6 | North America and Europe (NAE) Report

countries that have recently acceded to the European Union; but levels are higher in the Balkans and some of the coun­tries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (Skoet and Stamoulis, 2006; Figure 1-4). Food security in Uzbeki­stan has deteriorated since 1993-1995; it was over 25% in 2001-2003. Food insecurity in Georgia was also high, but improved significantly during the same time period as it emerged from armed conflict (Skoet and Stamoulis, 2006). Comparing food security across NAE is difficult, as different countries use different metrics.

     In NAE, policies and investment in AKST have led to frequent surplus production of many crops over the past 50 years, the overconsumption of foods that lead to poor health and rising incidences of obesity and overweight. Of course, many factors contribute to obesity and dietary choices in addition to AKST. However, the development and application of food-processing technology to meet in­terests other than health; the use of advertising to promote foods of low nutrient value; and policies that determine the availability, price, access and consumption of healthy foods are partly responsible for the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related diseases in the region. Average life expectancy in the US is expected to fall over the next few decades as a result of obesity and associated health problems (Olshansky et al., 2005), reversing for the first time a steady upward trend that has persisted for centuries. The three leading causes of death in the US—heart disease, cancer and stroke—are diet-related; adult-onset diabetes, which is closely correlated with obesity, ranks sixth (NCHS, 2006a). The percentage of overweight adults between 20 and 74 years was 66% in 2001-2004, with 32.1% obese. During the same time pe­riod, 17.5% of children between the ages of 2 and 17 were overweight (NCHS, 2006b). For adults and children, the proportion of the population that is overweight and obese is significantly correlated with sex, race and ethnicity (NCHS, 2006b).

     Obesity and diet-related diseases are rising throughout the NAE region, although not as rapidly or to the levels currently in the US. For example, the Canadian Community Healthy Survey estimated an obesity rate of 23.1% among Canadians 18 and older in 2004 (Tjepkema, 2006); and 26% of Canadian children between the ages of 2 and 17 were overweight or obese (Shields, 2006). The Regional Of­fice for Europe of the World Health Organization reports that the prevalence of obesity has tripled in many countries in the region since the 1980s and continues to rise, with obesity already responsible for 2-8% of health costs and 10-13% of deaths in different parts of the region.

     Outbreaks of salmonella, bovine spongiform encepha­litis (BSE) and its human form variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), and foot and mouth disease (even though FMD does not transfer to humans) have raised concerns over disease transmission via food. Up until December 2006 there were 158 deaths attributable to vCJD in the UK, or about 15% of all CJD cases (Andrews, 2007). Other diseas­es associated with agriculture and the food chain continue to emerge. Avian flu is an example, with a total of 335 cases and 206 deaths from avian influenza A/H5N1 reported by November 2007 (WHO, 2007).

     Pesticide poisoning occurs in NAE through ingesting contaminated food, through manufacture and through end


use. For example, over 1,000 cases of illness were associ­ated with aldicarb use in watermelons in California in 1985 (Goldman et al., 1990). Although reported agricultural pes­ticide poisonings decreased from a yearly average of 665 cases (1991-1996) to 475 (1997-2000) in California, the numbers are considered to be conservative because farm­workers face numerous barriers to reporting poisonings (Reeves and Schafer, 2003). Many people in the US carry high body burdens of pesticides, with children bearing the highest levels of some toxic pesticides such as the organo-phosphate chlorpyrifos (CDC, 2005). There are additional potential health risks to humans through reductions in wa­ter quality caused by runoff from fertilizers, slurries and manure that contains fecal coliforms (Mølbak, 2004); and from the conversion of nitrates in water to nitrite in the guts of small children, reacting with their hemoglobin and result­ing in the "Blue Baby syndrome."

1.2.2 Reducing extreme poverty, improving liveli­hoods and creating rural employment

While the application of AKST has contributed to NAE's development and relatively high levels of wealth, it also has contributed to the persistence of poverty and poor pros­pects for livelihoods based on agriculture. Inequity is rising in some countries of NAE, such as the US; and many people are trapped in pockets of underdevelopment characterized by poverty and non-viable rural livelihoods. Poverty is most intense in eastern Europe: for example, 14% of the pop­ulation of Uzbekistan lives in extreme poverty, defined as subsisting on less than US$1 per day (Skoet and Stamoulis, 2006).

      Many people in production agriculture in North Amer­ica face poor prospects of sustainable livelihoods when incomes are tied solely to the market; for several decades the majority of producers' income has been derived from off-farm sources and government subsidies rather than crop or product prices. For example, the average proportion of household income from farming activities across all farm types was only 18% in 2005 in the US; the remainder came from off-farm sources. The average government payment was more than half of the average income from farming activities (USDA, 2005). In Canada, farmers' Market Net Income, which subtracts out government payments, fell to negative $10,000 per farm after bottoming at negative $16,000 in 2003. Market Net Incomes dropped close to zero in the 1980s after 40 years of relative stability (NFU-Canada, 2005). While crop prices have gone up recently be­cause of increasing demand for meat and biofuels and poor harvests, the strength and longevity of this trend is uncer­tain. Production subsidies have allowed farmers to stay in business through periods when product prices were below costs of production, but they are now contested by many ac­tors because of their impacts on total commodity production and on incomes of producers in developing countries. Subsi­dies in the US tend to support the largest farmers dispropor­tionately because they are based on historical production of commodity crops (MacDonald et al., 2006). Medium-scale and large-scale farms in the US received 78% of the com­modity program benefits paid to farmers in 2004 (Hoppe et al., 2007). Production subsidy payments contribute to concentration of farmland among fewer farm operators and