Term Test questions
1. According to your professor, what are the commonly admitted facts about modern agriculture?
Food is cheaper, more abundant, year round <>
More urbanization, less farmers, big agri-business
Food production, processing, and retailing now globalized
What are the two main divergent interpretations of these facts?
Good (>people fed, quality of life)
Bad, costs (environment, social, nutritional, public health and animal welfare problems)
What is the bottom line of the supporters of modern agriculture?
Since the 1950s
Human numbers and food demand grew>>>
Yet food supplies increased even faster
Mounting food scarcity
Destruction forests and other habitats
>>>per hectare yields
List three reasons as to why modern agriculture isn't sustainable according to its detractors.
Exhaustion of the soil
Eutrophication (“marine dead zones”)
Disease resistant bacteria
Rising prices of oil
unsustainable increase in meat consumption
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 two to four times the world price. Because their soil is difficult to
grow in they need the fertilizer more than in other places.
Have unhelpful policies toward agriculture. Import restrictions and price controls.
Describe briefly Michael Pollan's compulsory composting scheme and Blake Hurst's take on it.
Pollan’s idea is to have mandatory household composting, with the compost delivered to farmers free of
charge. Hurst’s take on it is that it will not do much to solve the nitrogen problem because household
compost has only 1-5% nitrogen and not all nitrogen would be available to crops in the first year. Also
that the amount of compost needed to fertilize corn crops in the US would raise the carbon footprint
from the delivery trucks.
3. What is the key concept of Food Policy Project's proposal?
List and discuss briefly three of its key elements.
Ensuring that food is eaten as close as possible to where it is produced (eg,: domestic/regional
purchasing policies for institutions and large food retailers, community-supported agriculture,
local farmers markets, etc.).
Supporting food providers in a widespread shift to ecological production in both urban and rural
settings (eg, organic agriculture, community-managed fisheries, indigenous food systems, etc.),
including policies for the entry of new farmers into agriculture.
Enacting a strong federal poverty elimination and prevention program, with measurable targets
and timelines, to ensure Canadians can better afford healthy food.
Creating a nationally-funded Children and Food strategy (including school meal programs,
school gardens, and food literacy programs) to ensure that all children at all times have access
to the food required for healthy lives.
Ensuring that the public, especially the most marginalized, are 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)?
McDonald’s McDouble cheeseburger.
4. Why does Robert Paarlberg argue that food prices on the world market tell us very little about world
International markets for food, like most other international markets, are used most heavily by the well-
to-do, who are far from hungry. 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. Wherever small farmers had sufficient access to credit, they took up the new technology just as
quickly as big farmers, which led to dramatic income gains and no increase in inequality or social friction.
Even poor landless laborers gained, because more abundant crops meant more work at harvest time,
increasing rural wages. In Asia, the Green Revolution was good for both agriculture and social justice.
5. List three (3) characteristics of 'Subsistence Agriculture' or (or 'Globally-important Ingenious
Agricultural Heritage Systems' - GIAHS).
Small farm size & continuous production
Maximum use of local resources
Low dependence on off-farm inputs
List three (3) main features of modern agriculture.
monocultures (annual plantings of same crops)
synthetic chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides)
What were the main goals and results achieved by plant breeders over time in terms of production and
consumption (list 3 things for each)?
new architecture (i.e. food doesn’t look like its ancestor, ex. Dwarf wheat)
reducing the length of the growing season beneficial because helps crops
develop in fewer days which reduces problems associated with frost
resistance to pests and diseases
increasing the size of seeds and fruits
longer shelf life
6. List four (4) similarities between insect and human agriculture according to your professor.
o monocultures: they produce one type of fungus or one type of livestock
(aphids) o indoor production (controlled environments)
o antibiotics (pesticides)
List four (4) benefits that result from the cooking of our food. List one potential problem of cooking.
6 advantages of cooking:
breaks starch molecules into more digestible fragments
denatures protein molecules (more easily digestible)
heat physically softens food (requires fewer calories to digest it)
reduces food-related diseases (parasites, disease, microbes, toxins)
heating destroys some microbes responsible for food spoilage (helps
preservation for future consumption)
enhances flavours (esp. meat)
potential problems of cooking:
o destruction of vitamins & thiamine
o solubility losses of valuable minerals (esp if large amounts of water used)
7. According to some researchers, what evolutionary anatomical change allowed the increase in human
brain size and the acquisition of language? Why?
*The explanation for this shift from the smaller skulls and wider pelvises of man's apelike ancestors has
been a shift from a vegetable-based diet to a meat-based one. Meat has more calories than plant
matter, the theory went. A smaller gut could therefore support a larger brain.
According to Richard Wrangham, what cultural factor was probably crucial for this transformation?
Cooking our food
Why does he further argue that meat-eating alone is insufficient to explain how large our species brains
have become over time?