Unsustainable agricultural development

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Non-sustainable development of farmlands
Non-sustainable development of agricultural resources
Degradation of agricultural resources
Throughout the world, the vast majority of humanity's agriculture is non-sustainable and in spite of the substantial increase in food production over the past few decades, the present model of agriculture has not solved the world's hunger problem. In fact, our industrial, chemical intensive agriculture system has many damaging impacts. It degrades the fertility of soils, intensifies the effects of droughts and contributes to desertification, pollutes water resources, causes salinization, increases dependence on non-renewable energy, contaminates the food supply, and contributes to harmful climatic change. The knowledge, manpower, and resources exist to combat these escalating conditions, but the world's political and economic communities stand lethargic.
The agro-industrial policy of the government of the Netherlands has been criticized as unsustainable on several counts. This small countries is the third largest agricultural exporter, with 10 percent of 1992 world agricultural exports. The industry is highly energy intensive, particularly due to the subsidies on natural gas for greenhouse production. There is excessive use of pesticides, particularly in flower-bulb cultivation. Dutch livestock production causes an annual manure surplus of 40 million tonnes, responsible for over 60 percent of the acidification of the soil of the Netherlands and extensive eutrophication of freshwater ecosystems. An additional 6 million hectares of foreign cropland are needed to grow cattle feed for Dutch livestock, one third in developing countries like Thailand and Brazil. Artificial lowering of the water table by drainage of agricultural land has produced dehydrating conditions for natural ecosystems, reducing their viability and thus adding to loss of biodiversity and landscape degradation. These unsustainable practices have been enabled by a long history of governmental, particularly European, subsidies. The proposed subsidy cuts under the EU Common Agricultural Policy are predicted to cause 80 percent of Dutch farmers to quit.
The combination of population growth and agricultural practices which destroy the land are terminating the ability of the planet to support life. Eventual agricide could result.
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
23.08.2001 – 00:00 CEST