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Are conventional farming systems sustainable? Their impact on climate, global chemical pollution, human health, wildlife extinction and collapse of agro-ecosystems. Novel approaches to farming and food production.
Projections of a burgeoning population coupled with global environmental change offer an increasingly dire picture of the state of the world's food security in the not-too-distant future. But how can we transform the current food system to become more sustainable, more equitable and more just? We identify kitchens as sites of transformative innovation in the food system where cooks and chefs can leverage traditional food knowledge about local food species to create delicious and nutritious dishes. Achieving a sustainable food system is a grand challenge, one where cooks in particular are stepping forward as innovators to find solutions.
This essay uses a recent acquisition by the Whipple, a seed herbarium called ‘The Origin of Seeds Source Indicators’, to explore the curious history of the global trade in commercial seed stocks in the early twentieth century. Little was known about this seed collection when the Whipple Museum acquired it. There was no place or date of creation, no record of its ownership, and, most pressingly, no knowledge of the uses for which it had been intended. Investigating this enigmatic object exposed the intriguing link between weeds, seeds, and commercial forage stocks in an increasingly international seed market, as well as the many challenges of using laboratory instrumentation to try and manage the tumult of international agricultural exchange.
What is ‘heresy’? One answer would be, ‘that which orthodoxy condemns as such’; though we may also wish to consider when conscious dissent invites such a condemnation. The main ‘heresy’ in late medieval England was that usually termed Lollardy, understood to be inspired by the radical theological thought of John Wyclif (1328-1384), which among other things emphasised the overwhelmingly importance of Scripture, and of lay access to Scripture, through vernacular translation. Orthodox repression of heresy began in the late fourteenth century and developed in various ways in the fifteenth. There are small traces of these much wider battles in Chaucer’s oeuvre, but it would be very hard to say quite how he saw them. We might instead see the fluidity of attitude toward aspects of religion in Chaucer as a sign of his times. ‘Dissent’ can encompass more than that which is solidly decried as heresy, and ‘orthodoxy’ can turn out to be more than one mode of religious thought and expression.
The Black Death first reduced England’s population by nearly one half then prevented demographic recovery. Volatility characterised the 1350s and 1360s, due to extreme weather conditions, poor harvests, contracting output, disrupted markets, labour shortages and a high turnover of people. Towns struggled to assimilate the influx of migrants. The availability of land on favourable terms, and of well-paid employment, greatly benefited the lower orders of society, but caused consternation to the ruling elite. The government responded with a wave of legislation to regulate labour mobility, prices and wages, so as to impose upon workers the discipline of manual labour deemed essential to the common profit. By the 1380s equilibrium had replaced the volatility. The economy had contracted, and shifted from arable production to pastoral and manufactured products. Towns were smaller, but their residents tended to be wealthier. The attitude of the authorities to labour had become more realistic and less idealistic, emphasising its noble qualities rather than denouncing its vices.
Most of the water humans consume is for agriculture. Rapidly increasing water demand has led to overexploitation of water resources in many important food-producing regions. In particular, growing groundwater-based irrigation causes potentially damaging depletion. Food systems are increasingly globalized, leading to large export-oriented production. Much research has focused on quantifying the amount of water resources embedded in traded products, but less attention has been given to the role of groundwater use and the related sustainability of agriculture globally. We assess current knowledge of virtual water trade in light of groundwater use and sustainability and highlight remaining challenges in this field.
