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In Search Of A Sustainable Global Agri-food System

The potential to meet global food demand fully exists through global development of the high-technology (HT), high-intensity type of agriculture and food processing system prevailing in developed countries. This system unfortunately is also responsible for much natural resource degradation, environmental damage and ecological imbalance. Meantime the Earth's human population continues to grow, placing ever-increasing demand on global natural resources, not only for food but also for living and recreational space. A more sustainable agri-food system must evolve. Sustainability is complex, and ought to be approached from a multi-disciplinary perspective and compromise sought in resolving the obvious conflicts amongst biological, environmental, ecological, socio-economic, and other individual disciplines and competing philosophies. These form the basis for comparing three different agricultural production systems: high technology (HT); reduced input (RI), and organic (ORG). The three systems are compared empirically using primary data from farms in each group in southern Ontario, Canada. HT systems prevalent in Canada is highly productive, but its sustainability is questionable. It was concluded that the HT system should not be the model for the future. The ORG system is the least inimical to the environment, ecology, and human operators. It was concluded that the ORG system is sustainable except for its requirement for extensive use of land. The RI system causes minimal environmental and ecological damage. It is most profitable and is supportive of rural farm community viability. It was concluded that the RI system holds the best potential for meeting overall sustainability for the global agri-food system.

Author(s): Stonehouse D. Peter (1)

Organization(s): Department of Agricultural Economics & Business University of Guelph Guelph Ontario (1)

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