Food and Agriculture

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James Hunt
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Food and Agriculture
1 Feeding the World
2 Crops and Soil
3 Animals and Agriculture
Before you read this chapter,
take a few minutes to
answer the following
questions in your EcoLog.
1. How do people’s food
choices affect the environment?
2. What is the relationship
between agriculture and
This farmland in rural Pennsylvania
is used to grow alfalfa, corn, and
soybeans. Agriculture can be
thought of as one of the most
important relationships people
have with the environment.
378 Chapter 15 Food and Agriculture
Copyright© by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
Feeding the World
In 1985, lack of rain, loss of soil, and war had caused crops to
fail in Ethiopia. This resulted in famine, widespread starvation
caused by a shortage of food. Events like those in Ethiopia present a frightening picture of the difficulty of feeding the Earth’s
growing population. Modern agricultural practices provide most
of the world’s population with enough food to survive. However,
some of these practices can cause environmental damage that
eventually makes growing food crops more difficult. In this chapter, you will learn why feeding all of the world’s people is so difficult and about efforts to increase food production.
Humans and Nutrition
Key Terms
The human body uses food both as a source of energy and as a
source of materials for building and maintaining body tissues. The
amount of energy that is available in food is expressed in Calories.
One Calorie (Cal) is equal to 1,000 calories, or one kilocalorie. As
shown in Table 1, the major nutrients we get from food are carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Our bodies need smaller amounts of
vitamins and minerals to remain healthy.
Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when people do not
consume enough Calories or do not eat a sufficient variety of foods
to fulfill all of the body’s needs. There are many forms of malnutrition. For example, humans need to get eight essential amino acids
from proteins. This is easily done if a variety of foods are eaten.
However, in some parts of the world, the only sources of food may
be corn or rice. Each of these foods contains protein but lacks one
of the essential amino acids. A type of malnutrition called amino
acid deficiency can result from such a limited diet.
왘 Identify the major causes of
왘 Compare the environmental costs
of producing different types of
왘 Explain how food distribution
problems and drought can lead to
왘 Explain the importance of the
green revolution.
Topic: Food and Diet
SciLinks code: HE4042
Table 1 왔
Major Nutrients in Human Foods
Connection to
wheat, corn,
and rice
4 Cal/g
is the main
source of the
body’s energy
(oils and
fatty acids
and fatty
olives, nuts,
and animal
9 Cal/g
helps form
and hormones
amino acids
animal food
and smaller
from plants
4 Cal/g
helps build
and maintain
all body
Copyright© by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
Essential Amino Acids Animals
make their own proteins from
amino acids. Essential amino
acids are those that must be supplied in the diet because the
body needs them but cannot
make them from other amino
acids. A lack of essential amino
acids in the diet can lead to the
human diseases kwashiorkor and
marasmus, which can cause brain
damage in children.
Section 1 Feeding the World 379
World Food Production, 1999
Metric tons (in millions)
Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Figure 1 왘 This bar graph shows
that in 1999, grains (wheat, corn,
and rice) were produced in greater
amounts than was any other food.
Wheat and corn are eaten by
humans and are fed to farm animals.
Figure 2 왘 People in developed
countries generally eat more food
and more proteins and fats than people in less developed countries eat.
Sources of Nutrition A person’s diet is the type and amount of
food that he or she eats. A healthy diet is one that maintains a
balance of the right amounts of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
In most parts of the world, people eat large amounts of food that
is high in carbohydrates, such as rice, potatoes, and bread. As
shown in Figure 1, the foods produced in the greatest amounts
worldwide are grains, plants of the grass family whose seeds are
rich in carbohydrates. Besides eating grains, most people eat
fruits, vegetables, and smaller amounts of meats, nuts, and other
foods that are rich in fats and proteins.
Diets Around the World People worldwide generally consume
the same major nutrients and eat the same basic kinds of food.
But diets vary by region, as shown in Figure 2. People in moredeveloped countries tend to eat more food and a larger proportion of proteins and fats than people eat in less developed
countries. For example, in the United States, almost half of all
Calories people consume come from meat, fish, and oil. The
Japanese, whose diet traditionally included a mix of rice, vegetables, and seafood, have started to consume more beef in
recent decades.
Total Calorie Supply, per Person, per Day
From carbohydrates
and alcohol
From fats
From proteins
Developed countries
Developing countries
North America
Total Calories
380 Chapter 15 Food and Agriculture
Source: UN Food and Agricultural Organization.
Copyright© by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
The Ecology of Food
As the human population grows, farmland replaces forests and
grasslands. Feeding everyone while maintaining natural ecosystems becomes more difficult. Different kinds of agriculture have
different environmental impacts and different levels of efficiency.
Food Efficiency The efficiency of a given type of agriculture is a
measure of the quantity of food produced on a given area of land
with limited inputs of energy and resources. An ideal food crop is
one that efficiently produces a large amount of food with little
negative impact on the environment.
