Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 271–281 | Cite as

Crop diversification and trade liberalization: Linking global trade and local management through a regional case study



Some models anticipate that liberalized agricultural trade will lead to increased crop diversity, while other models make the opposite claim. These positions were explored in southwestern British Columbia, Canada where, between 1992 and 1998, government subsidies and other measures designed to protect horticultural farmers were lifted, exposing these farmers to foreign competition. Public hearings on the future of agriculture provided an opportunity to tap the knowledge and experience of people affected by this transition. Analysis of transcripts from these hearings, which was confirmed by industry data, shows that trade liberalization has led to the loss of the local fruit and vegetable processing industry. Stakeholders saw the loss as a major factor affecting the choice of crops grown locally. To test this assertion, crop diversity data were analyzed, differentiating crops grown for the processing industry from those grown for the fresh market. Results show that crop diversity increased for processing crops but not for fresh crops. Farmers who used to produce commodities for the fruit and vegetable processing industry seem to have been forced to find new crops to cope with the decline in the processing industry. Here then is a case where the effects of trade were indirect (they were mediated by another variable: the loss of the processing industry) and variable (they differed for the two groups of crops). This may have significant environmental implications as scientific research shows that diverse agro-ecosystems are better able to withstand pest outbreaks and require less agri-chemicals than simple systems.


Agro-diversity British Columbia Canada Environmental impact Globalization Stakeholder perceptions Trade policy Vegetable production 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  2. 2.Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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