Chapter 6: Agriculture, Food and Biotechnology Part 3

Agriculture, Food & Technology

  • Pesticides are positive as they provide both intensive and extensive uses of lands
  • However, there are problems associated with pesticides as they are toxic to people and the environment. Ex. Defects in a born child with no hands (as shown in slides)
  • Pests can evolve resistance to pesticides later on once they are exposed. As years go on, resistence continues to increase for these pests to pesticides
  • We are using different types of pesticides, which results to wider ranges of problems for the environment
  •  We depend on insects to pollinate crops
  • Pollination allows plant fertilization
  • Value of insect pollination services in Canada is $1.2 billion
  • Globally, one mouthful in three requires insect pollination
  • What is responsible for killing off honey bees? - Most likely pesticides
  • This is bad for our environment as bees are the most important type of pollinators in our environment
  • They pollinate flowers in order for fruit crops
  • Doing pollination by hand is very difficult and cannot be done mechanically, therefore it is important for insects to pollinate
  • We threaten our food security when we threaten our pollinators

The Green Revolution

Huge increases in mechanization

  • Ability to farm larger acreage (land)- extensification
  • Greater use of fossil fuels in order for the machines to work
  • Fewer personnel (since machines are doing the work)- this is bad for farmers as we are putting them out of business (they have been farming lands for generations)
  • Monocultures- most efficient way to farm when a land has a single type of crop
  • Compacts, expose soil
  • Disrupts surface ecology because mechanization is going to have an impact on what organisms will live there later on

Mechanization and Monoculture Go Hand in-Hand

  • More efficient, increases output
  • Devastates biodiversity- Diversity is crucial for pollinators, which is why this is a problem
  • 90% of our food comes from 15 crop species and 8 livestock species
  • Renders crops vulnerable to disease and pests
  • Due to mechanization, it has wiped out the diversity of crops, which puts our food security in danger
  • Preservation of crop diversity is extremely important
  • Mechanization and market forces discourage the diversity in food
  • Consumers prefer uniform, standardized food- consumers like variety of foods

Seed Banks are Living Museums

  • Seed banks collect preserve and periodically plant seeds.
  • Hand pollination preserves genetic diversity
  • Global Crop Diversity Trust (organization which is an example of a seed bank)- Svalbard Global Seed Vault (“doomsday vault”)

The Green Revolution Involved the Development of New Cultivars

  • Cultivars: variety of plant that has been intentionally selected for cultivation (farming, agriculture)
  • More plant energy into growth of grain instead of leaves or stem
  • Early maturing leads to multiple of harvests
  • More uniform results to easier mechanized harvesting
  • Better response to fertilizers
  • Drought (deficiency)-resistant, pest-resistant
  • This is selective greeting

Case Study (during lecture)

Vita A Deficiency: leads to night blindness

  • Caused due to the deficiency in Vitamin A (vitamin a rich foods etc.)- We don’t see this in developed countries
  • Symptoms: poor vision
  • Golden rice: Golden rice is genetically engineered rice. Since most grains (rice) don’t have a lot of vitamin A in them, which resulted in the creating of golden rice so that it genetically includes vitamin A
  • Genetic engineering of food crops has brought improvements for food security such as the improvement in yields, food quality, less spoilage, less rates of germination

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are Transgenic

  • Are referred to genes that have a different
  • GMOS- Contain genes from one gene or several genes which have been selected put in an organism through engineering, for agricultural purposes or such
  • Transgenic organisms contains a gene inserted into its genome from a different organism to achieve a desired trait. A targeted organism that has been artificially engineered by humans
  • Recombinant DNA = DNA patched together from the DNA of multiple organisms
  • Humans do artificially engineering in organisms for specific purposes
  • Bacillus thuringiensis: a common soil bacteria
  • BT (bacillus thuringiensis) corn kills caterpillars that feed on it
  • Foods have been genetically modified so they don’t rot easily- ex. Tomatoes
  • Most GMOs are engineered for pest resistance, herbicide resistance, delayed ripening, better storage, etc
  • You don’t have to use pesticide as much which is an advantage
  • GMOs provide higher yield, less waste, more nutritious, etc

GMOs are Controversial

  • Genes can escape to native populations. Organisms that have been genetically modified will merge to organisms that are not, which can cause a problem because it may lead to alteration by the genetically modified organisms
  • Issues have arisen on why genetically modified organisms are not labelled in stores and market

In Conclusion, has the Green Revolution Met all of its Intended Goals?

  • The promise of the green revolution
  • Increase yields (yes)
  • Increase carrying capacity (yes)
  • Improve technological knowledge (yes)
  • Eliminate hunger (no)- poverty still exists leading to hunger and starvation
  • Get modern techniques to rural farmers (no)

The Unintended (negative) Environmental Consequences of the Green Revolution

  • Depletion (reduction) of groundwater from intensification and extensification
  • Soil nutrient depletion from monoculture
  • Salinization from extensive irrigation
  • Erosion from mechanization
  • Pollution from agrochemicals
  • Increased energy use (mechanization has led to more fossil fuels)
  • Pesticide resistance pest species
  • Controversy over genetic engineering (GMOs)
  • Genetic uniformity, loss of biodiversity

How do We Make Agriculture More Sustainable?

  • We need to recognize the physical/hydrological limits to productivity
  • We need to minimize the negative impacts of intensive production & irrigation, avoid using monoculture, mechanization, fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, and other agri-chemicals
  • The main point of sustainability is to minimize damage and be aware of limits of things

Practises that Involve Sustainability of Agriculture

  • Multi cropping- (we take care of soil, crops, irrigation etc. through multi cropping, crop rotation)
  • Minimum tillage
  • Soil conservation (protection)
  • Preservation of traditional seeds
  • Agroforestry- the idea of combining and growing crops where you are harvesting trees (a type of multi cropping)
  • Urban agriculture – use of green spaces for agriculture
  • We need to use our properly designed irrigation
  • Integrated pest management
  • Agricultural extension training- having people advice farmers on what that there soil is deficient is, etc. and give them advice for farming in the future
  • Land tenure & credit availability
  • Better techniques of distributing agriculture
  • Locally supported agriculture is growing today


  • Intensive commercial agriculture has increased productivity with substantial negative environmental impacts
  • To support population increases, agriculture must be efficient and sustainable
  • Integrated (included) and biological pest control
  • Protection for pollinators
  • Minimizing use of agrochemicals
  • Preservation of native crop diversity
  • Careful, responsible use of biotechnology

Term test question sample: What are the pros and cons of technological agriculture?

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