The introduction of agriculture is known to have profoundly affected the ecological complexion of landscapes. In this study, a rapid transition from C3 to C4 vegetation is inferred from a shift to higher stable carbon (13C/12C) isotope ratios of soils and sediments in the Benoué River Valley and upland Fali Mountains in northern Cameroon. Landscape change is viewed from the perspective of two settlement mounds and adjacent floodplains, as well as a rock terrace agricultural field dating from 1100 cal yr BP to the recent past (<400 cal yr BP). Nitrogen (15N/14N) isotope ratios and soil micromorphology demonstrate variable uses of land adjacent to the mound sites. These results indicate that Early Iron Age settlement practices involved exploitation of C3 plants on soils with low δ15N values, indicating wetter soils. Conversely, from the Late Iron Age (>700 cal yr BP) until recent times, high soil and sediment δ13C and δ15N values reflect more C4 biomass and anthropogenic organic matter in open, dry environments. The results suggest that Iron Age settlement practices profoundly changed landscapes in this part of West Africa through land clearance and/or utilization of C4 plants.
This chapter explores how profoundly German perceptions of itself as a new industrial and aspiring colonial power were shaped by the United States, yet also how those perceptions changed as the United States came to be seen as a potential threat to Germany for the first time. After completing their studies under Gustav Schmoller in the late 1870s and investigating conditions in United States, Max Sering and Henry Farnam published works that shaped perceptions of the American frontier in Germany as a force defusing working class radicalism and as a distinctly colonial land of opportunity and upward mobility, animating German ambitions for overseas settler colonies and contiguous colonies in the Prussian east. Later in the 1890s Hermann Schumacher and Ernst von Halle were exposed to Sering and Schmoller’s teaching at Berlin University, travelling to the United States to investigate industrial trusts, cotton growing, and the American grain market during a time of growing American nativism, protectionism, and trustification.
In Mali's current context, where the crops sector is particularly exposed and vulnerable to agricultural drought, this study assesses the economy-wide impacts of such events and the potential effectiveness of some adaptation strategies. Using a dynamic computable general equilibrium model, we conduct counterfactual simulations of various scenarios accounting for different levels of intensity and frequency of droughts over a 15-year period. We first show how mild, moderate and intense droughts currently experienced by the country affect its economic performance and considerably degrade the welfare of its households. We also show how these negative impacts could be aggravated in the future by the likely increased number of intense droughts threatened by global climate change. However, we finally show that there appears to be some room for Mali to maneuver in terms of drought-risk management policies, such as fostering the use of drought-tolerant crop varieties, improving drought early warning systems or extending irrigation capacities.
I use a case study of Imperial Germany to probe the causal mechanisms explored cross-nationally in previous chapters. I examine the political causes and consequences of a protectionist shift in agricultural policy that took place in the late 1870s in Imperial Germany and significantly increased domestic food and agricultural produce prices. I analyze an original dataset on the characteristics of German electoral districts, delegates to the Reichstag, and their voting patterns on the protectionist bill. High levels of landholding inequality in German electoral districts were correlated with disproportionate representation of aristocratic landowners and rural conservatives in the Reichstag, while urban interests had little influence. Subsequent gains from the protectionist trade policy fell disproportionately on areas dominated by the Prussian aristocracy and characterized by higher levels of landholding inequality. Agricultural policy thus played a key role in ensuring the aristocracy's political support for the authoritarian government.
In this chapter, I explore the link between government food taxes and urban unrest. I analyze an event dataset on social and political disorder in cities across the developing world matched to cross-national data on consumer food taxes between 1965 and 2009. I estimate panel regressions of the effect of food taxes on unrest. I find no simple relationship between food policy and political instability in cities. However, when the effects of food taxes are allowed to vary by political regime type, I find that higher taxes are significantly associated with greater levels of unrest under anocracy. I also estimate instrumental variables regressions that exploit exogenous variation in the composition of a country's agricultural sector to identify the causal effect of food taxes on unrest. The results of these models align with those of the panel regressions. I find that higher food taxes are significantly correlated with greater unrest, but only under anocracies, which combine a lack of democratic accountability with a relatively permissive political opportunity structure.
