Cover Image
close this bookBriefs for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment - 2020 Vision : Brief 1 - 64 (IFPRI)
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2020 BRIEF 1 - AUGUST 1994: ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
View the document2020 BRIEF 2 - AUGUST 1994: WORLD SUPPLY AND DEMAND PROJECTIONS FOR CEREALS, 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 3 - AUGUST 1994: WORLD PRODUCTION OF CEREALS, 1966-90
View the document2020 BRIEF 4 - AUGUST 1994: SUSTAINABLE FARMING: A POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY
View the document2020 BRIEF 5 - OCTOBER 1994: WORLD POPULATION PROJECTIONS, 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 6 - OCTOBER 1994: MALNUTRITION AND FOOD INSECURITY PROJECTIONS, 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 7 - OCTOBER 1994: AGRICULTURAL GROWTH AS A KEY TO POVERTY ALLEVIATION
View the document2020 BRIEF 8 - OCTOBER 1994: CONSERVATION AND ENHANCEMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
View the document2020 BRIEF 9 - FEBRUARY 1995: THE ROLE OF AGRICULTURE IN SAVING THE RAIN FOREST
View the document2020 BRIEF 10 - FEBRUARY 1995: A TIME OF PLENTY, A WORLD OF NEED: THE ROLE OF FOOD AID IN 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 11 - FEBRUARY 1995: MANAGING AGRICULTURAL INTENSIFICATION
View the document2020 BRIEF 12 - FEBRUARY 1995: TRADE LIBERALIZATION AND REGIONAL INTEGRATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 13 - APRIL 1995: THE POTENTIAL OF TECHNOLOGY TO MEET WORLD FOOD NEEDS IN 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 14 - APRIL 1995: AN ECOREGIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON MALNUTRITION
View the document2020 BRIEF 15 - APRIL 1995: AGRICULTURAL GROWTH IS THE KEY TO POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN LOW-INCOME DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
View the document2020 BRIEF 16 - APRIL 1995: DECLINING ASSISTANCE TO DEVELOPING-COUNTRY AGRICULTURE: CHANGE OF PARADIGM?
View the document2020 BRIEF 17 - MAY 1995: GENERATING FOOD SECURITY IN THE YEAR 2020: WOMEN AS PRODUCERS, GATEKEEPERS, AND SHOCK ABSORBERS
View the document2020 BRIEF 18 - MAY 1995: BIOPHYSICAL LIMITS TO GLOBAL FOOD PRODUCTION
View the document2020 BRIEF 19 - MAY 1995: CAUSES OF HUNGER
View the document2020 BRIEF 20 - MAY 1995: CHINA AND THE FUTURE GLOBAL FOOD SITUATION
View the document2020 BRIEF 21 - JUNE 1995: DEALING WITH WATER SCARCITY IN THE NEXT CENTURY
View the document2020 BRIEF 22 - JUNE 1995: THE RIGHT TO FOOD: WIDELY ACKNOWLEDGED AND POORLY PROTECTED
View the document2020 BRIEF 23 - JUNE 1995: CEREALS PROSPECTS IN INDIA TO 2020: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
View the document2020 BRIEF 24 - JUNE 1995: REVAMPING AGRICULTURAL R&D
View the document2020 BRIEF 25 - AUGUST 1995: MORE THAN FOOD IS NEEDED TO ACHIEVE GOOD NUTRITION BY 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 26 - AUGUST 1995: PERSPECTIVES ON EUROPEAN AGRICULTURE IN 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 27 - AUGUST 1995: NONDEGRADING LAND USE STRATEGIES FOR TROPICAL HILLSIDES
View the document2020 BRIEF 28 - AUGUST 1995: EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS FOR FOOD SECURITY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
View the document2020 BRIEF 29 - AUGUST 1995: POVERTY, FOOD SECURITY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
View the document2020 BRIEF 30 - JANUARY 1996: RISING FOOD PRICES AND FALLING GRAIN STOCKS: SHORT-RUN BLIPS OR NEW TRENDS?
View the document2020 BRIEF 31 - APRIL 1996: MIDDLE EAST WATER CONFLICTS AND DIRECTIONS FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION
View the document2020 BRIEF 32 - APRIL 1996: THE TRANSITION IN THE CONTRIBUTION OF LIVING AQUATIC RESOURCES TO FOOD SECURITY
View the document2020 BRIEF 33 - JUNE 1996: MANAGING RESOURCES FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IN SOUTH ASIA
View the document2020 BRIEF 34 - JUNE 1996: IMPLEMENTING THE URUGUAY ROUND: INCREASED FOOD PRICE STABILITY BY 2020?
View the document2020 BRIEF 35 - JULY 1996: SOCIOPOLITICAL EFFECTS OF NEW BIOTECHNOLOGIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
