Researchers are in agreement that the ongoing agents of globalization, including trade liberalization, international migration, rural-urban migration, technological innovations, and global currency deregulation, have far-reaching implications on sustainable development (van der Velde et al. 2007; Zimmerer 2007). However, there are conflicting views on whether globalization has actually led to sustainable agricultural practices. The present paper evaluates the impact of globalization on sustainable agriculture with the view to demonstrating that the emphasis on globalization has continued to undermine the pursuit of sustainable agriculture due to the many environmental, social, and economic consequences.
Definition of terms
Globalization has been described as “the increased global integration of internationally dispersed activities” (Zimmerer 2007, p. 10). Sustainability, on the other hand, will be used in this paper to refer to the promotion of agricultural practices that encourage growth while ensuring an ecologically sustainable and equitable world order (Olsson, Hourcade, & Kohler 2014).
Research is consistent that globalization has been positively associated with the implementation of innovative approaches to food production and resource use that are largely environmentally friendly and socially equitable (Zimmerer 2007). Here, it is important to note that new technological innovations and means of transportation, refrigeration, and preservation of perishable goods are making it easier to not only import and export food items across the globe, but also to minimize wastage (Murphy 2001).
However, critics argue that globalization has indeed encouraged unsustainable transportation of agricultural produce to international food markets, leading to increased air pollution, waste management issues, and elevated levels of energy consumption due to refrigeration and packaging (La Trobe & Acott 2000).
Additionally, increased market opportunities for agricultural produce have pushed farmers to diversify their food crops in an environmentally sustainable manner. The advocates of this perspective argue that the strict regulations followed by global and regional trade organizations are forcing farmers in developing countries to adopt sustainable agricultural practices, diversification, and intensification to not only gain entry into the international market (Murphy 2001) but also to achieve labor efficiency and sustain demand (Zimmerer 2007).
However, La Trobe and Acott (2000, p. 309) argue that “agricultural intensification and the globalization of the agro-food chain has resulted in adverse environmental, social and economic consequences impeding moves towards sustainability.” As demonstrated below, these consequences outweigh the benefits that can be achieved from globalization.
First, it is evident that trade liberalization under globalization has occasioned a situation whereby farmers are increasingly intensifying, diversifying, and mechanizing agriculture to enhance yields in order to sustain the international market. This orientation, according to Zimmerer (2007), is to blame for the persistent agricultural crises witnessed today and the propensity to move the societal structure from an agrarian model to a capitalistic agricultural model through a de-agrarian nation.
Indeed, intensification and mechanization of agriculture have been negatively associated with relentless agricultural crises, such as reductions in soil fertility and biodiversity, pests build up resistance, horrific animal rearing practices, health challenges associated with a chemical application, and replacement of manual labor with machinery (La Trobe & Acott 2009). A de-agrarian nation in most developing countries has been accused of reinforcing poverty and social strive as most of the alternative food items planted by farmers fail to fetch desired prices in international markets (van der Velde et al. 2007). As a result, farmers in these countries have been unable to educate their children and meet other basic needs.
It is also felt that globalization is positively associated with the mounting susceptibility to climate change. Available literature demonstrates that “neoliberal policies display a preference for industrial-scale technologically oriented agricultural investment over possibly more environmentally sustainable or peasant forms and reliance on markets to deliver politically neutral resource allocation” (Burton & Peoples 2014, p. 90).
Again, the problem of climate change is deeply rooted in the ongoing agricultural intensification and diversification as farmers in the developing world compete to meet demand in the international market. Farmers in the developed countries are not left behind, as witnessed by how market liberalization policies in New Zealand affected the capacity of dryland sheep farmers to manage drought (Burton & Peoples 2014). The conflict between globalization-oriented agricultural practices and the environment means that it is difficult to achieve sustainability (Olsson, Hourcade, & Kohler 2014).
Another impact of globalization relates to the unchecked extraction of resources to satisfy global markets, leading to degradation and other environmental challenges. Here, available literature demonstrates that “globalization and neoliberal-led escalations have contributed to the widespread worsening and frequent occurrence of environmental problems” (Zimmerer 2007, p. 10).
For example, most farmers in the developing world are taking advantage of weak environmental protection practices in their home countries to use unsustainable means of production with the view to serving the huge demand for agricultural produce in international markets. This means that, although globalization is giving farmers a means of livelihood through increased international markets, it is nevertheless contributing to the entrenchment of unsustainable agricultural practices.
Drawing from the discussion and analysis, it can be concluded that globalization has indeed continued to undermine the pursuit of sustainable agriculture due to associated adverse effects. Although globalization promises a number of advantages that can encourage sustainable agriculture, it is clear that its many environmental, social, and economic consequences outweigh these benefits.
List of References
Burton, RJF & Peoples, S 2014, ‘Market liberalisation and drought in New Zealand: A case of double exposure for dryland sheep farmers?’, Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 82-94. Web.
La Trobe, HL & Acott, TG 2000, ‘Localizing the global food system’, International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 309-320. Web.
Murphy, S 2001, ‘The global food basket’, Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 26-42. Web.
Olsson, L, Hourcade, JC & Kohler, J 2014, ‘Sustainable development in a globalized world’, Journal of Environment & Development, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 3-14. Web.
van der Velde, M, Green, SR, Vanclooster, M & Clothier, BE 2007, ‘Sustainable development in small island developing states: Agricultural intensification, economic development, and freshwater resources management on the coral atoll of Tongatapu’, Ecological Economics, vol. 61, no. 2-3, pp. 456-468. Web.
Zimmerer, KS 2007, ‘Agriculture, livelihoods, and globalisation: The analysis of new trajectories (and avoidance of just-so stories) of human-environment change and conservation’, Agriculture and Values, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 9-16. Web.