Setting the Stage | 9

lack of universal access to health care, so that an off-farm job with associated affordable health benefits is often neces­sary to provide social security for a farm household. On the other hand, immense wealth is sequestered among the small number of shareholders with expansive holdings, owners, and executives of transnational corporations involved in food supply (TNCs). The application of AKST has enabled the growth of these companies, sometimes through research partially subsidized in public universities and laboratories and other forms of public support, such as the develop­ment of irrigation and water delivery systems, roads and railroads.    

     Analyzing the economic impacts of AKST and impacts on distribution of wealth in NAE are important in order to understand ways to meet the development and sustainability goals of more sustainable livelihoods and greater economic security for producers and wage-workers in agrifood sys­tems, and to increase rural employment. While enhancing productivity, the application of AKST in globalized agrifood systems has increased the vulnerability of many livelihoods dependent on agriculture because production sites have be­come more specialized and more sensitive to sudden changes in the market. Farms usually are linked with processing, dis­tribution and marketing enterprises in value chains that can have global reach. Therefore, producers have less control over prices and the timing and circumstances of sales; they are more likely to be price-takers than price-setters; and they are in competition with other producers globally rather than in a local or regional market. Sociocultural

The application of AKST within NAE is associated with changing diets and health, and the disconnection of most people from food production. While AKST has improved the availability and access of many foods in NAE and eased hunger, diet-related health problems caused by excessive consumption of processed foods low in nutrient value and lack of physical activity are on the rise.      The loss of traditional knowledge is apparent in many parts of NAE. At present, indigenous populations are small and often concentrated in lands that are marginal for agri­culture. In North America, 90-95% of the indigenous popu­lation died in wars or through exposure to diseases intro­duced by European settlers; so indigenous models of agricul­ture and resource use are scarce and can only be understood through laborious archaeological investigation. Traditional knowledge such as the acequia systems of irrigation in the southwestern US were part of agricultural systems some­times maintained for centuries and could be valuable in the future. Assessing the value of traditional knowledge and technology can help in efforts to conserve it. Environmental

The impacts on AKST on ecosystem goods and services and social factors in NAE may preview some of the unintended consequences of the application of contemporary AKST elsewhere in the world, and also how they can be man­aged. Examples of unintended environmental consequences include the vulnerability to disease that often accompanies widespread monocultures; soil erosion and fertility declines


from deforestation and inappropriate methods of soil dis­turbance; changes in biodiversity and flood risk from drain­ing wetlands; aquifer depletion and land subsidence from overpumping aquifers; and effects of synthetic agricultural chemicals on water quality, biodiversity, and related eco­system services. It is possible to draw tentative conclusions about the attributes of AKST that are most likely to enhance the resilience and sustainability of global agroecosystems and ecosystem services, based on experiences in NAE.

1.3.2 Importance to the rest of the world Impacts on development and sustainability goals

Countries and companies based in NAE control resources that are crucial for achieving development and sustainabil­ity goals, such as uncultivated arable land, the world's most extensive ex situ gene banks, money, scientific infrastructure and human capital. Therefore, development and sustain­ability goals in other countries can be met more easily with investment and material assistance from NAE. Enterprises based in NAE and governmental agencies in its countries control technology now that could make a real difference in poor regions, were it affordable to the people who most need it. However, the assistance needed most desperately may be in building capacity to educate poor regions' farm­ers, food system employees, teachers and researchers so that they can generate their own site-specific agricultural knowl­edge and technology. Resources for building such capacity are most likely to come in part from NAE, as the source of greatest wealth and AKST assets at present, although some developing countries are catching up very quickly.      Global climate change is predicted to cause less severe environmental disruption in NAE than in developing regions, even though NAE countries bear the most responsibility for the accumulation of greenhouse gases. NAE may be an es­sential source of emergency food assistance and resources for restoration of productive capacity in other regions fol­lowing severe storms, heat waves, floods and droughts ex­pected to result from global climate change.      Some of NAE's current policies and patterns of trading with developing countries diminish their ability to feed their own people by dumping food at below the cost of produc­tion, thereby undercutting prices of farmers in developing countries, and delivering food aid that cuts out local and regional farmers. These policies have led to demands by pro­ducers and consumers within NAE and other regions for food sovereignty, the right of peoples and sovereign states to control their own agricultural and food policies. Export of AKST, other forms ofKST and concepts of development

NAE countries produce much of the knowledge and technol­ogy used outside the region, as well as within. International development agencies, financial institutions and TNCs have exported many elements of the agricultural systems devel­oped in NAE into developing countries through extension services, other types of training, demands to adopt certain kinds of agriculture as part of structural adjustments on which loans are conditioned, market incentives and deals set up between corporations and the governments of de-