chapter  2
14 Pages

Biotechnology And Agriculture

WithDavid Colman

Technological change in agriculture has been the foundation of economic growth and development. By raising yields and continually increasing the number of people who can be fed by the output of one worker in agriculture, change in agricultural technology has permitted an increasing proportion of labour and other productive resources to be devoted to non-agricultural production. Plant and animal breeding and chemical and mechanical technology plus improved husbandry have caused continual structural change in farming. These technological stimuli have arisen as a series of overlapping waves to create a process of technological change, the momentum of which looks likely to be maintained by intensified adoption of information and biotechnologies. As a result of the cumulative processes to date, farms have become larger and more specialized, and farmers are more highly trained and have substituted machines for animal and human power; farming in the ‘West’ has become one of the most capital-intensive of industries. At the same time agriculture has become more dependent upon industry, and even more industrialized-the intensive production of eggs, broiler chickens, horticultural products and pigs has many characteristics which belong to industrial production rather than to traditional farming. Goodman et al. (1987) talk of ‘the industrial appropriation of the rural processes’. Processes of marketing farm products have passed off the farm to be performed by sophisticated distribution and retailing sectors which increasingly dictate details of production to the farm sector, while at the other end of the chain an increasing proportion of inputs is supplied by the chemical, pharmaceutical and engineering industries.