View the document2020 BRIEF 36 - OCTOBER 1996: RUSSIA'S FOOD ECONOMY IN TRANSITION: WHAT DO REFORMS MEAN FOR THE LONG-TERM OUTLOOK?
View the document2020 BRIEF 37 - OCTOBER 1996: UNCOMMON OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY - An Agenda for Science and Public Policy
View the document2020 BRIEF 38 - OCTOBER 1996: WORLD TRENDS IN FERTILIZER USE AND PROJECTIONS TO 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 39 - OCTOBER 1996: REDUCING POVERTY AND PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT: THE OVERLOOKED POTENTIAL OF LESS-FAVORED LANDS
View the document2020 BRIEF 40 - OCTOBER 1996: POLICIES TO PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE FERTILIZER USE AND SUPPLY TO 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 41 - DECEMBER 1996: STRUCTURAL CHANGES IN THE DEMAND FOR FOOD IN ASIA
View the document2020 BRIEF 42 - MARCH 1997: AFRICA'S CHANGING AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES
View the document2020 BRIEF 43 - JUNE 1997: THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF AIDS ON POPULATION AND ECONOMIC GROWTH RATES
View the document2020 BRIEF 44 - JUNE 1997: LAND DEGRADATION IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD: ISSUES AND POLICY OPTIONS FOR 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 45 - JUNE 1997: AGRICULTURE, TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN LATIN AMERICA: A 2020 PERSPECTIVE
View the document2020 BRIEF 46 - JUNE 1997: AGRICULTURE, TRADE, AND REGIONALISM IN SOUTH ASIA
View the document2020 BRIEF 47 - AUGUST 1997: THE NONFARM SECTOR AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT: REVIEW OF ISSUES AND EVIDENCE
View the document2020 BRIEF 48 - FEBRUARY 1998: CHALLENGES TO THE 2020 VISION FOR LATIN AMERICA: FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SINCE 1970
View the document2020 BRIEF 49 - APRIL 1998: NUTRITION SECURITY IN URBAN AREAS OF LATIN AMERICA
View the document2020 BRIEF 50 - JUNE 1998: FOOD FROM PEACE: BREAKING THE LINKS BETWEEN CONFLICT AND HUNGER
View the document2020 BRIEF 51 - JULY 1998: TECHNOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUSTAINING WHEAT PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH TOWARD 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 52 - SEPTEMBER 1998: PEST MANAGEMENT AND FOOD PRODUCTION: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
View the document2020 BRIEF 53 - OCTOBER 1998: POPULATION GROWTH AND POLICY OPTIONS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
View the document2020 BRIEF 54 - OCTOBER 1998: FOSTERING GLOBAL WELL-BEING: A NEW PARADIGM TO REVITALIZE AGRICULTURAL AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
View the document2020 BRIEF 55 - OCTOBER 1998: THE POTENTIAL OF AGROECOLOGY TO COMBAT HUNGER IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
View the document2020 RESUMEN No. 56 - OCTUBRE DE 1998: AYUDA A LA AGRICULTURA EN LOS PAÍSES EN DESARROLLO: INVERSIONES EN LA REDUCCIÓN DE LA POBREZA Y NUEVAS OPORTUNIDADES DE EXPORTACIÓN
View the document2020 BRIEF 57 - OCTOBER 1998: ECONOMIC CRISIS IN ASIA: A FUTURE OF DIMINISHING GROWTH AND INCREASING POVERTY?
View the document2020 BRIEF 58 - FEBRUARY 1999: SOIL DEGRADATION: A THREAT TO DEVELOPING-COUNTRY FOOD SECURITY BY 20207
View the document2020 BRIEF 59 - MARCH 1999: AGRICULTURAL GROWTH, POVERTY ALLEVIATION, AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: HAVING IT ALL
View the document2020 BRIEF 60 - MAY 1999: CRITICAL CHOICES FOR CHINA'S AGRICULTURAL POLICY
View the document2020 BRIEF 61 - MAY 1999: LIVESTOCK TO 2020: THE NEXT FOOD REVOLUTION
View the document2020 BRIEF 62 - OCTOBER 1999: NUTRIENT DEPLETION IN THE AGRICULTURAL SOILS OF AFRICA
View the document2020 BRIEF 63 - NOVEMBER 1999: PROSPECTS FOR INDIA'S CEREAL SUPPLY AND DEMAND TO 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 64 - FEBRUARY 2000: OVERCOMING CHILD MALNUTRITION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: PAST ACHIEVEMENTS AND FUTURE CHOICES
View the document2020 BRIEF 65 - MARCH 2000: COMBINING INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL INPUTS FOR SUSTAINABLE INTENSIFICATION

