David Pimentel's research while affiliated with Cornell University and other places

Publications (171)

Book
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This book takes you on a unique journey through American history, taking time to consider the forces that shaped the development of various cities and regions, and arrives at an unexpected conclusion regarding sustainability. From the American Dream to globalization to the digital and information revolutions, we assume that humans have taken contro...
Chapter
During the coming decades, the world and the USA in particular will be facing serious energy-related problems associated with declines in conventional oil extraction and high prices as well as lower energy return on investment (EROI) for unconventional oil. Oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power provide more than 87% of world energy needs; the o...
Article
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We discuss the sustainability of natural and human systems in the United States in relation to 21st century threats associated with energy scarcity, climate change, the loss of ecosystem services, the limitations of neoclassical economics, and human settlement patterns. Increasing scarcity and the decreasing return on investment for existing conven...
Article
Most of the transport systems of the developed world run on liquid fuels produced from petroleum. Global shortages of these liquid fuels, both current and anticipated, have led corporate and political leaders throughout the developed world to investigate and develop liquid fuels from food crops, mainly corn, palm oil, soybean, canola and sugarcane....
Article
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Since humans worldwide obtain more than 99.7% of their food (calories) from the land and less than 0.3% from the oceans and aquatic ecosystems, preserving cropland and maintaining soil fertility should be of the highest importance to human welfare. Soil erosion is one of the most serious threats facing world food production. Each year about 10 mill...
Article
An obvious need for an updated and comprehensive study prompted this investigation of the complex of environmental and economic costs resulting from the nation’s dependence on pesticides. Included in this assessment of an estimated $9.6 billion in environmental and societal damages are analyses of: pesticide impacts on public health; livestock and...
Article
Pesticides cause serious public health problems and considerable damage to agricultural and natural ecosystems. We confirm previous reports that it is feasible to reduce pesticide use by 50 % or more. The Swedish Government achieved a 61 % reduction in pesticide use and the Indonesian Government achieved a 65 % reduction in pesticide use without a...
Article
A major concern in agriculture is that more than half of all food production (including food in storage) is being lost to pests despite more than 3 million tons of pesticides being utilized worldwide. Losses of this magnitude continue at a time when more than 66% of all the human population is malnourished. Evidence suggests that pesticide use coul...
Article
Various organic technologies have been utilized for about 6,000 years to make agriculture sustainable while at the same time conserving soil, water, energy and biological resources. Benefits of organic technologies include higher soil organic matter and nitrogen, lower fossil energy inputs, yields similar to conventional systems, and conservation o...
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Annual grain crops are planted on about 70% of the world's cropland and provide 80% of the world's food. Currently annual grains dominate grain production. Perennial grains offer many important opportunities to produce grains in a more environmentally, economically, and energetically sound manner. Thus, major research efforts are needed to develop...
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Editorial David Pimentel is a professor of ecology and agricultural sciences at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853–0901. His Ph.D. is from Cornell University and had postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago, MIT, and fellowship at Oxford University (England). He was awarded a distinguished honorary degree from the University of Massachu...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods and Results/Conclusions Without oil, coal, and natural gas about 100 years from now, my estimate for a stable population for the U.S. is only 100 million people. The current cities will have to be abandoned without fossil energy. There will be no irrigation for food and forest production. The only regions that will be...
Article
A limited battle involving the nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan would have significant climatic impacts upon agricultural crop production in the United States; corn, soybeans, and winter wheat yields would be significantly reduced in the Corn Belt region of the US. The most severe impacts would occur during the second year after the modeled n...
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All biofuels produced in the world utilize food resources. This contributes to the world starvation problem that is reported to be more than 66% of the world population being malnourished. Starvation is the number one cause of death in the world. Approximately 40% of U.S. corn is being converted into ethanol and 1.6 liters of fossil oil equivalents...