In the conclusion, I discuss the contribution of the book and its implications for the study of authoritarian regimes, development, and democratization. In the long run, government policies that tax the agricultural sector lead to rural poverty, urbanization, and political instability. On the other hand, regimes that implement pro-farmer policies increasing agricultural prices are more likely to lock their countries into a long-run development trajectory that significantly decreases the risk of political instability and authoritarian regime collapse. By bolstering the incomes of rural farmers they mitigate poverty, slow rural-urban migration, promote economic growth, and decrease inequality. Rulers confronted with significant threats from both large concentrations of urban food consumers and landed elites cannot effectively use agricultural policy to address rural-urban conflict, because measures that are in the interests of the rural sector run invariably counter to those of the urban sector. These leaders are thus faced with unique challenges to their rule and a high likelihood of political instability. One likely outcome of this situation is a military dictatorship.
In this chapter, I model agricultural policy outcomes across countries. I do so using cross-national data on agricultural market distortions, regime typ,e and structures, which are indicators of the strength of rural and urban interests. I show that democracies support agriculture more than authoritarian regimes, on average. I look at the effects of urbanization, inequality, and unequal distributions of landholdings on agricultural support. I find that urbanization is associated with less support for agriculture under dictatorship, particularly in Asia. Inequality is associated with declining support for agriculture in democracies, particularly in Latin America and high-income countries, but not in Africa. Landholding inequality is correlated with greater support for agriculture under dictatorship, particularly in Latin America and Asia.
The introduction lays out the scope and contribution of the book. I begin by arguing that the problem of agricultural policymaking plays a central role in debates on the relationship between development, democratization, and authoritarian politics. One of the most salient and contentious social cleavages to be managed in developing nations is not between the rich and the poor, or the middle class and the state. It is between cities and the countryside, and it plays itself out in markets for agricultural produce and food. I briefly outline the book’s central argument: that agricultural policies are a trade-off between rural interests, who prefer higher prices, and urban interests, who prefer lower prices. This trade-off is made under different rules depending on regime type, and in particular based on the structural threats posed to each sector under authoritarianism. By manipulating prices for agricultural commodities and food, authoritarian governments can co-opt threatening groups to supporting their regime and mitigate the risk of political instability. I outline the structure of the book's chapters.
In this chaper, I trace in detail the causal mechanisms linking landholding inequality, agricultural policy, and regime stability in Malaysia from 1969-1980. I analyze an original, constituency-level dataset on the correlates of support for the ruling Alliance at the 1969 parliamentary election. I show that landholding inequality was correlated with support for the Alliance. However, rice-growing areas abandoned the Alliance for the opposition in 1969. This important shift in mass politics led to contentious developments within the elite, which significantly strengthened rural, Malay interests in the ruling coalition. In the course of the next year, a major restructuring of the Malaysian economy was begun, an important component of which was a pro-rural agricultural policy reform, which increased the incomes of Malay rice farmers. This policy played an important role in placating rural interests and heading off their demands for a complete reorganization of the political system. Thus, the power shift within the ruling coalition led to a more rural-biased policy, which in turn ensured regime stability.
In this chapter, I lay out a theory of agricultural policymaking and political stability under authoritarian and democratic governments. From this theory, I derive a series of empirical hypotheses on policy outcomes and the consequences of agricultural policy for regime stability, which I will go on to test in the remainder of the book.
In this chaper, I examine the relationship between landholding inequality, interventions in agricultural markets, and the stability of authoritarian regimes. I construct measures of the size of rents that are generated by agricultural market distortions. I show that both forms of agricultural rents are much smaller than those originating from oil revenues. I then go on to estimate a series of models of authoritarian regime durability. I test whether landed elites are threatening to authoritarian regimes, and concentrations of landholdings are associated with a greater risk of regime collapse. I find a weak positive relationship between landholding inequality and the likelihood of collapse. I look at the relationship between agricultural rents and regime durability. I find that rents that accrue to the state have no effect on the probability of regime collapse. Rents accruing to agricultural producers, however, do have a significant interactive effect on regime stability. Where landholding inequality is high, regimes that distribute greater rents to the agricultural sector are significantly less likely to break down.