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Environmental and human costs of commercial agricultural production in South Asia

Clevo Wilson (Department of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 1 July 2000



In writing a paper to honour Professor Clem Tisdell, it is apt to focus attention on the environmental and human costs of commercial agricultural production, especially the Green Revolution technology in South Asia during the last few decades. This is an area where Professor Tisdell has done much research, amongst the multitude of other research interests he has pursued in his very illustrious career. Modern commercial agricultural practices involving chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides have been associated with huge increases in food production never witnessed before and, in the case of cereal production (especially wheat) under Green Revolution technology, recorded spectacular growth. As statistics show, production and productivity have increased. However, the high chemical usage of fertilizers and pesticides to bring about these spectacular increases in food production is not without its problems. A visible parallel correlation between higher productivity, high chemical input use and environmental degradation and human health effects is evident in many countries where commercial agriculture is widespread. This paper discusses the environmental and health effects/costs arising from the high use of chemical inputs to increase production and productivity in South Asia, with a field study carried out in Sri Lanka to show the health costs arising from direct exposure to pesticides during pesticide handling and spraying on farms by small‐scale farmers.



Wilson, C. (2000), "Environmental and human costs of commercial agricultural production in South Asia", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 27 No. 7/8/9/10, pp. 816-846.




Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

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