Article
Several physical and chemical factors limit the production of biofuels, such as the complex process required for the conversion of plant biomass into ethanol. For example, fossil energy inputs needed for the production of ethanol from corn is 1.59 liters per liter of ethanol. One of the many factors limiting energy output from biomass is the extrem...
Article
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The authors of this paper have been involved in contentious discussion of the EROI of biomass-based ethanol. This contention has undermined, in the minds of some, the utility of EROI for assessing fuels. This paper seeks to understand the reasons for the divergent results.
Chapter
World food security is threatened because agricultural production is unable to keep up with the increasing demand for food to feed a rapidly growing human population. Soil erosion due to agricultural production occurs much faster than soil formation. Water is fundamental to food production requiring 1000 L to produce 1 kg of biomass. Plants only co...
Article
World malnutrition is a serious problem. Food security for the poor depends on an adequate supply of food and/or the ability to purchase food. The World Health Organization reports that more than 3.7 billion people worldwide are malnourished because of shortages of calories, protein, several vitamins, iron, and iodine. People can die because of sho...
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In this paper the environmental impact of current agriculture practices is reviewed. Soil loss (along with soil fertility), increasing water demand from agricultural practices and environmental pollution caused by the intensive use of agrochemicals, are among the most pressing issues concerning agriculture sustainability. Biodiversity loss due to l...
Article
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This article was downloaded by: [Gomiero, T.]On: 30 April 2011Access details: Access Details: [subscription number 937060866]Publisher Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Article
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Organic agriculture refers to a farming system that enhance soil fertility through maximizing the efficient use of local resources, while foregoing the use of agrochemicals, the use of Genetic Modified Organisms (GMO), as well as that of many synthetic compounds used as food additives. Organic agriculture relies on a number of farming practices bas...
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Nearly 60% of the world’s human population is malnourished and the numbers are growing. Shortages of basic foods related to decreases in per capita cropland, water, and fossil energy resources contribute to spreading malnutrition and other diseases. The suggestion is that in the future only a smaller number of people will have access to adequate no...
Article
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Biofuels have lately been indicated as a promising source of cheap and sustainable energy. In this paper we argue that some important ethical and environmental issues have also to be addressed: (1) the conflict between biofuels production and global food security, particularly in developing countries, and (2) the limits of the Human Appropriation o...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods: More than 60% of the human population in the world is currently malnourished. Thus the need for grains and other basic foods is critical. Results/Conclusions: Growing crops for fuel squanders land, water, and energy resources vital for food production for humans. Using corn, soybeans, and other foods for fuel prod...
Article
In this article we show that technological development in agriculture exhibits general trends when assessed on a large scale. These trends are generated by changes in the larger socioeconomic context in which the farming system operates. We characterize agricultural performance by land and farm labor productivity and the pattern of use of technolog...
Chapter
With global shortages of fossil energy, especially oil and natural gas, and heavy biomass energy consumption, emphasis on biofuels as renewable energy sources has developed globally. Though it may seem beneficial to use renewable plant materials for biofuel, the use of crop residues and other biomass raises many environmental and ethical concerns.
Chapter
About 3 billion tons of pesticides are applied each year in the world. However, despite this large amount of pesticide applied worldwide, pests, insects, weeds and plant pathogens destroy about 40° of all crops.
Article
In the Policy Forum “Beneficial biofuels—the food, energy, and environment trilemma” (17 July, p. [270][1]), D. Tilman et al. propose using crop residues and harvesting biomass from double crops and mixed cropping systems. We point out the potential risks of doing so. Retention of crop
Article
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The United States faces energy shortages and increasing energy prices within the next few decades (Duncan, 2001). Coal, petroleum, natural gas, and other mined fuels provide 75% of U.S. electricity and 93% of other U.S. energy needs (USBC, 2001). On average, every year each American uses about 93,000 kWh, equivalent to 8000 L of oil, for all purpos...
Article
Americans make up only 4% of the world population, yet currently consume 25% of the world’s fossil fuels. The U.S. imports 63% of its oil and it is predicted that by 2020 the U.S. will be importing 95% of its oil resources. Over the past century, ample and affordable supplies of fossil fuels have powered the growth and prosperity of the economies o...
