Type: Process Essays
Sample donated: Karen Chapman
Last updated: July 17, 2019
Thousands of years ago, farming was not money oriented giantbusiness, often farmers are closely connected with the environment, and both ofthem had a mutual benefit. Early farms were comparatively small, and there wereno chemical fertilizers, pesticides or Genetically Modified plants (GMO) toincrease the yield; farms were more diverse with rotational system and insteadof chemicals, old farmers used natural methods to protect their crops frominsects. The methods that traditional farmers practice, such as using varietyof crops, species and lands contribute to preserve the biodiversity unlike inindustrial agriculture and food manufacturing systems; their inherentexperience about farming helped them to intently observed the changes inenvironment and positively reacted to those changes (Berkes et al. 1995).
Indispensable food necessary motivates to begin the giant livestock factoriesand massive farmlands to acquire more money by rewarding immutable ecologicaldrawbacks. There was a significant increase in agricultural production between1940 and 1960 due to the Green revolution; the green revolution has spread thetechnologies such as pesticides, irrigation projects, and syntheticfertilizers, which were not being used before “outside of the” developed world(Sebby 8). Due to the agricultural revolution, besides the crops, there wereprominent changes occurred in animal farm structure; factory farms or feedlotsare created to hold large quantities of animals, typically cows, chickens,pigs, and turkeys. Even though, the development of agricultural system couldenhance the productivity, as consequences of deforestation for agriculturalneeds, using the vast amount of pesticides and fertilizers, deprived drainagesystem, monoculture farming, introduction of GMO crops and improper methods ofanimal waste discharge granted many complications to the environment.The modern agriculture suggests the industrialized formationof farm animals, crops, and fishes that developed after the decades of WorldWar II, by introducing single-crop farms, fertilizers, pesticides andfacilities for the mass animal production. As coincide with the industrialrevolution, industrial agriculture had been launched to satisfy the food needsof the global population, and after the identification of nitrogen andprosperous essentiality of plant growth, fertilizers have been introduced toincrease productivity. Those inventions created massive changes in theagricultural sector, and as further the development of synthetic pesticides,gene manipulation, and hydroponics were originated to expand the agriculturalindustry. The procedures of mechanical agribusiness are often money oriented,budgetary, and political; therefore, commercial agriculture involvesagricultural machinery, new farming methods, and genetic technology to achievethe financial goals in their production.
Highly demanding food necessities and financial goalsencouraged people to involve with the industrial farming system instead oftraditional farming methods; aftereffects of that, most of the natural forestin the land transformed to massive agricultural factories with alienated plantsand animals. Often, these forests are cleared to grow corn, oil palm, soy,rubber, coffee, tea, and rice among many other crops because of its higherdemand; however, knowingly or unknowingly we all contribute to forestconversion in the consumption of everyday products. Clay states, according tothe estimation of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO), around 13 million hectares of forests are being logged for farmingper year in developing countries (48). Forests are home to thousands of plantsand animal creatures, but self-oriented humans use these primary lands tofulfill their limitless necessities, without concern about the life of otherspecies. For most of the animals, deforestation means losing their primary foodsource. Herbivorous constitutes a great proportion of animal population andthey all rely on large forests for their food supply. In the United States, thegrowth of farming has claimed from 30 to 80 percent of edge habitat and naturalwaterways since the 1930s, says Kimbrell.
(2002) The book “World Agricultureand the Environment” concluded that the “disappearance of woodlots, hedgerows,windbreaks, and grass-covered waterways, draining of wetlands and thechanneling of many streams has eliminated the last vestiges of natural habitatfrom the earth” (Clay 49). These conversions reduce the probability ofbreeding, foraging, and migration of many animals, especially birds; mating isone of the reasons behind the migration of birds, but the deforestation createan insecure situation to build nests, and it would gradually decrease themigration rates of birds.Biodiversity, a combination of “bio” (life) and”decent” variety, for the most part, indicate to the assortment andchangeability of life on Earth.
Even though biodiversity is highly essential tothe earth, industrial agriculture becomes one of the major reasons for the lossof biodiversity in the world. The methods used in industrial agriculture suchas drainage, intercropping, rotation, pesticides and fertilizers may affectbiodiversity in various ways. There is a significant loss in wetlands in manycountries through agricultural land drainage. McLaughin noted Keating’sfounding about disappearance of 90% of native wetlands in southwestern Ontarioand 70% in Prairies due to the agricultural drainage system (204). The wetlandsare habitat to many wild species; the committee of the Status of EndangeredWildlife in Canada (FON, 1987) revealed that, “one-third of wildlife speciescurrently recognized as endangered, threatened, or rare” (Clay 49). Marshdrainage, which improves agricultural land, can negatively affect”marsh-dwelling faunal species” by directly or as a result of pollutant loadsof drainage water (McLaughin 204). Pesticides, fertilizers, and animal wasteare the main polluting factors of drainage water and these runoff chemicals,which are highly used in industrial cultivation effect on fish species, waterbirds, and other marine species.
