Sabtu, 17 Desember 2011

Conclusion and outlook

The sections above have documented how advances in agricultural efficiency after 1700 allowed the societies of Europe and North America to expand and improve their diets by an unprecedented degree. The rise in agricultural efficiency set off a self-reinforcing cycle of improvements in nutrition and gains in labor productivity, leading to a substantial increase in per capita output, which has come to be known as “modern economic growth”. It was shown how the initial increase in agricultural. Efficiency was magnified by providing the population with enough additional calories to boost the number of acres cultivated per hour, annual hours worked, and the labor force participation rate. Based on the notion that variations in the size of individuals have been a principal mechanism in equilibrating the population with the food supply, improved net nutrition has been identified as the primary long-term determinant of the sharp increase in the number of disability-free years of life. The gains in longevity, in turn, have created an incentive for individuals to maintain and upgrade skills and personal health. This line of argument underpins the prediction that the conquest of malnutrition may continue to raise the productivity and innovative capacity of the labor force in the West. The time series of various components of agricultural output per capita in the United States since World War II has been analyzed and combined with the data presented, the following conclusions emerge for the advanced economies of Western Europe and North America.
•Output per acre cultivated has been increasing throughout the period under study.
•Acres cultivated per hour have been increasing throughout this period, first because human energy available for work increased, then because animal and inanimate power complemented and eventually substituted for human energy.
•Annual hours worked per agricultural worker increased at first, as more calories became available for discretionary use, but have been declining recently and are expected to continue to decline.
•The rise in agricultural labor productivity has permitted the number of agricultural workers per inhabitant to decline without lowering the amount of calories available per person.
•The declining share of agricultural workers in the labor force permitted other sectors of the economy to grow, thus greatly diversifying and expanding the range of nonagricultural goods and services. The recent reversal of some key trends in energy intensity of work and labor force participation rates suggests that the economic and epidemiologic consequences from the unprecedented improvement of human nutrition in the rich countries are still being played out. Up to World War II the energy intensity and quantity of work in Europe was limited by the availability of food per capita. Since then, however, caloric intake has not only matched individual caloric requirements but tends to exceed calorie expenditure in an increasing portion of the population. One indicator of this tendency is the growing prevalence of obese adults in the United States, which between 1960 and 1994 increased from 13.3% to 23.3% (National Center for Health Statistics, 2001). This trend is compounded by the fact that the progressive substitution of human energy by inanimate power and the concomitant expansion of sedentary work have led to a gradual reduction of calories expended per hour worked. The continued increase in agricultural output per person coupled with lower energy requirements on the job. may portend two, not mutually exclusive, scenarios for the next stage of the nutrition transition in the world’s richest countries.
1. As more and more people work in occupations that do not place high demands on calorie supply, they may decide to increase energy spent during leisure hours. In addition, further gains in stature and weight will raise the calories needed for maintenance.
2. Alternatively, workers may decide to reduce their overall calorie intake to bring it into line with the decreased amounts of calories at work. Although expenditure on food may not decline in absolute terms, consumers may opt to substitute increasingly away from quantity toward quality of calories and become choosier regarding those calories that they decide to purchase and ingest. To the extent that pressure for advances in productivity and greater per capita supply of calories wanes in rich countries, it is conceivable that forms of agriculture that are less productive in calories will gain popularity to accommodate other criteria in the selection of agricultural products and processes. For example, organic agriculture, which renounces the use of certain herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, accepts lower yields per acre in order to reduce environmental hazards. Similarly, a shift in consumer preferences may prompt the cultivation of crops that sell at a premium but require more care or are less nutritious, thus lowering the amount of calories per hour worked. The situation is very different in poor countries where more than 800 million people are chronically undernourished (FAO, 1999). Progress in agricultural productivity remains the focus of most programs aimed at raising the per capita supply of calories and other vital nutrients. Yet even in countries where average food consumption is deemed adequate, an unequal distribution of income may effectively preclude the poorest parts of the population from obtaining sufficient calories, as was shown for late eighteenth-century England and France. Recent data from developing countries confirm the association of greater income inequality with increased food insecurity and smaller body size (Steckel, 1995; Shapouri and Rosen, 1999). Whatever the approach to alleviating chronic hunger in developing countries, improving the food supply could unlock the short-term and long-term effects of better nutrition on labor productivity that have had such a lasting impact on the growth trajectories of Europe and North America.


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