Article
Americans make up only 4% of the world population, yet currently consume 25% of the world’s fossil fuels. The U.S. imports 63% of its oil and it is predicted that by 2020 the U.S. will be importing 95% of its oil resources. Over the past century, ample and affordable supplies of fossil fuels have powered the growth and prosperity of the economies o...
Chapter
An obvious need for an update and comprehensive study prompted this investigation of the complex environmental costs resulting from the nation’s dependence on pesticides. Included in this assessment of an estimated 12 billion in environmental and societal damages are analysis of pesticide impacts on public health; livestock and livestock product lo...
Article
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In an energy-scarce future, ecosystem services will become more important in supporting the human economy. The primary role of ecology will be the sustainable management of ecosystems. Energy scarcity will affect ecology in a number of ways. Ecology will become more expensive, which will be justified by its help in solving societal problems, especi...
Article
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The rapidly growing world population and rising consumption of biofuels intensify demands for both food and biofuels. This exaggerates food and fuel shortages. The use of food crops such as corn grain to produce ethanol raises major nutritional and ethical concerns. Nearly 60% of humans in the world are currently malnourished, so the need for grain...
Article
Agriculture provides more than 99.7% of the world food supply; the oceans and aquatic ecosystems contribute less than 0.3%. With the human population projected to grow from its 2005 level of 6.5 billion to 9–11 billion by 2050, it will be increasingly diffi cult to meet future basic human food needs given the fi nite resources of the earth. The st...
Chapter
The more than 50,000 species of plants, animals, and microbes introduced into the United States cause more extinction of native species than most any other threats and cause more than $120 billion in damages and control costs each year. An assessment of the invasive plants that have been introduced and their control and damage costs will be estimat...
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This paper considers the local, field-scale sustainability of a productive industrial maize agrosystem that has replaced a fertile grassland ecosystem. Using the revised thermody-namic approach of Svirezhev (1998; 2000) and Steinborn & Svirezhev (2000), it is shown that currently this agrosystem is unsustainable in the US, with or without tilling t...
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Petroleum and natural gas are the primary fuels in the US food system. Both fuels are now in short supply and significant quantities are being imported into the USA from various nations. An investigation documented that fossil energy use in the food system could be reduced by about 50% by appropriate technology changes in food production, processin...
Chapter
This analysis employs the most recent scientific data for the U.S. and for Brazil sugarcane production and the fermentation/distillation. These two countries were selected because they are the two largest countries in the world producing ethanol. All current fossil energy inputs used in the entire process of producing ethanol from sugarcane were in...
Chapter
A critical need exists to investigate various renewable and solar energy technologies and examine the energy and environmental issues associated with these various technologies. The various renewable energy technologies will not be able to replace all current 102 quads (quad = 1015 BTU) of U.S. energy consumption (USCB 2007). A gross estimate of la...
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Humanity is facing possibly the greatest challenge in its history. Population is expected to reach 9 billion in 2030. At the same time agricultural land is becoming scarcer and poorer in quality. Furthermore, the environmental impact of intensive agriculture and the effects of climate change are threatening food security in many regions of the glob...
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The Report by K. Van Oost et al. , “The impact of agricultural soil erosion on the global carbon cycle” (26 October 2007, p. [626][1]) raises two serious concerns. First, the eroded soil is severely depleted of its soil organic matter (SOM) pool ([1][2]–[3][3]), which is preferentially
Article
In this analysis, the most recent scientific data for corn, switchgrass, and wood, for fermentation/distillation were used. All current fossil energy inputs used in corn production and for the fermentation/distillation were included to determine the entire energy cost of ethanol production. Additional costs to consumers include federal and state su...
