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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: PEST BIOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE Title: Agriculture’s Ethical Horizon, book review

Author
item Hesler, Louis

Submitted to: American Entomologist
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: February 2, 2009
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Citation: Hesler, L.S. 2009. Book Review, Agriculture’s Ethical Horizon (2006). American Entomologist. 55:200-201.

Interpretive Summary: Roughly 6.5 billion people inhabit the earth, but over 1 billion people regularly go hungry. This food shortfall poses an ethical dilemma for agriculture, and Agriculture's Ethical Horizon grapples with this dilemma. It argues that agricultural productivity has been the quintessential value of agriculture that has trumped other concerns such as sustainability, environmental preservation, and social justice (e.g., fair commodity prices, welfare of migrant farm laborers). Increasing world population demands greater productivity, but Agriculture's Ethical Horizon argues that the prevailing production ethic is insufficient to address the myriad of issues that 21st century agriculture faces. Modern practices bent on ever-greater production per acre have created externalities such as soil erosion, pesticide resistance, and groundwater depletion, with woefully inadequate attention about their long-term consequences. Social policies and economies of scale favor ever-larger farms, resulting in loss of family farms and dwindling of rural communities. A new, more encompassing ethic is needed to guide agriculture that places other values on par with production.

Technical Abstract: Roughly 6.5 billion people inhabit the earth, but over 1 billion people regularly go hungry. This food shortfall poses an ethical dilemma for agriculture, and Agriculture's Ethical Horizon grapples with this dilemma. It argues that agricultural productivity has been the quintessential value of agriculture that has trumped other concerns such as sustainability, environmental preservation, and social justice (e.g., fair commodity prices, welfare of migrant farm laborers). Increasing world population demands greater productivity, but Agriculture's Ethical Horizon argues that the prevailing production ethic is insufficient to address the myriad of issues that 21st century agriculture faces. Modern practices bent on ever-greater production per acre have created externalities such as soil erosion, pesticide resistance, and groundwater depletion, with woefully inadequate attention about their long-term consequences. Social policies and economies of scale favor ever-larger farms, resulting in loss of family farms and dwindling of rural communities. A new, more encompassing ethic is needed to guide agriculture that places other values on par with production.

Last Modified: 11/24/2014
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