Environmental Damage Threatens Food Production

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Experts say some farming activities are seriously damaging Earth's environment. Bad farming methods can damage soil, forests and water supplies. They also have caused some plants and animals to disappear.

Two groups now say that bad farming methods are threatening the ability of farmers to produce enough food to feed the world population in the future. The International Food Policy Research Institute and the World Resources Institute reported the findings.

The groups used satellite images, maps and modern equipment to study the effect of agriculture on the environment. They say their study is the first to examine the ability of agriculture to provide enough food, goods and services to support human life.

Officials note that the world population is expected to increase by more than twenty-five percent during the next twenty years.

The study found that the destruction of soil is widespread. Important organic nutrients are being removed from farmland. Officials say soil damage during the past twenty to thirty years probably has decreased agricultural production by thirteen percent. The report says such damage will have the greatest effect in poor countries with large populations.

Agriculture uses seventy percent of the freshwater in the world each year. The study found that many farmers are wasting water supplies. In addition, chemicals designed to protect crops may pollute waterways.

The report also says as much as thirty percent of the world's forests have been cut down so the land could be used for agriculture. This has led to a severe loss of wildlife and their environments.

Stanley Wood is a scientist with the International Food Policy Research Institute. He says the world needs to do more than just produce more food. He notes that agricultural land must produce other goods and services, including clean water and an environment for threatened wildlife.

World Bank Vice President Ian Johnson is an agricultural research expert. He says the report shows the need for farm policy reforms. He also says the report shows the need for much larger investments in agricultural research and development.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English