The expansion of modern agriculture and global biodiversity decline: an integrated assessment

This paper considers the macro-economic consequences of the continued expansion of particular forms of intensive, modern agriculture, with a focus on how the loss of biodiversity affects food production.

Meeting the needs of an increasing – and increasingly rich – global population will entail a major boost to food production. This requires the further expansion of modern agriculture, but modern agriculture rests on a small number of highly productive crops and its expansion has led to a significant loss of global biodiversity already. Ecologists have shown that biodiversity loss results in lower plant productivity, while agricultural economists have linked biodiversity loss on farms to increasing variability of crop yields, and sometimes lower mean yields.

The authors employ a quantitative, structurally estimated model of the global economy, which jointly determines economic growth, population and food demand, agricultural innovations and land conversion. They show that even small effects of agricultural expansion on productivity via biodiversity loss might be sufficient to warrant a moratorium on further land conversion.

This is an updated version of a paper first published in June 2016.