This chapter looks at how modern agriculture has emerged. Agriculture refers broadly to the cultivation of animals, plants and other life forms for the production of food, fiber, biofuels, raw materials, drugs and other things including agriculture and agroforestry. Agriculture evolved 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age in at least 10 or 11 different world regions because humans started to settle and in a warmer climate they were able to hunt and gather less in order to cultivate crops, use irrigation, and domesticate animals. Over the course of thousands of years there are revolutions that were driven by technology innovations, a major one being the Industrial Revolution of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that saw new machinery for crop cultivation that came in conjunction with new crops from the New World. Our body of scientific knowledge increased hugely in the 19th century, and there was a change in food systems as people worked in factories and demanded higher-calorie diets in urban centers. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer was developed with the Haber Bosch process, pesticides were invented, hybrid maize was created, and sustained food surpluses were sustained. In developing countries, into the 20th century, poverty was widespread, the population was chronically undernourished; this triggered the Green Revolution and a revolution in small-scale machinery, investments in irrigation, and increases in intensification along with increased use of pesticides and genetically engineered seeds. The environmental impacts of the Green Revolution include pollution of air and water, dependence upon fossil fuels, soil degradation, and loss of biodiversity. About three-quarters of the global agricultural output growth has been through what we call total factor productivity growth, which is essentially a measure of the efficiency of agriculture. The world has developed a much more diverse and interconnected global food system and the way that food is sold in supermarkets has changed the way food is produced and retailed.
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