Land Sharing vs. Land Sparing: A Spurious Dichotomy?

There is an ongoing debate within conservation research known as the “land sharing vs. land sparing” controversy: in a nutshell, it is about the perceived land-use trade-off between food (+biofuel) production needs and conservation of natural ecosystems. Should we create natural reserves and let nature thrive there, while intensifying agriculture on the remaining land? Or should we rather promote extensive agro-ecological systems, where protection of biodiversity is combined with food production (but with lower yields per unit of area)? The debate has not really moved forward for some time, possibly because the perspectives involved have been too narrow. However, it may also be that in some cases the dichotomy does not even exist:

As an ambitious program in Colombia demonstrates, combining grazing and agriculture with tree cultivation can coax more food from each acre, boost farmers’ incomes, restore degraded landscapes, and make farmland more resilient to climate change. [more]

Yes, this sounds too good to be true. But, as you may read in the original source of this quote, it actually is true. And while this specific case most likely cannot be generalized, it still provides a lot of “food for thought”. Enjoy.

Oxfam’s 9 Billion Well-Nourished

The well-known and globally active NGO Oxfam just started a new campaign called GROW. It is about the necessity we are soon to face – the necessity having to feed 9 billion people living on Earth. This is the official population forecast for 2050 according to the UN. So, Oxfam is suggesting in its campaign that it is indeed possible to achieve this – i.e., to feed 9 billion people sufficiently – if we want to. Despite all my sympathy and reverence toward Oxfam’s work, I doubt that this is possible. Continue reading

Socio-economic Aspects of GMO

Here you can find my updated standpoint toward genetically engineered crops.

In the European Union, every discussion about the admission of new GMO (genetically modified organisms) equals a battle between the EU’s or member states’ bureaucracies and various environmental groups and organizations. The most invoked arguments of the opponents of GMO (in agriculture – I will limit myself to this particular – highly controversial – area) consider the environmental and health aspects of genetically modified organisms, especially when they come into the food chain. No-one really knows what the long-term impact of these artificial creatures on human beings and the natural environment may be.

This is an important argument. But there also are strong socio-economic arguments against GMO. In what follows I will shortly present some of these aspects and emphasize their importance. Continue reading

Trade and Hunger

As you can see in the picture in the right (for source, click on it), food grain prices in international markets has been spiking in the end of 2010 – again, after they already did in 2008, the year of “hunger revolts” in the developing world. It is clear that something must be done to prevent another crisis. Today I would like to shortly comment an article by Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO, on that subject. Continue reading

Food Prices and Poverty

Dani Rodrik wrote a blog post about whether high food prices are good or bad for the poor in developing countries. He points out that international organizations – Oxfam as well as World Bank – describe high or low food prices as bad for the poor, dependent on the situation in the food markets. When prices were low, for example in 2005, Oxfam wrote that this is bad for the poor peasants because the markets are flooded with highly subsidized agricultural products especially from Europe. 3 years later, when prices were high, the same organization wrote that this is bad for the poor in urban areas because they can’t afford to buy the food they need. Continue reading