Agriculture, the deliberate raising of plants and animals to enhance and secure food production, evolved in the Near East about 10,000 years ago. It was this transition from hunting-gathering to settled agriculture that created civilization as we know it and led to a rapid increase in the human population from about five to six million at that time to six billion in 2000. Although the term agriculture literally means field cultivation, in a broader context it

A worker wearing protective clothing is spraying crops with pesticides. (U.S. EPA. Reproduced by permission.)

implies the conversion of natural to managed ecosystems in order to produce adequate and continual food supply.

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