Environmental Impacts of Increasing the World’s Food Production

World demand for food is expanding more rapidly than ever before in history due to rising population and increasing affluence. The urgency of increasing food production should not be underestimated. It is vitally important, however, to ensure that the strategies adopted to increase food production on a short-term basis can be sustained and effectively integrated with long-term policies. With many of our present policies, there is a very real danger that in our efforts to increase food production in the short-run on a crisis basis, we may adopt strategies which are self-defeating in the long-run. Any strategy to increase food production on a sustained basis that does not explicitly consider environmental factors is doomed to failure, sooner or later. Strategies developed must work with nature and not against it.

Within this philosophical framework, the major parameters that could improve yield of food grains and could possibly deteriorate the very ecological base on which food production depends, and thus ultimately jeopardize the production process itself, are discussed. Among the parameters reviewed are food loss and wastage during production, storage and distribution; environmental constraints in relation to the use of pesticides and fertilizers; problems arising due to improper land use planning and irrigation practices; effects of climatic changes on food production; and problems of technology transfer and use.

By Margaret R. Biswas and Asit K. Biswas, 1975. Article published in Agriculture and Environment, Volume 2, pages 291-309.

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