ISSUE III - Agriculture and the Nexus (December 2017)

What are the tradeoffs in agriculture?

Why is the MAGIC project specialized on the water-energy-food nexus? Because the nexus matters crucially for many EU policies! In this issue, we discuss some of the nexus issues that concern agriculture and the challenge of feeding an increasing population.

The nexus between agriculture and biodiversity is explored by zooming into the ‘land sharing vs land sparing’ debate. On the one hand, agriculture depends on biodiversity, for services such as pollination, soil generation, etc. On the other hand, agricultural expansion competes with biodiversity and land set aside for conservation.

The challenge of agricultural expansion matters not only for biodiversity, but also raises the question of internal boundaries: are there enough farmers to feed an increasing population? There is a link between the small amount of labour Europeans put into agriculture, and the consequences it has on the use of machines, fossil fuels, as well as imports. The EU imports almost four times as much food as China does, even though it has double the amount of arable land per capita. Diets, living standards, and people’s preferences are part of these internal boundaries.

The explicit inclusion of the nexus within policy-making allows for a better-informed analysis of progress towards EU sustainability goals. It does not mean, however, that the achievement of these goals becomes easier! In our last article, we take you through the first results of MAGIC’s analysis of policy narratives. The Common Agricultural Policy has the potential to be a force for change in strategies on water, biodiversity, climate change and wider rural economic development – but it is also dominated by big agro-businesses.

These articles are aimed at initiating a discussion on the importance of the nexus for agricultural policy-making. We welcome any comment and contribution to the discussion. You can either use our discussion forum (check out our post on CAP narratives!) or write to us.

The WEFE Nexus and the Common Agricultural Policy

The MAGIC Nexus project team has identified policy narratives that illustrate complexities and tradeoffs regarding the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the context of the water, energy, food and environment (WEFE) nexus.

Planetary boundaries and the global food system: what about the farmers?

Planetary boundaries are usually framed in terms of natural constraints on the ecosystem, but constraints linked to society’s organization, especially our workforce, shouldn’t be ignored.

The land sharing vs. land sparing debate: Options to ensure food security while preserving biodiversity

Global agricultural production is increasing to meet our food needs as the world's population grows - but how can this expansion be reconciled with environmental concerns such as biodiversity loss and cultural practices?

VIDEO: Is agriculture just about food production?

Watch Mario Giampietro talk about the complexities of agriculture and how farming is more than just monoculture. This excerpt was taken from the 2017 UAB MOOC on socio-ecological systems:

VIDEO: How should we conceptualize 'food'?

Should we view the concept of food more in terms of its historical and geographical context versus its role as a commodity? Mario Giampietro of the UAB explains why the definition of 'food' is so important when analyzing agricultural systems. This except was taken from the 2017 UAB MOOC on socio ecological systems.