Curtailing Ecosystem Exportation: Ecosystem Services as a Basis to Reconsider Export-Driven Agriculture in Economies Highly Dependent on Agricultural Exports
30 Virginia Environmental Law Journal 1 (2012);
27 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2011 Last revised: 11 Jan 2015
Date Written: September 13, 2011
This essay explores the impact of export-driven agricultural policies on the governance of natural capital. Many developing countries have adopted trade liberalization policies that encourage the intensive production of export commodities such as coffee, tea, flowers, and green beans. The primary focus of such policies is maximizing agricultural productivity and global competitiveness, which have been identified as critical factors in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty.
When viewed from the perspective of ecosystem services, however, export-driven trade policies are problematic. Export-driven agricultural trade policies leave no incentive to preserve the natural capital upon which the very success of such trade policies is predicated. This essay argues that export-driven agricultural trade policies do not take into account their impact on ecosystem services. Yet, ecosystems provide critical services such as clean and ample water supplies, biodiversity, nutrient cycling, climate regulation, and carbon sequestration. These services are critical to the success of export driven agriculture. In fact, where ecosystem processes fail or are otherwise interrupted, man-made substitutes must be put in place at a substantial cost. In order for developing countries to maximize productivity, this essay argues that export-led trade policies must be sustainable and as such incorporate the need to sustain the productivity of natural capital.
Keywords: ecosystem, agriculture, export
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