According to the United States EnvironmentalProtection Agency, the main compounds of modern agricultural fertilizers arenitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Due to the over-fertilization in theagricultural lands, rivers get polluted and increased the nitrate level of thewater, and leads to eutrophication, which results in death of animals andplants because of the lack of oxygen (Kaushik, 34). A Higher level of nutrientsenhance the growth of algae species, and after the algae die, Oxygen isconsumed to process of decomposition and thereby Oxygen level in the water getsshort; it eventually effect on other species in the water.
Thus, a vast amountof nitrogen and prosperous fertilizer can affect the soil PH level and increasethe acidity level in the soil; change of acidity level of the soil have anegative impact on crops and thousands of living organism in the soil. Modernagriculture is highly productive; but its environmental cost is enormous.The use of pesticides can greatly have effect on habitat andother species as well; even though pesticides can protect the crops fromdiseases that come from insects and pests, it can greatly damage thebiodiversity on the earth by killing living organisms. Modern agriculturelargely depends on agrochemicals; pesticide is one of the most prominentchemical compounds, which is highly used in industrial agricultural system.
Inthe United States, “the amount of pesticide use is nearly tripled from 215million pounds to 588 million pounds in 1964 to in 1997” (Kimbrell 2002, ascited in clay 53). These pesticides allowed farmers to eliminate the crop rotationsystem, and facilitated to grow same demanding crop in a larger areas yearafter year without rotating to gain more money. The problem of using thesepesticides is, it can create resistance to the pests, produce new pests, andkill non-target organisms. McLaughlin concluded that, the pesticides, such asinsecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals are “designed to killsomething somewhere” (206). Most of the pesticides are not designed tokill specific species, and therefore chemical compounds contained in pesticidescan be harmful to non-target insects, like pollinators, natural predators andother species in different ways. Sarah E.
Boslaugh notes Rachel Carson’s words,as “pesticides should properly be called “biocides” because of their impact onorganisms other than the target pests” (Silent spring). There are somepesticides like neonicotinoids pesticide typically applied to the seeds, and itcan be highly toxic to the songbirds and other migrating birds. Research wasdone to show the effect of neonicotinoids pesticides and found that the birdsbecome weak within an hour when they eat less than a single corn seed, developstomach difficulties, and also they speedily lost 17-25% of weight depending onthe quantity, and show difficulties to find direction of their journey(Margaret et al. 1). Even though it has been already proven the harmfulness ofpesticide, farmers are hesitant to stop the use of pesticides because of thefinancial reasons. Avast range of rare or endemic insects and aqua creatures also has higher riskdue to the bulk usage of pesticides and herbicides. These pesticides are oftensprayed or spread to the entire agricultural field, so, crops can absorb thesepesticides through the roots and leaves and when insect feed on these crops,the toxic of the plant kill it. Runoff from the agricultural lands andrainwater can carry the pesticides to the aqua environment, and it can haveeffects on fishes and other marine organisms.
According to Kimbrell, in thecoast of South Carolina pesticide poisoning was accredited to eliminate “halfof all the fishes” from 1977 to 1984 (2002). These pesticides are highlyharmful to all the marine species and it can affect other species as part ofthe food chain. Even though it is not much visible, pesticides, especially frominsecticides, also affect soil- fauna. For example, compounds of insecticidelike carbofuran, phorate, and terbufos, which are commonly used to control soilinsects, are remarkably toxic to earthworms (Clements et al. 1986).Biodiversity is really important to keep the stability of ecosystem byconnecting different animal and plant species, but today it has been highlydamaged by industrial agriculture, which formed to satisfy the unlimiteddesires of humans. Even it is a prominent fact that the use of pesticides andfertilizers can have a massive impact on animal creatures, and plant species,we are still using these poisonous and dangerous chemicals to get higherproductivity from agribusiness.
Even though the United States regulates thepesticide at the national level to defend endangered species and non-targetorganisms, still, the use of pesticide is dramatically increasing every year.As a part of the biotech revolution, some multinationalcompanies have introduced GMO plants to reduce the chemical-intensive farmingprocess, and develop a sustainable farming system. GMO crop varieties can beeither resistant to toxic pesticide or contains chemicals that arepoisonous to insects (Alteiri 60). Even farmers tend to grow GMO crops andpurchase fewer insecticides, the outcome of this novel invention had notgranted any benefit to the ecosystem. The invention of GMO crops can be harmfulto the genetic diversity of the plants because it can create genetic erosionand may lead older varieties to become extinct. GMO crops are geneticengineered by adding genes from herbicide-resistant crops to wild orsemi-domesticated plants.
