This study reviews the major changes in global distribution of croplands during the 20th century. During the 20th century, the cropland base diminished greatly (from ∼ 0.75 ha person−1 in 1900 to ∼ 0.35 ha person−1 in 1990). This loss of croplands was not globally uniform: more than half the world's population, living in developing nations, hlost nearly two-thirds of their per capita cropland base. The distribution of croplands has become increasingly skewed —in 1990, 80% of the population lived off less than 0.35 ha person−1. While agricultural yields have generally increased, they have barely kept pace with population growth in developing nations. Overall, the global food production system is becoming increasingly vulnerable to regional disruptions because of our increasing reliance on expensive technological options to increase agricultural production, or on global food trade.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3