Article
Further laboratory and field research is needed for the algae and oil theoretical system. Claims based on research dating over three decades have been made, yet none of the projected algae and oil yields have been achieved. Harvesting the algae from tanks and separating the oil from the algae, are difficult and energy intensive processes.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations report that the prevalence of human diseases during the past decade is rapidly increasing. Population growth and the pollution of water, air, and soil are contributing to the increasing number of human diseases worldwide. Currently an estimated 40% of world deaths are due to environmental...
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In his Editorial “The biofuels conundrum” (27 April, p. [515][1]), Donald Kennedy describes how biofuels, although at first glance a boon for the environment, have hidden costs that could prove environmentally and socially disastrous. His solution is “to abandon this cluttered arena” and to
Article
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The prime focus of ethanol production from corn is to replace the imported oil used in American vehicles, without expending more fossil energy in ethanol production than is produced as ethanol energy. In a thorough and up-to-date evaluation of all the fossil energy costs of ethanol production from corn, every step in the production and conversion p...
Chapter
Approximately 50,000 plant, animal, and microbe invasive species are present in the United States, and an estimated 500,000 plant, animal, and microbe invasive species have invaded other nations of the world. Immediately, it should be pointed out that the US and world agriculture depend on introduced food crops and livestock.Approximately 99 % of a...
Article
To secure a quality life for current and future generations, sufficient land, water, and energy must be available. Worldwide today there is evidence that food production and distribution processes are problematic; more than 3.7 billion humans are now malnourished. With the imbalance growing between population numbers and vital life sustaining resou...
Article
Plantation managers use a variety of decision-support systems to assist in deciding on optimum silvicultural treatments. Often these include computer-based growth simulation models that include an economic analysis. We recommend that energy analyses should be added as an additional tool, to ensure that fossil and other energy is used wisely and to...
Article
Soil erosion is one of the most serious environmental and public health problems facing human society. Humans obtain more than 99.7% of their food (calories) from the land and less than 0.3% from the oceans and other aquatic ecosystems. Each year about 10 millionha of cropland are lost due to soil erosion, thus reducing the cropland available for f...
Article
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With high quality petroleum running out in the next 50 years, the world governments and petrochemical industry alike are looking at biomass as a substitute refinery feedstock for liquid fuels and other bulk chemicals. New large plantations are being established in many countries, mostly in the tropics, but also in China, North America, Northern Eur...
Article
Two researchers analyzed ethanol from corn, switchgrass, or wood biomass. They calculated that making biodiesel from soybean oil requires 27% more fossil energy than fuel produces, and from sunflower oil - 118% more.
Article
A total of 154 aquatic alien species have invaded the New York State Canal and Hudson River systems and a total of 162 aquatic species have invaded the Great Lakes Basin. Some of these invasive species are causing significant damage and control costs in both aquatic ecosystems. In the New York State Canal and Hudson River systems, the nonindigenous...
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Energy outputs from ethanol produced using corn, switchgrass, and wood biomass were each less than the respective fossil energy inputs. The same was true for producing biodiesel using soybeans and sunflower, however, the energy cost for producing soybean biodiesel was only slightly negative compared with ethanol production. Findings in terms of ene...
Article
Invading alien species in the United States cause major environmental damages and losses adding up to almost $120 billion per year. There are approximately 50,000 foreign species and the number is increasing. About 42% of the species on the Threatened or Endangered species lists are at risk primarily because of alien-invasive species.
Article
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The increasing demands placed on the global water supply threaten biodiversity and the supply of water for food production and other vital human needs. Water shortages already exist in many regions, with more than one billion people without adequate drinking water. In addition, 90% of the infectious diseases in developing countries are transmitted...
Article
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With increased energy conservation plus the adoption of diverse energy efficient technologies, the US economy could save about 32 quads or about 33% of its current energy consumption, if sound conservation energy use policies were implemented over approximately 10 years. This potential of 32 quads is slightly greater than the current US oil imports...
Article
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The world food supply has become inadequate for more than half the world population, as evidenced by a recent report of the World Health Organization that indicated that more than 3 billion people are malnourished. This is the largest number of malnourished ever reported. Per capita food production, especially cereal grains, has been declining for...
