GGR 287 MIDTERM 17/10/2013 6:14:00 PM
1. According to your professor, what are the commonly admitted
facts about modern agriculture?
- food is cheaper
- more abundant
- year-round (fresh)
- more urbanization
- less farmers
- big agri business
- food production/processing/retailing now globalized
What are the two main divergent interpretations of these facts?
1) good: were more fed, cheaper prices, better quality of life
2) bad: environmental, social, nutritional, public health & animal welfare
What is the bottom line of the supporters of modern agriculture?
- since 1950, human numbers and food demand grew exponentially, yet
food supplies increased even faster
- to avoid mounting food scarcity and destruction of forests and other
habitats, we need more research and development + more yields per-
List three reasons as to why modern agriculture isn't sustainable
according to its detractors
- exhaustion of the soil
- global warming
2. List and discuss briefly two problems - one of input and one
institutional - of African agriculture as discussed by Tyler Cowen
- the price of fertilizer in Africa is often 2-4x the world price – they need it
the most yet have to pay the most for it, even though they don’t have the
prosperity to make that happen
- cause of high prices: infrastructure + trade networks that aren’t developed
enough to create a low-cost and competitive market
- many African nations have unhelpful policies toward agriculture - ex: in Malawi, corn has export + import restrictions & price controls, which
worsens the basic supply problems
Describe briefly Michael Pollan's compulsory composting scheme and
Blake Hurst's take on it
- make it easier for farmers to apply compost covers to their fields
- HOW? Make municipal composting of food + yard waste mandatory, then
distribute the compost for FREE to area farmers
- WHY? to shrink america’s amount of garbage, cut the need for irrigation +
fossil-fuel fertilizers in agriculture, and improve the nutritional quality of the
- thinks mandatory composting + delivering it to farms is great, but it won’t
fix the nitrogen problem (compost only contains 5% nitrogen, a lot more is
needed..too much travelling because of trucks carrying the compost will
increase our carbon footprint!
3. What is the key concept of Food Policy Project's proposal?
- the people’s food policy is rooted in the concept of food sovereignty
- this is an internally recognized approach where food is viewed as a primary
foundation for healthy lives, communities, economies and ecosystems
List and discuss briefly three of its key elements.
- ensuring that food is eaten as close as possible to where it is produced
- healthy food should be more affordable
- public should be actively involved in decisions that affect the food system
According to Kyle Smith, what is the greatest food in human history
(or close to it)?
- The McDonald’s mcdouble cheeseburger
4. Why does Robert Paarlberg argue that food prices on the world
market tell us very little about world hunger?
- International markets for food, like most other international markets, are
used most heavily by the well-to-do, who are far from hungry - The majority of truly undernourished people live in either Africa or South
Asia, and most are small farmers or rural landless laborers living in the
- They are significantly shielded from global price fluctuations both by the
trade policies of their own governments and by poor roads and infrastructure
Why does he argue that the Green Revolution delivered better
agricultural and social outcomes in Asia than in Latin America?
- In Latin America, where access to good agricultural land and credit has
been narrowly controlled by traditional elites, the improved seeds made
available by the Green Revolution increased income gaps
- In Asia, the Green Revolution seeds performed just as well on small
nonmechanized farms as on larger farms
5. List three (3) characteristics of 'Subsistence Agriculture' or
'Globally-important Ingenious Agricultural Heritage Systems'
- small farm size
- continuous production
- maximum use of local resources
List three (3) main features of modern agriculture.
- monocultures (annual plantings of same crops)
- mechanization (people replaced by machines)
- fossil fuels
What were the main goals and results achieved by plant breeders
over time in terms of production and consumption (list 3 things for
- looks different
- decreased length of growing season
- resistance to pests and diseases
- fewer toxins
- easier digestion
- better nutrition 6. List four (4) similarities between insect and human agriculture
according to your professor.
- monocultures (one type of fungus, mushroom, etc)
- indoor production (controlled environments)
- antibiotics (pesticides)
List four (4) benefits that result from the cooking of our food.
- easier to digest
- softens the food (requires less calories to eat it)
- reduces food-related diseases (ex: parasites)
- enhances flavor (especially meat)
List one potential problem of cooking.
- destruction of vitamin C and thiamine
7. According to some researchers, what evolutionary anatomical
change allowed the increase in human brain size and the acquisition
- the weakening of the jaw
- allowed us to articulate speech-like sounds that apes cannot do (due to
such a strong force of the jaw)
- guts became smaller, which saved energy + that energy “fed” our brains to
make them larger
According to Richard Wrangham, what cultural factor was probably
crucial for this transformation?
- the cooking of food (because it doesn’t require strong jaws)
Why does he further argue that meat-eating alone is insufficient to
explain how large our species’ brains have become over time?
- not enough evidence
- our brains are proportionately enourmous at birth
8. List the generally agreed upon sequence in the transition from
foraging to agriculture.
- hunting large/slow animals + some gathering - hunting smaller animals + more diverse gathering
- sedentism (stay in one place year round, living as farmers, fishers, raising
animals) (opposite of nomadism)
- slow birth of agriculture
List two historical benefits (other than food) of cultivating plants
and two benefits (other than meat) for raising livestock.
- cultivating plants benefits:
fibre (cotton, linen)
- raising livestock benefits:
9. According to C. S. Prakash, what were the main social
consequences of humanity moving beyond the nomadic lifestyle to
farming in terms of lifestyle and cultural development?
- led us to become community dwellers, eventually spawning the
development of languages, literature, science, and technology as people
were freed from the continuous daily task of finding food
What was the number of feral plant species humans could have tried
- 250,000 (a quarter of a million..humans must have tried eating thousands)
How many are now grown intensively?
- a little over 100
List three profound alterations in plant phenotypes achieved by
humans that made these plants less likely to survive in the wild on
- shorter maturity
- greater productivity (ex: bigger seed or fruit size)
- an elimination of seeds (ex: the banana) 10. According to your professor, what are the basic characteristics of
rudimentary sedentary tillage (RST) (or sedentary subsistence
farming) and its 'ideal type' in terms of crops (give 2 characteristics)
and farm animals (give 2 characteristics)?
- small scare production
- several different kinds of crops and animals
- primarily for family consumption rather than sale
ideal crops: mostly cereals and tubers, but always some diversity
store and preserve until next harvest
ideal farm animals: fed inedible organic waste, low-grade forage, left to
scrounge for themselves
What are the other two types of subsistence farming?
- shifting (slash and burn)
11. How did your professor summarize J. H. von Thünen's 1826
model of agricultural land use (the 'rings' model)? Include additional
information (such as types of food production and reason for the
location of certain productions) when needed.
- was created before industrialization
- each ring is further from the centre city
Ring 1: dairying & intensive farming
- closest to the city because vegetables, fruit, milk and other dairy products
must get to market quickly
- animals and products 1) don’t travel well or 2) feed/require organ