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6.7: End of Chapter Discussion

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    1. A hallmark of agriculture is the separation of food production from food consumption; many people know almost nothing about where their food has come from. How does this lack of knowledge affect the food choices people make? How useful are efforts to change food labels to notify shoppers about the use of farming techniques such as genetic modification or organic growing for consumers? What other steps could be taken to make people more knowledgeable about the journey that food takes from farm to table?
    2. The global commodity chains that bring food from many countries to grocery stores in the United States give wealthy consumers a great variety of food choices, but the farmers at the beginning of the commodity chain earn very little money. What kinds of solutions might help reduce the concentration of wealth at the end of the commodity chain?
    3. Mono-cropping is a feature of industrial food production and has the benefit of producing staple foods like wheat and corn in vast quantities, but mono-cropping makes our diet less diverse. Are the effects of agricultural mono-cropping reflected in your own everyday diet? How many different plant foods do you eat on a regular basis? How difficult would it be for you to obtain a more diverse diet by shopping in the same places you shop now?


    Agriculture: the cultivation of domesticated plants and animals using technologies that allow for intensive use of the land.

    Broad spectrum diet: a diet based on a wide range of food resources.

    Built environment: spaces that are human-made, including cultivated land as well as buildings.

    Carrying capacity: a measurement of the number of calories that can be extracted from a particular unit of land in order to support a human population.

    Commodity chain: the series of steps a food takes from location where it is produced to the store where it is sold to consumers.

    Delayed return system: techniques for obtaining food that require an investment of work over a period of time before the food becomes available for consumption. Farming is a delayed return system due to the passage of time between planting and harvest.

    Domestic economy: the work associated with obtaining food for a family or household.

    Foodways: the cultural norms and attitudes surrounding food and eating.

    Foraging: a subsistence system that relies on wild plant and animal food resources. This system is sometimes called "hunting and gathering".

    Historical ecology: the study of how human cultures have developed over time as a result of interactions with the environment.

    Horticulture: a subsistence system based on the small-scale cultivation of crops intended primarily for the direct consumption of the household or immediate community.

    Immediate return system: techniques for obtaining food in which the food acquired can be immediately consumed. Foraging is an immediate return system.

    Modes of subsistence: the techniques used by the members of a society to obtain food. Anthropologists classify subsistence into four broad categories: foraging, pastoralism, horticulture, and agriculture.

    Mono-cropping: the reliance on a single plant species as a food source. Mono-cropping leads to decreased dietary diversity and carries the risk of malnutrition compared to a more diverse diet.

    Neolithic Revolution: a period of rapid innovation in subsistence technologies that began 10,000 years ago and led to the emergence of agriculture. Neolithic means "new stone age", a name referring to the stone tools produced during this time period.

    Pastoralism: a subsistence system in which people raise herds of domesticated livestock.

    Staple crops: foods that form the backbone of the subsistence system by providing the majority of the calories a society consumes.

    Subsistence system: the set of skills, practices, and technologies used by members of a society to acquire and distribute food.

    World system: a complex economic system through which goods circulate around the globe. The world system for food is characterized by a separation of the producers of goods from the consumers.

    Adapted From

    "Subsistence" by Isaac Shearn, Community College of Baltimore County. In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition, Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges, 2020, under CC BY-NC 4.0.

    6.7: End of Chapter Discussion is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.