1. The price of inputs to production is now, and has been,
increasing at a faster rate than the value of the resultant
agricultural commodities. In Canada over the last 10 years, the
aggregate input price index has risen by 16.5%, while the aggregate
commodity price index has risen by 0.2%. Thus, JUST TO STAY EVEN,
farms must get larger - crop more acres. Yes, we can get higher
yields, but the yield increase is derived largely from increased
dependence on purchased resources - so, the net effect is a declining
margin per unit produced, and hence, the need to produce more units -
all just to stay even.
2. Who is the winner? clearly not the producer, the rural
community, or the environment. The consumer? Perhaps, although
refer to Pimentel et al. 1992 in The Pesticide Question (a book
edited by Pimentel and Lehman) for an insightful analysis of the
environmental and societal costs of using biocides in the US.
Including these costs (all carefully and conservatively calculated
and documented in the chapter) reduces the benefit:cost ratio from
4:1 (what it would be with just the usual costs included) to 1.3:1.
Also interesting to note that the additional costs are borne about
one-third by the producers themselves, and two-thirds by society at
large - involuntarily. With perhaps one exception involving
monitoring, this calculation does NOT include the clean-
up/remediation costs that you imply with reference to taxes.
2. The US does not provide 85% of the world's relief, if I am using
the term correctly. We did an analysis of food movement (in $)
between DMEC (developed market economy countries) and LDC (less
developed countries) using UN and FAO figures for 1990. It was
interesting to note that 75% of the dollar value of food exported by
DMECES was imported by other DMECS, and further, that 67% of the
dollar value of food exported by the LDC's was imported by the DMECS.
So, in terms of commerce, the "high yield" orientation of our
agricultural systems is highly effective at feeding the 16% of the
world's population that lives in the DMECS - period. Doesn't seem to
be doing much for the rest of the world. This "feeding the world"
argument is crap. Ann
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933