2020 BRIEF 45 - JUNE 1997: AGRICULTURE, TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN LATIN AMERICA: A 2020 PERSPECTIVE

Eduardo J. Trigo

Eduardo J. Trigo is executive director of the ArgenINTA Foundation, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Latin America, like most other developing regions, faces the daunting task over the next 25 years of meeting the food needs of a growing population while reducing poverty and protecting the environment.

Of the 2.5 billion additional people who will populate the planet by the year 2020, about 200 million will be in Latin America. Though this represents a relatively small share of the world's additional population, it will nevertheless pose a real challenge for the region's agriculture sector.

Latin America's relatively poor agricultural performance is at the heart of the region's increasing poverty and rapidly deteriorating natural resource base. Between 1979 and 1990 agricultural production grew just enough to keep per capita food production constant. Since the late 1980s, food security at the household level has continued to deteriorate in 8 of the 21 countries included in the latest United Nations assessment. The number of people living below the poverty line increased from 195 million to 250 million over the 1980-92 period, with most of that increase occurring in urban areas. Natural resources of all types are under great stress. For example, in the mid-to late 1980s it is estimated that more than 2 million hectares in the region suffered from moderate to severe soil erosion.

Agricultural polices have been an important part of the problem. During the 1980s devaluation of local currencies produced better terms of trade for agriculture, but these improvements were largely offset by a decline in public investment in agriculture and the negative impact of the protectionist policies of developed countries. These conditions ultimately created incentives to degrade the environment and exacerbated poverty in the region.

Other recent developments - trade liberalization, regional economic integration, and continuing urbanization - are likely to lead to a repositioning of agriculture within national economies and a restructuring of agricultural production in response to significant increases in demand for both traditional and more diversified products.

The region has the natural resources to exploit both emerging domestic and international market opportunities. But can it develop a scientific and technological base that will permit exploitation of these resources without further damaging the environment and increasing poverty? General answers are difficult because of the region's diversity, but some general points can be made about the potential of existing technologies and the likely contribution of new biotechnologies.

PROSPECTS FOR CONVENTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES

For the moment, gains in productivity will continue to rely mostly on conventional improvements in animal and plant breeding and chemical technologies, with more efficient use of resources and agroecological considerations becoming increasingly important concerns.

The experience to date with integrated nutrient and pest and disease management technologies in both commercial and small-farm agriculture is positive. Environmental perspectives are being incorporated into the agricultural intensification strategies at a number of the region's international, regional, and national agricultural research centers, and nongovernmental organizations are playing an increasingly active and useful role.

Several factors will limit these processes, however. An initial one is the lack of information about some of the major agroecologies, particularly in the tropical areas, and the small numbers of people with adequate training to apply agroecological and environmental perspectives. A second factor is the intensity of management required by these new technologies at the farm level. Applying these technologies requires capabilities at the farm level and support services that are not currently available in most situations.

PROSPECTS FOR NEW TECHNOLOGIES

It is generally agreed that further developments in biotechnology offer potential benefits for Latin America, but most of these new technologies are not expected to reach agricultural markets until well into the next two decades.

Some genetically engineered crops are expected soon, including cotton with genes of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) for pest control, BT maize, and herbicide-resistant soybeans. However, these new crops will not appear on the market in significant quantities until the next decade. The results of work to improve the nutritional value of some basic food crops such as cassava, maize, and potatoes are still 5 to 10 years away from farm-level application.

Within the next five years the more technologically advanced farmers will probably be using pest- and disease-resistant and herbicide-tolerant varieties of soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, sunflowers, and potatoes. Generalized use should not be expected before the end of the decade. Insect- and herbicide-resistant fruits and vegetables, as well as varieties with improved processing, storage, and nutritional characteristics, will also become available. Progress could be slower for wheat, maize, and rice for technical reasons.

These new technologies have been generated by research in developed countries, whose agricultural priorities and crops of interest are the focus of most of the biotechnology research currently being undertaken in the world. Some of the new developments will likely "trickle down" to commercial agriculture in the developing world, but the benefits to small and resource-poor farmers will be marginal and circumstantial.

Of great concern, therefore, is the low level of biotechnology research taking place within Latin America. By the early 1990s about 150 researchers in the region were working on biotechnology-related projects. By contrast, one multinational company, Monsanto, currently employs in its laboratories more than twice that number of scientists. It is estimated that only 33 research groups in the region have a strong capability to carry out traditional biotechnology research, and only 6 have a capacity in modern molecular biotechnology. Moreover, their links to producers are weak.

THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT FOR RESEARCH

In general, the institutional environment for agricultural research is in deep crisis. Latin America has been part of the worldwide trend toward a smaller public sector. The new ideological and economic perspectives call for less government intervention in agriculture, and public spending has been drastically curtailed. Between 1977 and 1992 investment in research in the region grew by only about 1.5 percent per year, down from almost 6 percent annual growth in the period 1967-77. In every Latin American country except Argentina and Colombia, the resources available per researcher fell substantially.

Current efforts to deregulate and open up economies are helping to strengthen private interest in technology development. Although direct private investment in agricultural research remains low, this diversification of options and capacities is a positive step. Foundations have also become significant players. But the magnitude of these initiatives is not sufficient to compensate for the retreat of public sector institutions. It is likely that the institutional context for agricultural research and technology will be increasingly diverse, with a growing number of public and private initiatives coming together to share responsibilities.

Beyond a doubt, technological progress is necessary to alleviate poverty and achieve food security. Technology by itself, however, can hardly produce the expected results without a conducive institutional environment.