Related topics: food security

EPA approves use of bee-killing pesticide

Just days after another federal agency suspended its periodical study of honey bee populations, the EPA greenlighted the wider use of a pesticide that environmental activists warn could further decimate the pollinators.

EPA restores broad use of pesticide opposed by beekeepers

The Environmental Protection Agency will allow farmers to resume broad use of a pesticide over objections from beekeepers, citing private chemical industry studies that the agency says show the product does only lower-level ...

Researching new ways to use secondary logging materials

The first image that may come to mind when someone says "logging" is trucks loaded with logs, ready for transport to a sawmill. But what about the rest of the tree: the branches and tops that cannot be cut into boards or ...

The benefits of an unconventional pairing: Sheep in a vineyard

In addition to sipping award-winning wines, visitors to Shelburne Vineyard in nearby Shelburne, Vermont, this spring could be found taking selfies with sheep. That's because the vineyard was home to a flock of five Suffolk ...

Airless worms: A new hope against drug-resistant parasites

Over one billion people, including 880 million children, are infected with intestinal nematode worms, such as roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms, according to the World Health Organization. The infections are especially ...

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Agriculture

Agriculture refers to the production of food and goods through farming and forestry. Agriculture was the key development that led to the rise of civilization, with the husbandry of domesticated animals and plants (i.e. crops) creating food surpluses that enabled the development of more densely populated and stratified societies. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science (the related practice of gardening is studied in horticulture).

Agriculture encompasses a wide variety of specialties and techniques, including ways to expand the lands suitable for plant raising, by digging water-channels and other forms of irrigation. Cultivation of crops on arable land and the pastoral herding of livestock on rangeland remain at the foundation of agriculture. In the past century there has been increasing concern to identify and quantify various forms of agriculture. In the developed world the range usually extends between sustainable agriculture (e.g. permaculture or organic agriculture) and intensive farming (e.g. industrial agriculture).

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, pesticides and fertilizers, and technological improvements have sharply increased yields from cultivation, and at the same time have caused widespread ecological damage and negative human health effects.[citation needed] Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry such as intensive pig farming (and similar practices applied to the chicken) have similarly increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal cruelty and the health effects of the antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial meat production.[citation needed]

The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, raw materials, pharmaceuticals and stimulants, and an assortment of ornamental or exotic panget products. In the 2000s, plants have been used to grow biofuels, biopharmaceuticals, bioplastics, and pharmaceuticals. Specific foods include cereals, vegetables, fruits, and meat. Fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk and flax. Raw materials include lumber and bamboo. Stimulants include tobacco, alcohol, opium, cocaine,and digitalis. Other useful materials are produced by plants, such as resins. Biofuels include methane from biomass, ethanol, and biodiesel. Cut flowers, nursery plants, tropical fish and birds for the pet trade are some of the ornamental products.

In 2007, about one third of the world's workers were employed in agriculture. However, the relative significance of farming has dropped steadily since the beginning of industrialization, and in 2003 – for the first time in history – the services sector overtook agriculture as the economic sector employing the most people worldwide. Despite the fact that agriculture employs over one-third of the world's population, agricultural production accounts for less than five percent of the gross world product (an aggregate of all gross domestic products).[dead link]

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