8 | North America and Europe (NAE) Report

     AKST needs of women and minorities are often differ­ent from others working in agrifood systems. Women and minorities tend to have smaller farms in the US and Canada, although farms operated by Hispanics in the US are larger on average because more are extensive livestock operations (Effland et al., 1998). Women and minorities also tend to raise a different selection of crops and livestock than white male operators. They may face special barriers in attempting to access information and technology because of language, culture or discrimination; and they may be at greater risk of losing their farms (Effland et al., 1998; FAO, 1996; Oxfam America, 2007).

1.2.4 Enhancing environmental quality

The application of AKST in NAE has led to habitat trans­formation, loss of biodiversity, declining quantities of fresh water and increasing competition for what remains, deg­radation of the quality of groundwater and surface water, and impacts on soil quality. Transportation of agricultural products contributes to greenhouse gas emission and poor air quality due to particulates. AKST can also improve en­vironmental quality, through practices such as no-till plant­ing, crop rotation and sustainable management of cultural landscapes.

      The consequences to agricultural production of over-ex­ploiting natural resources are seen most vividly in the abrupt decline of marine fishery stocks (Pauly and Alder, 2005). Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of contamination is the hypoxic zone extending into oceans from the mouth of all major rivers in industrialized countries, caused by run­off of unused nitrogen applied as fertilizer to agricultural systems (Schlesinger et al., 2006). The full environmental costs associated with substantial gains in human well-being and economic development are only now becoming appar­ent (Tegtmeier and Duffy, 2004; MA, 2005ab; Sumelius et al., 2005; Foster et al., 2006).

     The  development and sustainability goals are inter­linked, and ways that they intersect with agriculture and AKST are complex (Chapters 3 and 4). Awareness of en­vironmental costs and their implications for future genera­tions has given strength to demands for a more multifunc­tional agriculture, promoted through policy incentives and supporting the production of ecosystem goods and services beyond provisioning food and feed, water, fuel, fiber and forest products. Policy supporting multifunctional agricul­tural systems would compensate producers for maintaining supporting ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling and soil formation; cultural services such as aesthetic, spiritual and educational value; and regulating services such as cli­mate and flood regulation and water purification (Alding­ton, 1998; OECD, 2001; Boody et al., 2005). The recent rise in food prices in NAE, triggered in part by the diversion of land from food and feed grains into ethanol production, adds urgency to finding the right approach to agriculture that is both sustainable and meets human needs (e.g., Cloud, 2007; Howden, 2007). There is an emerging agenda for AKST that fosters economically, environmentally and socially sustain­able farming and food systems; public benefits via the food value chain; and equity between producers within the region and with those elsewhere in the world. Yet many tensions


remain to be resolved in implementing this "new agenda" and ensuring that people most in need—within NAE and globally—are among the beneficiaries.

     Across the region, agriculture is in flux as regulators seek to limit or reverse environmental damage caused by agriculture, migration and other demographic shifts change the complexion of rural areas, and consumers and citizens become more concerned about diet-related health issues and social externalities of agriculture. Increasingly differentiated markets are responding to new consumer desires in what has been denoted as a "quality turn" (reviewed in Wilkin­son, 2006). Markets are opening up in NAE for products that promote social and environmental quality, with labels such as "Fair Trade Certified", "organic" and "dolphin-safe." The consequences of greenhouse gas emissions on global climate change have led to new attention on "food miles," or the distance that food travels from point of pro­duction to point of consumption, and interest in consuming foods producing locally. Enthusiasm for local foods is also fed by the desire to preserve unique foodways, cultures and landscapes associated with agricultural production; this has resulted in the defense of geographic indicators to demar­cate foods' point of origin.

1.3 Significance of NAE in the Generation, Use and Control of AKST

1.3.1 Importance within the region Impacts on development and sustainability goals

In most NAE countries, AKST is less relevant than public policy in other realms to meeting development and sustain­ability goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nu­trition and human health, enhancing livelihoods and equity, fostering environmental sustainability and sustaining eco­nomic development. That is, AKST is not the main limiting factor in achieving these goals, although it is increasingly important to deal with emerging issues, such as building re­silience and adaptive capacity to handle the consequences of global climate change, learning how to restore degraded ecosystem services and coping with new foodborne, crop and livestock diseases. In addition, uneven access to AKST in countries in transition within the NAE region constrains productivity and has serious effects on abilities to meet de­velopment and sustainability goals. Economic

Many NAE countries and businesses have made substan­tial investments in AKST, which have resulted in economic gains for actors in those countries in addition to benefits in other regions. The past few decades of application of AKST resulted in the consolidation of global value chains that control the supply of most agricultural products, and have had tremendous effects on the distribution of wealth in society and prospects for making a living through agri­cultural production. In general, only producers with very large-scale operations are able to support a household by full-time commodity farming; other commodity producers are reliant on off-farm income because of low and unstable commodity prices. This problem is aggravated in the US by