This could result in “super weeds”, and could damage”soil organisms, and nutrient cycling” (Altieri 60). Corn and soybeans are mostprominent GMO crops in the United States, and the many of the farmers abandonedtheir diverse farms to cultivate these two crops due to the higher demand ofthe market. Even though, GMO crops have failed to prove the resistance to weedand insects, the fast growing and the higher productivity increased the demandfor the GMO crops every year. Alteiri states that, by 1997, there were12.8 million hectares of genetically modified crops around the world. Fieldtrials for 72% of the 25,000 genetically modified varieties have been conductedin the United States and Canada (60).
However, today, many of the food productsand non-food products are made out using inexpensive extract versions of theseGMO commodity crops. Planting a single crop variety in a large area known asmonoculture has expanded significantly around the world. Although, cultivatinga variety of plants can naturally provide the essential nutrients to the soil,the planting a single plant type continuously can affect the soil fertility.The soil structure gradually becomes less nutritive for the plants, andtherefore farmers use chemical fertilizers to encourage the plant growth, butthe fertilizers can contribute to more nutrients deprive of the soil.The soil is imperative to the entire living beings on theearth and the growth of plants extremely depends on the quality of soil. Thenatural system of decaying plants, animals, animal waste and microorganisms issufficient to maintain the fertility level and the structure of the soil, butthe consumption of pesticides, fertilizers, and monoculture farming can bedegraded the soil fertility.
In the process of harvesting, all the hay andstraw being removed from the land rather than leaving them to decay and nurturethe soil (46). Even though plants absorb the nutrients from the soil throughthe natural process, to balance the ecological system, some parts of theanimals and plants are again decomposed to the soil, but when it comes toagribusiness there is nothing going back to the soil except chemicals. Decayingorganic matter or unavailability of the protective covering layer of plantslead to soil erosion, which is a severe problem in industrial farming. Claysays, “One evening of heavy rains on conventionally farmed land can erode asmuch as 12 to 15 metric tons of topsoil per hectare” (46). Though erosion isnot noticeable, the rate of erosion is far more than the rebuilding of the soilin a year and as a result of that fertile farm could transform to infertileland or desert. Another problem that occurred by industrial agriculture is soildegradation; soil degradation is a serious problem, which means the decline ofsoil condition as a result of many human activities.
As clay demonstrates, about10 million hectares of agricultural land in the world become uncultivabledue to erosion and other issues per year. One third of agricultural landsexisted in 1960 have already gone. (48) Deforestation, monoculture farming,intensive harvesting, improper methods of fertilizer usage, overgrazing andpoor irrigation system are the main reasons of soil degradation. The soilquality is highly important to maintain the biodiversity, and in fact, the soilholds the majority of biodiversity on the earth; when the quality of the soilis declined by degradation, it will end up affecting all the biodiversity andfood production.
Although it is easier to destroy the natural resources, it isvery difficult to get it back; clay states fixing of the degraded soil isdifficult because the soil no longer can keep sufficient moisture.( 47). Theconsequences of degradation create many environmental impacts such assalinization, loss of soil fertility, disorganized the soil structure andincrease or decrease the acidity level of the soil. It can also severely affectmicroorganism in the soil and the nutrient cycling. Moreover, poor drainagesystem, use of fertilizer and poor irrigation system can increase the saltlevel in the soil which known as salinization.
High level of salt in the soilreduces the ability to take up the water from the land, and the land graduallybecomes less fertile. Latey concluded that, around 4.5 million acres of irrigatedfarming lands in California have been affected by the increase of salt level inthe soil (43). Soil salinization is a serious problem that many countries arefacing today; it gradually decreases the fertility of the land, and can beharmful to the crops in many ways. The soil is the main element of the earth,and protecting the soil means protecting thousands of lives.Industrial agriculture is expanded to satisfy the foodnecessities of the global population, and therefore the water usage is greatlyincreased for agricultural needs; today, agriculture becomes the largest userof the freshwater source. According to the Ongley, globally, 70% of all surfacewater supplies are being used for farming (2). In the same time industrialagriculture contributes to pollute the fresh water and groundwater in manyways.
