Effects of Modern Agriculture

Lesson 5: Food resources

Effects of Modern Agriculture

It is often assumed that world food shortages can be eliminated by increasing food and agricultural production through the application of modern technology. It is also argued that supplying modern inputs—such as large-scale irrigation, chemical fertilizers, farm machinery, and pesticides—can improve the productive capacity of the land. However, when a new agricultural technology enters a system characterized by unequal power relationships, it brings greater profits only to those who already have some combination of land, financial resources, creditworthiness, and political influence. For example, a research study (Lappe and Collins, 1977) completed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) showed that in the South Asian countries (Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia), where the focus was on increased agricultural production and where the gross national product (GNP) has risen, the majority of the rural population was worse off than ever before.

However, since 75% of the farmers were landless tenants, the absentee landlords evicted the tenants from the land when they realized that the increased farm income as the result of new and improved technology was accruing to the tenants. In many cases, the structure of production agriculture has also created an impediment for increased food production. There is an increasing dependence of the food supply on stocks of fossil energy—energy sources that are being rapidly depleted. Improved technology cannot substitute for shortage of essential natural resources. But, technology can help by promoting better use of the natural resources.

There has been insufficient research on appropriate technologies adapted to the agro-climatic conditions of many developing countries. New technology can have positive effects on food and agricultural production only if appropriate technology evolves within the framework of existing agricultural methods of production by first understanding how these traditional and social institutions and economic systems operate. Even if agricultural production increases as a result of new technology, most of the agricultural production will go to pay for the imported capital. Thus, while reducing the use of imported technologies is an important factor in increasing food production and reducing hunger.

Last modified: Wednesday, 28 December 2011, 9:50 AM