Over thousands of years, agricultural techniques have steadily increased agricultural productivity during a time which we now call the Agrarian Revolution
Throughout this expansion of agriculture new technologies and new crops were integrated over the years. Agricultural practices such as irrigation, crop rotation, fertilisers and pesticides were developed but it was only when farmers became capable of producing food beyond the needs of their own families did major changes occur.
Food surpluses enabled the development of more densely populated society. This combined with the Industrial Revolution, when machines started replacing manual labour, further enabled increased agricultural productivity. The world changed rapidly.
Over the last century a remarkable shift in agricultural practices has occurred in response to new technologies. Synthetic nitrogen along with rock phosphate, pesticides and mechanisation greatly increased crop yields and the increased supply of grains led to cheaper livestock as well. No longer was the traditional practice of crop rotation and using animal manures necessary as these technological improvements and intensive farming practices sharply increased yields. At the same time there was increasing concern with plant breeding, pesticides and fertilisers which have meant increased uses of inputs and which has raised concerns about widespread ecological damage and negative human health effects.
When you consider it is not that long ago when the farmer was king. The wealthy ruling classes were the landowners and provided lands for their people to cultivate crops and rear livestock and everyone was dependent on the industry. Most of us still are.
However now the wealthy ruling classes, whilst still are land holders, are also the bankers and barons of industry controlling large corporations including the media and have positioned themselves as the voice of the world. With their immense wealth and immense lobbying system they get what they want from the governments, in the Western world in particular. Unfortunately these corporations exist solely to make profits for their shareholders and hence increasingly we see big business profiting at the expense of all else.
So despite the fact that agriculture employs over one third of the world’s population agricultural production accounts for less than 5% of the gross world product. Farmers are paid the minimum for their produce whilst corporations prosper. Farmers are no longer king but regarded more as a commodity in the vast scheme of things.