Global trade, food production and ecosystem support: Making the interactions visible
2004 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Modern food production is a complex, globalized system in which what we eat and how it is produced are increasingly disconnected. This thesis examines some of the ways in which global trade has changed the mix of inputs to food and feed, and how this affects food security and our perceptions of sustainability. One useful indicator of the ecological impact of trade in food and feed products is the Appropriated Ecosystem Areas (ArEAs), which estimates the terrestrial and aquatic areas needed to produce all the inputs to particular products.
The method is introduced in Paper I and used to calculate and track changes in imported subsidies to Swedish agriculture over the period 1962-1994. In 1994, Swedish consumers needed agricultural areas outside their national borders to satisfy more than a third of their food consumption needs. The method is then applied to Swedish meat production in Paper II to show that the term “Made in Sweden” is often a misnomer. In 1999, almost 80% of manufactured feed for Swedish pigs, cattle and chickens was dependent on imported inputs, mainly from Europe, Southeast Asia and South America. Paper III examines ecosystem subsidies to intensive aquaculture in two nations: shrimp production in Thailand and salmon production in Norway. In both countries, aquaculture was shown to rely increasingly on imported subsidies. The rapid expansion of aquaculture turned these countries from fishmeal net exporters to fishmeal net importers, increasingly using inputs from the Southeastern Pacific Ocean.
As the examined agricultural and aquacultural production systems became globalized, levels of dependence on other nations’ ecosystems, the number of external supply sources, and the distance to these sources steadily increased. Dependence on other nations is not problematic, as long as we are able to acknowledge these links and sustainably manage resources both at home and abroad. However, ecosystem subsidies are seldom recognized or made explicit in national policy or economic accounts. Economic systems are generally not designed to receive feedbacks when the status of remote ecosystems changes, much less to respond in an ecologically sensitive manner. Papers IV and V discuss the problem of “masking” of the true environmental costs of production for trade. One of our conclusions is that, while the ArEAs approach is a useful tool for illuminating environmentally-based subsidies in the policy arena, it does not reflect all of the costs. Current agricultural and aquacultural production methods have generated substantial increases in production levels, but if policy continues to support the focus on yield and production increases alone, taking the work of ecosystems for granted, vulnerability can result. Thus, a challenge is to develop a set of complementary tools that can be used in economic accounting at national and international scales that address ecosystem support and performance.
We conclude that future resilience in food production systems will require more explicit links between consumers and the work of supporting ecosystems, locally and in other regions of the world, and that food security planning will require active management of the capacity of all involved ecosystems to sustain food production.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för systemekologi , 2004. , 28 p.
global trade, food production, ecosystem support, resilience, agriculture, ecosystem performance, food consumption, ecological footprint, indicators, aquaculture, agricultural intensification, fishmeal, vulnerability, Sweden, animal feed, critical natural capital
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-232ISBN: 91-7265-923-8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-232DiVA: diva2:191271
2004-10-01, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 C, Stockholm, 13:00
Waltner-Toews, David, Professor
Folke, Carl, ProfessorLimburg, Karin, Associate ProfessorTroell, Max, Associate Professor
List of papers