Agriculture is the main culprit of water pollution in the world, and itis involved with many pollutants, such as fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides,salts, animal waste, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Water with these chemicalsubstances have effects on rivers, lakes, fresh water, groundwater, and allother ecosystems including aqua creature, microbes, animals, and plants. Claystates the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) study saying that, theagricultural activities are responsible for the polution of around 72% of therivers and 56% of lakes (51). The excessive level of nitrogen and phosphorousis a growing problem in lakes, rivers and freshwater sources, and thosechemical compounds are accountable for enhancing the eutrophication infreshwater. Aquatic plants, coral reefs and other habitats could beaffected by the “Eutrophication” both in fresh and marine waters. (Novotny, and Olem, 1993). The explosive growth of algae in the waterstreams produce harmful toxins to other marine creatures, and also itdevastates the quality of freshwater. This could cause unpleasant smell andtaste in drinking water apart from other issues like summer fish killing. (Palmstrom et al.1988).
Even though the earth has an abundance ofwater, there is a very small percentage of water usable for humans, but becauseof the inadequate agricultural system, the quality of the remaining water getsdecreased every day.Horticulture likewise affects marine living spaces, besidethe fertilizer and pesticides, livestock waste are also having a higher impacton aquatic life. Nutrient compounds of the animal waste and other chemicalproducts, which are used in agriculture, get mixed with water sources, andcreate nutrient enrichment in the water; it creates a good environment for thegrowth of algaes. When bacterias decompose these algies, oxygen gets dissolvedin to the water (OECD 281).
This Hypoxia condition could be harmful for thefunctioning of the proper ecosystem in the water According to the findingof OECD, Hypoxia usually affects North America during the spring and summermonths while affecting Europe in summer and autumn (13). And these hypoxicareas are named as dead zone; the no man’s land in the Gulf of Mexico is anexample for a dead zone and its caused by Midwestern farming pesticide runoffand animal waste (Clay 49). For the individuals who are worried about theworldwide condition, the associations amongst horticulture and marinewellsprings of contamination and biodiversity misfortune have beenprogressively certain. Industrial agriculture is not only affected toearthbound creatures, it also has an impact on freshwater and marine habitats. Global warming occurs due to the emission of greenhousegases to the atmosphere, and when these gases gathered, it increases thetemperature level in the air resulting in a warm weather. Agriculture givescritical support to the climate change through the releasing Carbon dioxide,Methane, Nitrous Oxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.According to some sources, Hawken and his colleagues found that, farming is responsiblefor around 25% of climate changes (1999).
Soil infertility is one of the main reasons of producing these gases; when soil get infertile, the vastamount of chemicals added to increase the fertility level and it canincrease the production of these gases. As a consequence of the agriculturaloutput such as deforestation, burning of agricultural crop waste, fossil fuel,and livestock production can also increase the carbon dioxide emersion (Clay57). The use of vast amount of fertilizers is also responsible for releasinggreenhouse gases to the atmosphere; a mostly nitrous oxide emission comes fromnitrate fertilizers and animal waste. Farmers often use nitrate fertilizers toincrease the productivity, but the crops do not take up the full amount ofnitrate and part of it enters the atmosphere. Livestock production and floodedrice paddies are responsible for the highest amount of Methane emission,Wassman and his colleague say (2000). Combination of these greenhouse gasescontribute to global warming in different ways, and the other side of that isglobal warming also can negatively impact on agriculture.
Animal waste andfertilizers that contains nitrogen release Ammonia and the air pollution causedby Ammonia is a serious problem in the United States, Europe, Russia, and China(University of Columbia). The researchers predict that by 2100 carbon dioxidelevel could increase to 540–970 parts per million temperatures to go up byaround 1.4–5.8 degrees Celsius. This can decrease the worldwide food production(Shafer 2002).
The methods we use to expand the productivity can returnnegative consequences for the whole population. Air pollution, climate changeand global warming are connected to each other and the change of one factor cannegatively affect others.The idea of the cutting edge horticultural structure andcontemporary strategies has unequivocally affected the setting of ruralinnovation and generation, which thusly has prompted various natural issues.Given the substances of private enterprise, asset-moderating practices aredemoralized and as a rule such practices are not beneficial for agriculturists,the impact of ecological system which granted from modern agricultural systemoutweigh the outcome of these practices.
Farming, and society, is by allaccounts confronting extreme tradeoffs. Horticultural biological systems haveturned out to be unimaginably great at creating sustenance; however, theseexpanded yields that have natural costs that can’t be overlooked, particularlyif the rates of nitrogen and phosphorus treatment triple and the measure ofland watered copies. Administration instruments for other agrarian practices,for example, intercropping and turn to lessen pesticide utilize, appraisal ofthe seriousness of vermin species rivalry preceding pesticide utilize, manureapplication connected to no-till strategies or supplement spending plans, andre-seeding enhanced fields with local vegetation, may effectively profitagribusiness and save the nature of living space for untamed life.