Food production in cities has long been a tradition in many countries around the world and a mainstream activity for many developed countries. While urban agriculture plays an important role in increasing food security and social well-being, it comes with significant costs and constraints. Here, we review the growth of urban agriculture throughout the developed world in order to clarify the different benefits, risks, and hindrances associated with the practice. Through this analysis, we identify the need for better understanding of the following five aspects if urban agriculture is to make a meaningful contribution to food security and social well-being in the future: (1) the impacts of continued urban sprawl and loss of peri-urban agricultural land; (2) appropriate government and institutional support at local, regional, and country levels; (3) the role of urban agriculture in self-sufficiency of cities; (4) the risks posed by pollutants from agriculture to urban ecosystems and from urban ecosystems to agriculture; and (5) the carbon footprint of urban agriculture and use of “food miles.” If urban agriculture is to have a legitimate place in resolving the global food crisis as advocates claim, then it is time to take urban agriculture seriously and assess more rigorously both the positive and negative impacts, especially carbon emissions. Only then can the world’s limited resources be properly allocated to the development of urban agriculture.
- High-income country