In East Asia, agricultural growth has contributed significantly to the massive poverty reduction that has taken place in that region in recent decades. Success in this sector has been demonstrated by more abundant yields, higher agricultural exports, and improvements in food security, all of which have translated into gains in economic and human development. However, these achievements have come at a high price, as evidenced by the experiences of China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In addition to being a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural production has contributed to environmental degradation in these three countries. Excessive fertilizer and pesticide use has degraded the quality of soil and water systems and reduced the quality and safety of food. Improper management of agricultural waste has further contributed to local and regional air pollution. The Challenge of Agricultural Pollution: Evidence from China, Vietnam, and the Philippines draws attention to the significant environmental footprint of agriculture in these countries, thereby shedding light on areas where action can be taken to protect the health of people and the planet that sustains them. Measures that keep pollutants out of the air, water, soil, and food have the potential to benefit both farmers and consumers at a time when citizens and governments around the world are seeking to ensure that development is sustainable. Tackling agricultural pollution is not a straightforward task, however. Agricultural pollutants are numerous, and they emanate from many different and often diffuse sources. Field runoff from millions of farms, drugs and pathogens, organic matter, particulate matter, toxic compounds, and greenhouse gases are only a few examples. In addition, many of these pollutants are undetectable to the senses. Further complicating matters is the fact that agriculture is both a victim and a source of pollution, all of which implies that solutions are complex and need to be multifaceted. This report aims to break down some of this complexity and provide in a single document, accessible to both specialists and nonspecialists, an overview of the potential impacts of agricultural pollution in three major Asian economies. It analyzes some of the main factors contributing to farm pollution and outlines technical and policy options for preventing or mitigating it.The report synthesizes empirical evidence from peer-reviewed literature collected by national and international experts. It also provides recommendations for addressing agricultural pollution in a more strategic, forward-looking manner. Prevention and control of agricultural pollution will require a better understanding of its physical and socioeconomic consequences; a better alignment of agricultural, environmental, and health policies; and a more effective application of regulatory, market-based, and other policy instruments. Although many knowledge gaps remain, our hope is that this report will deepen efforts to develop more sustainable food systems in the region and beyond.
The Challenge of Agricultural Pollution