Because of severe limitations on natural resources, environment and technological improvement against population explosion in the developing countries, and of the transformation in agricultural policies in the United States and the EU, severe food shortage is expected in developing countries for the period from now to the year 2020. The green revolution technology, which has used increasing amounts of modern chemical inputs and is still widely used in the world, had increased grain yield considerably but at the same time had destroyed environment considerably until the mid-eighties. As the effect of the new technology on grain yield has declined since then, annual growth rates of the yield have declined to about 1 percent per year from about the 3 percent before 1970 which is required to provide food for exploding populations in the developing countries. Thus, there is a strong need for finding and applying a new technology that will realize sustainable and considerable yield increase of grain in the near future. In other words, socially optimal yield increase is needed that will increase grain yield but will also conserve the soil and water which are the basis for grain production, and will protect the environment. Genetic engineering is one approach to attaining this goal. IRRI has publicized many modern rice varieties having increasingly more resistance to insects and diseases, developed by both genetic engineering technology and conventional technology.42 These varieties have been adopted widely by Asian farmers. This type of research will decrease input of agricultural chemicals and increase yield. But, based on the information I gathered at the 12th Toyota Conference, as well as from other publications and discussions with experts, I think the genetic engineering approach alone is not sufficient for providing food to the exploding population in developing countries for the period from now to the year 2020. This type of research has not and will not be able to create a breakthrough in increasing grain yield on the farmers' plots in the period from now to the year 2020.
International and national agricultural research strategy needs a serious reconsideration. The structure of research emphases must be reevaluated. Research on research is one method for this reevaluation.
First of all, the past paradigm of research strategy emphasizing modern technology must be reconsidered. I think we have to study traditional and local agricultural technologies more; many of them are natural resource maintaining and environment sustaining. Traditional rice culture in Asia, which had been followed for thousands of years without much modern input before the green revolution, is a typical example of environment-sustaining agriculture, although yield is low. In some mixed cropping fields on the Deccan Plateau, where I visited during my field survey in September 1998, about 3 to 10 crops were planted in each field at the time of my field survey. Traditional sawing and cultivating machinery is used and barnyard manure is also used. Here is another example. Dr. Ochi, a geographer, and Tanaka and Watabe, agronomists who have studied this mixed cropping practice applied widely on the Deccan Plateau, think that this is one of the most productive and sustainable agricultural technologies on a semi-arid tropical plateau.43,44 Shifting cultivation in northern Thailand, with long fallow periods, is another type of sustainable agriculture.45 Traditional agricultural technology has used large amounts of organic fertilizers which maintain soil structure and soil fertility in Asian countries. This is an important cyclical and sustainable relation among field crops, domestic animals and humans in traditional Asian agricultural technology. The green revolution technology has severed this cyclical and sustainable relation by using large amounts of chemical fertilizers and agricultural machinery in order to obtain short run grain yield increase. This was a necessary evil, since when the green revolution technology was introduced in the middle of sixties, world food shortage was very severe. But in the long run I think this severing has degraded soil fertility, overused natural resources and destroyed natural environment and caused stagnation in the increase of grain yield in the world after the mid-eighties. I believe that the cyclical nature of agricultural technology must be restored in both developing and developed countries, especially by more input of organic fertilizers. Combining the traditional and local technologies with modern technologies, we may be able to create a new technology that restores the cyclical relations and leads to sustainable yield increase of food. Some successful examples of this combination in various countries do exist.46,47 I think this approach is important because modern technology has been intensifying its use of modern input, and thus has been increasing environmental destruction.
I was surprised to observe, in my village survey in September 1998, that many villagers in Central Java are organized by the government extension service system to perform IPM rice practices. Wide practice of IPM may be an effective approach to attaining socially optimal yield increase of rice and other grain.
I believe that water shortage is the most critical factor constraining future increase in food supply in developing countries, based on my field surveys in China, India and other Asian countries. Thus, researches relating to water use institution and policies which influence water use efficiency, and to water saving technology, must be emphasized.
Degradation of soil and decline in arable land are other important constraints to future food supply increase in Asia and in the world. Socioeconomic and natural science researches to these problems are also important.
Socioeconomic research can increase food supply considerably. Socioeconomic factors reducing food production, increasing post-harvest losses and increasing waste in food consumption must be further studied. Firstly, socioeconomic factors to reduce food production must be identified in each country. Then, socially optimal measures balancing economic cost, environmental effects and burdens to natural resources could be found, in order to increase food production in each country. IRRI and FAO studies have estimated that about 10 to 40 percent of rice is lost at all production and marketing stages from harvest to before retail. In the current academic knowledge, there is no solid information about the magnitude of post-harvest food losses and how these losses could be reduced, but concerning staple food it seems an important problem to solve. The post-harvest loss means not only human hunger and financial loss to the farmers, but also significant environmental destruction.48 Research and policy must cope with this problem. Huge amounts of food supplied to consumers is not consumed, but rather wasted, in Japan and probably in other high income countries. Research and policy must handle reduction and recycling of this food waste. I do not have solid data with me now about how great this waste is. I personally observed in my field surveys in Vietnam and China in recent years that a lot of food wastes from households and restaurants are recycled to feed pigs and other domestic animals. In developing countries this waste seems much less. Decades ago in Japan this waste was well recycled to feed domestic animals and to crop land.
Research on agricultural policy and trade rule of agricultural products is important in order to increase food supply and food security, and to reduce environmental destruction and burdens to natural resources. The people of each country, especially the huge poor and hungry in developing countries, require not only a larger food supply but also stability or sure daily access to staple food. I believe liberalization of rice trade under the WTO system will destroy this stability and sure access to the huge Asian poor. This is because the international rice trade market is extremely small, unstable and unreliable compared with such important grains as wheat and maize. Also, Asian countries, which comprise about 90 percent of the world total rice production, have pursued and will maintain rice self-sufficiency policies in order to secure food security for each country. Liberalization will greatly destabilize the world rice market.49
As agricultural policy and trade rule influence environment, natural resources and income distribution, research to identify an optimal policy and trade rule is important. The agricultural trade liberalization under the WTO system will reduce food production in the north much more than food production increase in the south, and thus increase food prices, which will lead to more use of chemical fertilizer and agricultural chemicals. Liberalization will lead to more food production far away from densely populated developed and developing countries, in sparsely populated countries. Given sparse population and soft state50 in the case of developing countries, less attention will be paid to negative environmental impact and overuse of natural resources for liberalized, increased food production in these countries. These negative impacts of food production are, I believe, best controlled when more food is produced in each country. People in each country can best observe these negative impacts and can influence government policies and other measures to reduce them. More food production in the densely populated developing countries will reduce poverty and equalize income distribution by increasing income of the huge agricultural poor in these countries.51 These are the reasons why I think the free trade rule of the WTO should be modified, and socially optimal agricultural policies oriented toward self-sufficiency of staple foods in each country, and socially optimal food trade rules, should be sought by policy research.
Demographic research is also critical, in order to reduce population explosions in developing countries.
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