The importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to agricultural education

April 2021

Chantal Line Carpentier
BScAgr’90, MSc’94

The strong applied economics framework of Macdonald Campus’s agricultural economics BSc and MSc programs was essential in preparing me for my international career. Courses in soil, animal and plant sciences and engineering provided me with a unique opportunity to apply economics to problems that had biological, physical science or engineering dimensions to them, which allowed me to be able to interact with experts in a variety of fields and encouraged me to take a multidisciplinary approach to problems. Whether it be in my postdoc with IFPRI in the Brazilian Amazon (where my bioeconomic modelling skills also came in handy), supporting the organic label in the US, documenting the environmental impacts of trade at NAFTA, supporting the UN Commission on Sustainable Development’s roundtable on sustainable agriculture, coordinating non-state contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) negotiations, or my macroeconomic work and development at UNCTAD, the approach has served me well throughout my career. The Mac agr-econ program established itself as a sustainable agriculture program before such a thing existed.

As McGill moves into its next century, Macdonald Campus is well positioned to serve as a model to other academic institutions by strengthening its applied agricultural economic program’s approach to addressing agriculture, food and environmental issues, SDG2, nationally in the context of cross-border impacts. An effective program should focus on macroeconomic issues such as the interactions between trade, climate change, healthy diets, etc.; microeconomic issues such as consumer choices’ impact on local demand, food waste and single-use plastics in packaging; analysis of innovative institutions such as crop and climate insurance and extension services to help current and future farmers; economic analysis of rapid digitization of agriculture including automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning; and bioeconomic analysis of investment in agricultural land and measurement of natural capital supplied by agriculture, and the role of agriculture in achieving the SDGs.

Comments are closed.