Article
Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people live primarily on a meat-based diet, while an estimated 4 billion live primarily on a plant-based diet. The US food production system uses about 50% of the total US land area, 80% of the fresh water, and 17% of the fossil energy used in the country. The heavy dependence on fossil energy suggests that the US...
Article
We commend the generosity of Bill Gates for his plan to reduce human diseases, especially in developing countries (“Bill Gates plans a hit list, with NIH's help,” M. Enserink, 31 Jan., p. [641][1]). Tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS, and other diseases are increasing worldwide ([1][2]). One of the
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Several studies suggest that the $1.4 billion in government subsidies are encouraging the ethanol program without substantial benefits to the U.S. economy. Large ethanol industries and a few U.S. government agencies, such as the USDA, support the production of ethanol. Corn-farmers receive minimal profits. In the U.S. ethanol system, considerably m...
Article
The intensification of agriculture associated with the transition from subsistence based farming to cash cropping was evaluated using an energy analysis of small and large sugar beet production systems in Morocco. Total fossil energy inputs were 25,954 MJ/ha and 53,631 MJ/ha and energy outputs were 162,350 MJ/ha and 222,508 MJ/ha in the small and l...
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Although soil erosion has occurred throughout history, it has intensified because of expanding human populations, coupled with their diverse activities, plus the increased burning of crop residues and dung as home fuels. Erosion degrades soil quality of agricultural and forest ecosystems, thereby reducing the agricultural productivity of the land....
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A comparative analysis of the production and processing of sugar beet and sugar cane in Morocco was carried out with regards to energy and water use. Total agricultural energy inputs for sugar beet were 33.79 GJ/ha and in the case of sugar cane were 59.33 GJ/ha for plant cane and 35.65 GJ/ha for ratoons. The major energy inputs for both were diesel...
Article
An energy analysis of sugarcane production in small and large farms was made in Morocco. Total energy expenditures were 64.90 and 47.83 GJ/ha and energy outputs were 100.80 and 85.80 GJ/ha in large and small farms, respectively. The output/input energy ratios were 1.6 and 1.8. The energy intensity lies between 0.7 and 0.8 MJ/kg and is one of the hi...
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Human population growth has typically been seen as the primary causative factor of other ecologically destructive phenomena. Current human disease epidemics are explored as a function of population size. That human population growth is itself a phenomenon with clearly identifiable ecological/biological causes has been overlooked. Here, human popula...
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At least 32 Amerindian groups in the Amazon basin use terrestrial invertebrates as food. Leaf- and litter-consuming invertebrates provide the more important, underestimated food sources for many Amerindian groups. Further, litter-consuming earthworms are also an important food resource for the Ye'Kuana (also known as Makiritare) in the Alto Orinoco...
Article
The genetic engineering of rice grains to produce provitamin A (β-carotene), described by X. Ye et al. (Reports, 14 Jan., p. [303][1]), is an example of the best that agricultural biotechnology can offer society. In the Perspective by Mary Lou Guerinot that accompanies Ye et al. 's report (“The
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o set of issues has tended to separate economists and ecologists, especially in the mind of the public, more than those surrounding the linkages between economic growth, human carrying capacity, and the envi- ronment. The general lack of interest among the majority of economists in problems of the environment and a par- allel lack of interest among...
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Despite the application of 2.5 million tons ofpesticides worldwide, more than 40% of all potentialfood production is lost to insect, weed, and plantpathogen pests prior to harvest. After harvest, anadditional 20% of food is lost to another group ofpests. The use of pesticides for pest control resultsin an estimated 26 million human poisonings, with...
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ABSTRACT Invading non-indigenous species in the United States cause major environmental damages,and losses adding up to more than $138 billion per year. There are approximately 50,000 foreign species and the number is increasing. About 42% of the species on the Threatened or Endangered species lists are at risk primarily because of non-indigenous s...