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The Effects of Agricultural Technological Progress on Deforestation: What Do We Really Know?

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  • Nelson B. Villoria
  • Derek Byerlee
  • James Stevenson

Abstract

Increasing agricultural yields seem an obvious way to satisfy increasing demands for food and fuel while minimizing expansion of agriculture into forest areas; however, an influential literature worries that promoting agricultural innovation could enhance agriculture's profitability thereby encouraging deforestation. Clarifying the effects of agricultural technological progress on deforestation is therefore crucial for designing effective policy responses to the challenges faced by global agriculture. In this article we review the empirical evidence on these effects and synthesize estimates of future global cropland expansion. Our main insights are that: (i) the empirical evidence on a positive link between regional technological progress and deforestation is much weaker than what seems generally accepted; (ii) at a global level, most analysts expect broad based technological progress to be land saving; however, composition effects are important as low-yield, land-abundant regions are likely to experience further land expansion. Toward the future, empirical work understanding how localized technological progress in agriculture transmits through international trade and commodity markets will help to bridge the gap between the findings of local, econometric, studies on the one hand and global, model based, studies on the other.

Suggested Citation

  • Nelson B. Villoria & Derek Byerlee & James Stevenson, 2014. "The Effects of Agricultural Technological Progress on Deforestation: What Do We Really Know?," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 36(2), pages 211-237.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:apecpp:v:36:y:2014:i:2:p:211-237.
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    1. Benjamin T. Phalan, 2018. "What Have We Learned from the Land Sparing-sharing Model?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(6), pages 1-24, May.
    2. Schwerhoff, Gregor & Wehkamp, Johanna, 2018. "Export tariffs combined with public investments as a forest conservation policy instrument," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 69-84.
    3. Jaza Folefack, Achille Jean & Ngo Njiki, Marie Gaelle & Darr, Dietrich, 2019. "Safeguarding forests from smallholder oil palm expansion by more intensive production? The case of Ngwei forest (Cameroon)," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 45-61.
    4. Villoria, Nelson B. & Liu, Jing, 2018. "Using spatially explicit data to improve our understanding of land supply responses: An application to the cropland effects of global sustainable irrigation in the Americas," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 411-419.
    5. Beckman, Jayson & Sands, Ronald D. & Riddle, Anne A. & Lee, Tani & Walloga, Jacob M., 2017. "International Trade and Deforestation: Potential Policy Effects via a Global Economic Model," Economic Research Report 262185, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    6. Silva, Felipe & Fulginiti, Lilyan E. & Perrin, Richard K., 2016. "Did technical change in agricultural production decrease the emission of pollutants on the Amazon Forest during 1990-2009?," 2016 Annual Meeting, February 6-9, 2016, San Antonio, Texas 230092, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    7. Rodriguez Garcia, V. & Meyfroidt, P. & Gaspart, F., 2018. "Agricultural intensification and land use change: A panel cointegration approach to test induced intensification, land sparing and rebound-effect," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277206, International Association of Agricultural Economists.

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