

Then there are the plants that we do not eat but consume directly: 1 billion tons of wood from forestry and 1 billion tons of firewood per year (although the amount of firewood is inaccurately recorded, it can also be significantly more). Sub-total: 5 billion tons. (Here, too, the picture is incomplete: Forest use and forestry in temperate zones, taking into account the losses, correspond to a total of 3.75 billion tons of biomass use per year, together with the use of firewood we use a total of almost 5 billion tons of wood production Biomass lost every year to the burning of tropical forests: 9 billion tons of biomass. So our use of wood production is 14 billion tons of biomass a year.

And finally, it is important to take into account the ecosystems that have been completely withdrawn from use due to development (houses, streets, parking lots, ...): Here we go again 3 billion tons of biomass a year lost. So this rough calculation comes to a A total of 60 billion tons of biomass per yearthat is used by humans (including 14 billion tons, the other use of which is prevented by humans through conversion to pasture land and through overbuilding, and with which global production would amount to 134-144 billion tons of biomass).

And in the seas?

The 100 million tons of fish we eat each year seem almost negligible here at 25 million tons of dry matter. But this is not the case: Since fish contain more biological production due to the longer food chains in the sea, this proportion also makes up 25 to 30 percent of total production in the productive marine areas. This use represents a severe impairment of the marine ecosystem (>> Overfishing of the world's oceans).

Agriculture is on the one hand the cause, but on the other hand it also suffers from environmental changes. Agriculture will be among those most under the Climate change suffer (>> here), and she suffers from the Conversion of farmland for expansion of cities, factories and transport routes. The increasing urbanization of the world population (>> here) means that the farms that once supplied the cities have now disappeared due to the growth of the cities - and since cities have mostly emerged where there was fertile soil, that is too here overbuilt soil is usually particularly fertile. Even with the settlement of industrial areas and the construction of roads and railway lines, the quality of the built-up soil is usually not a criterion for the choice of location and route. Japan shows the influence the construction of houses, factories and roads can have on agriculture: in 1965 the self-sufficiency rate with food was 73 percent; today it is 40 percent. Other countries with a high degree of industrialization also have less and less land for agriculture and are increasingly dependent on agricultural imports, such as Taiwan and South Korea. In the future, this development also threatens the giant countries of India and China. In China, between 7 and 20 percent of the arable land could fall victim to the construction boom by 2030, calculated the McKinsey Global Institute (see also >> here)). Some populous countries such as China, Japan and Korea and many rich oil states are now starting to buy land in developing countries - the government of Madagascar even toppled in early 2009 when the Korean group Daewoo Logistics tried to lease 13,000 square kilometers of arable land in Madagascar. (Investors are now also buying farmland on a large scale - a clear indication that the global struggles for farmland will intensify.)

The practices of agriculture are already unsustainable where they “only” have to feed 7 billion people; In the future, however, over 9 billion people are expected to live on earth (>> here). At the same time the oil is running out (>> here), which drives the tractors, combine harvesters and pumps of the irrigation systems and from and with which the artificial fertilizers are produced; too much water is already being consumed for irrigation, so that the groundwater level is falling (>> here) and a decrease in reserves, and no increase that is actually necessary is to be expected; and will climate change exacerbate dry seasons and floods (>> here). Supplying over 9 billion people will definitely be a challenge, and today's agriculture is extremely ill-equipped to deal with it. But there are ways to sustainable agriculture that offers better opportunities; More on this under >> Healthy food for everyone.

Continue with:

Strategies for the future: >> Healthy food for everyone

The consequences of industrialization for the earth's ecosystem:
>> The population of the earth
>> Raw materials
>> floors
>> Water use
>> Water pollution
>> Air pollution
>> Climate change
>> Endangering biodiversity

Back to:

>> Overview: The Age of Industry

© Jürgen 2006 - 2015

The consequences of industrial agriculture in brief:

Most severe direct environmental changes: - Changes in the
Nitrogen cycle
(>> more)
- land use and
Soil destruction
(>> more)
- changes in the
Phosphorus cycle
(>> more)

Link with other environmental changes: - Loss on
Biodiversity (>> here) - water consumption
(>> here)
- water pollution
(>> here))
- climate change
(>> here)

About land grabbing currently in the cinema: >> Land grabbing

The “official” number of people going hungry is published every year by the FAO in its World Food Report ("The State of Food Insecurity in the World") detected, 795 million people currently according to the 2015 report. Most of them live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The share of agriculture in primary energy consumption in Germany (>> here) is estimated at 4 to 5 percent, that is per person 5 to 6 kWh / day. This includes the production of artificial fertilizers, but not the amount of energy that is imported in the form of soy or concentrated feed. David MacKay (>> here) therefore estimates the total energy consumption of industrial agriculture per inhabitant to 15 kWh / day.

In the production of nitrogen fertilizers is natural gas also a raw material from which the hydrogen for the production of ammonia, an intermediate stage, is obtained.

The EU Commission has been running an infringement procedure against Germany since 2013 because the European nitrate directive, which aims to prevent excessive nitrate pollution of the groundwater, has not been adequately implemented. The water suppliers in particular suffer from this as they have to put more and more effort into ensuring the drinking water quality (and the customers who have to pay for this effort).