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DescriptionThe consensus among agronomists is that the post war 'green revolution' has allowed food production to keep pace with worldwide population growth. Green revolution technologies include pesticides, herbicides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer (mostly developed from fossil fuels), irrigation projects and higher yield crop varieties. The research establishment that underpins modern industrial agriculture has until recently paid little heed to the unintended and long-term consequences of these technologies.
Although yields have been much higher than under traditional agricultural forms this has not taken into account the amount of land that was cleared or irrigated for the green revolution, and the latest statistics show a major drop in the productivity of land that has been intensively farmed for the past 30 years due to desertification and other forms of land degradation. This process has also seen the industrialization of food production and a shift from subsistence-oriented cropland towards production of grain for export and/or animal feed.
Aggregate food production currently is sufficient to meet the needs of all, yet of the present world population of over 7 billion, over 1 billion consume insufficient protein or calories to meet daily minimum requirements. Similar numbers are overfed, often with diets that are high in energy but lacking in diversity so that between 1.3 and 1.7 billion people are overweight. Several billion people experience micronutrient deficiency.
The provision of food is increasingly compromised by the introduction of biofuels, for example, 25% of the US corn crop is now for fuel. What is actually needed is ‘sustainable intensification’.