On average, more energy, water, and land are used to produce a Calorie of food from animals than to produce a Calorie
of food from plants. Animals that are raised for human use are
usually fed plant matter. Because less energy is available at each
higher level on a food chain, only about 10 percent of the energy
from the plants gets stored in the animals. Thus, a given area of
land can usually produce more food for humans when it is used
to grow plants than when it is used to raise animals. The efficiency of raising plants for food is one reason why diets around
the world are largely based on plants. However, meat from animals generally provides more nutrients per gram than most food
from plants.
Extra Calories An active
man who weighs 70 kg
maintains his weight if he eats
2,700 Cal per day. Unused Calories
are converted into stored fat at the
rate of 1 kg of fat per 9,000 Cal
that are unused. If this active man
consumes 3,600 Cal per day,
how much weight does he gain
each year?
Figure 3 왘 Glasswort (top) is a salad
green that may become an important
food source in the future because it
can grow in salty soil. Seaweed (bottom) is a multicellular organism called
a protist and has been harvested and
eaten by humans for centuries.
Old and New Foods Researchers hope to improve the efficiency
of food production by studying plants and other organisms that
have high yield—the amount of food that can be produced in a
given area. Researchers are interested in organisms that can thrive
in various climates and that do not require large amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, or fresh water. As shown in Figure 3, some
organisms have been a source of food for centuries, while other
sources are just being discovered.
Copyright© by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
Section 1 381
Figure 4 왘 Malnourished citizens in
Bangladesh (a country in Asia) wait
for food assistance.
Topic: Green Revolutions
SciLinks code: HE4050
World Food Problems
As shown in Figure 4, some people become malnourished because
they simply do not get enough food. More food is needed each
year to feed the world’s growing population. As shown in Figure
5, world food production has been increasing for decades, but
now food production is not increasing as fast as the human
population is increasing.
Unequal Distribution If all the food in the world today were
divided equally among the human population, no one would have
quite enough food for good health. But food is not divided equally.
And malnutrition is largely the result of poverty. Even in the
United States, many poor people suffer from malnutrition. Wars
and political strife can also lead to malnutrition because they interrupt transportation systems. During wars, even if food is available,
it often cannot be transported to the people who need it.
Droughts and Famines A drought is a prolonged period during
which rainfall is below average. Crops grown without irrigation
may produce low yields or fail entirely. A drought is more likely
to cause famine in places where most food is grown locally than
in places where most food is imported. If a drought occurs, there
may be no seed to plant crops the following year. The effects of a
drought can continue for years.
People in a given area can usually survive one crop failure.
They may have saved enough food from previous seasons, or they
may have systems for importing food from elsewhere. But several
years of drought cause severe problems for any area of the world.
After a long drought, the soil may be less able to support the production of food crops.
382 Chapter 15 Food and Agriculture
Copyright© by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
Figure 5 왘 Worldwide grain produc400
Grain per person
Grain production
Grain per person (kg)
Grain production
(in millions of metric tons)
World Grain Production, 1950–2000
tion has increased steadily, but not as
rapidly as the population has grown.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Green Revolution
Between 1950 and 1970, Mexico increased its production of wheat
eight-fold and India doubled its production of rice. Worldwide,
increases in crop yields resulted from the use of new crop varieties
and the application of modern agricultural techniques. These
changes were called the green revolution. An example of one of the
new varieties of grain is shown in Figure 6. Since the 1950s, the
green revolution has changed the lives of millions of people.
However, the green revolution also had some negative effects.
Most new varieties of grain produce large yields only if they
receive large amounts of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. In addition, the machinery, irrigation, and chemicals required by new
crop varieties can degrade the soil if they are not used properly.
As a result of the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, yields from
green revolution crops are falling in many areas. Grain production in the United States has decreased since 1990, partly because
the amount of water used for irrigation has decreased during the
same period.
In addition, the green revolution had a negative impact on
subsistence farmers—farmers who grow only enough food for
local use. Before the green revolution, subsistence farmers worked
most of the world’s farmland. But they could not afford the equipment, water, and chemicals needed to grow the new crop varieties.
Figure 6 왘 New rice varieties and
farming methods developed during
the green revolution are used to
increase yield in this experimental
farm in China.
1. Identify the major causes of malnutrition.
2. Compare the environmental costs of producing different types of foods.
5. Identifying Relationships Study the graph in
Figure 5. World grain production peaked in the mid1990s. Why was the amount of grain per person
3. Explain how drought and the problems of food distribution can lead to famines.
4. Describe the importance and effects of the green
Copyright© by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
6. Inferring Relationships Write a short paragraph
that explains how a decrease in the production of
grain worldwide could lead to a shortage of other
food sources. WRITING SKILLS
Section 1 Feeding the World 383

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