2 | North America and Europe (NAE) Report

Key Messages

1. The application of agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) within NAE since 1945 has increased productivity and production substantially, such that NAE produces more than enough food over­all to meet basic needs of the region. Yet its application has also undermined the achievement of development and sustainability goals within the region and in other sub-glob­al regions by contributing to environmental degradation (e.g., habitat transformation, freshwater contamination and over-exploitation of fisheries), increasing inequity in wealth and assets in the food system, increasing the vulnerability of livelihoods dependent on agriculture and contributing to diet-related diseases, obesity and overweight.

2. NAE's agricultural activities have significant influ­ence on the capacity of countries in other regions to meet development and sustainability goals. This is largely due to NAE's volume and variety of exports and im­ports and the many actors and networks based in NAE that dominate agrifood chains and AKST. For example, busi­nesses within NAE have a powerful impact on consumer demand in the rest of the world; they obtain and profit from commodities, landraces and other valuable genetic resourc­es and immigrant labor from other regions. NAE countries house ex situ genetic resources collections, and they have a legacy of substantial investment in AKST dating back cen­turies. NAE generated and initially used many advances in AKST, so this region shows the impacts of specific forms of AKST over the longest time period and can provide illus­trative lessons on its application and resulting positive and negative (intended and unintended) consequences.

3. Choices about investment in, generation and control of, and access to AKST have great potential to help solve critical current and future challenges to human well-being within NAE and globally, including

•     Mitigating and adapting to global climate change,

•     Managing resources for human use while maintaining their ability to provide a full array of ecosystem ser­vices,

•     Creating markets with fair access and compensation to participants,

•     Developing renewable energy sources and other alterna­tives to products made from fossil fuels,

•     Improving human health and reducing exposure to foodborne contaminants and disease,

•     Increasing the availability of and equitable access to food and other agricultural products,

•     Improving equity across gender and social divides, and

•     Creating and sustaining urban and rural livelihoods.

4. AKST interacts with and is driven by knowledge and technology in non-agricultural domains such as de­mography, economics, international trade and cultural developments. It encompasses formal and informal edu­cation, training, research, research and innovation policy, and national and international regulations and agreements. Regulations and agreements address issues such as control, exchange and access to agrobiodiversity and natural re-


sources; information and technology; land tenure arrange­ments; and Intellectual Property Rights.

5. AKST within NAE has been characterized by a paradigm emphasizing increases in production and productivity.  The generation and dissemination of knowledge and development of technology have typi­cally been fragmented and hierarchical, with some stakeholders excluded from setting and implementing AKST agendas. This paradigm is changing; continued de­velopment of a new paradigm for generation, access and use of AKST is important to meeting development and sustain­ability goals.

6. Different political and socioeconomic histories dur­ing the 20th century and variable access to all forms of capital (human, social, financial, physical and natu­ral) have driven very different paths of agricultural de­velopment and AKST within NAE's subregions (North America, western Europe, eastern Europe and Israel). These are associated with widely varying attitudes about the importance of national agrifood self-sufficiency, trade and subsidies for agriculture. At the same time, geographic and political similarities across the region have important conse­quences for AKST and agrifood systems: most of the region is in a temperate zone; the region overall has enjoyed rela­tive peace and stability over the last half-century compared with other sub-global regions; and many of its countries and businesses have made substantial investments in AKST.

7. Very small numbers of people (less than 2% of the population) are engaged in primary agrifood produc­tion in some NAE countries, although the proportions of small-scale subsistence or semi-subsistence grow­ers remain quite high in other countries. Agrifood sys­tems (including processing, distribution and sales) employ a substantial proportion of the population in all countries. In addition to providing raw materials for traditional prod­ucts—food, feed, seed, fiber, fuel, paper, etc.—agricultural management in NAE is expected to deliver environmen­tal, social and cultural goods and services. These include clean, abundant water; biodiversity and landscape quality; rural employment; recreation; and mitigation of climate change.

8. Agrifood systems have become dominated by few­er, larger actors. All sectors of agrifood systems have shown vertical and horizontal integration, although in many eastern European countries, smallholders and local outlets still raise and market most of the agrifood products (especially livestock, potatoes and other vegetables). Agri­food systems are starting to respond to consumer markets for food and other goods produced to high environmental and social standards (known as the "quality turn"). Small-and mid-scale producers and distributors through most of NAE increasingly market higher-value, differentiated goods. Vertically integrated supermarkets are attempting to expand market share and satisfy regulatory requirements for higher quality, codified in environmental and social standards and implemented in labeling and certification schemes. Concen­trated enterprises and changing expectations and standards