In the latter half of the 20th century the agricultural sector underwent an enormous revolution, characterized by a radical change in production techniques. This gave rise to a spectacular increase in productivity and, ultimately, in volumes of agricultural produce world wide. But this "Green Revolution" had its casualties, beginning with the peasant farmers of the South, who were unable to adjust to the new mode of production, and including, more generally, the inhabitants of the poor regions of the world, who continue to suffer the effects of famine.
More recently, the global agricultural situation has undergone distinct change, as a result of the large increase in the cost of agricultural goods (linked to a fall in stocks, combined with a rise in the demand for food and a new source of competition from biofuels). In a context of this kind, it has become essential, says Marc Dufumier, to rethink agronomy and international trade, in order to reconcile food security for all with sustainable development.
After outlining the current state of both the food supply and the ecological situation, this article demonstrates the challenges facing world agriculture (growing demand, soil depletion, decreasing biodiversity etc.), which leave two possible courses of action open: to expand the areas under cultivation or, preferably, to intensify production per acre. Marc Dufumier goes on to stress how crucial it is now that researchers in agronomy should work closely with farmers, who are the people with the most immediate interest in the proper operation of the agroecosystem. He concludes, however, that it will not be possible, given the disparities between North and South in this sector, to solve the global agrifood conundrum without a substantial reform of the rules of the world agricultural market.