Mary Sears Taylor ENG 1120 Blair Date Sustainable Agriculture: The Switch from Industrial to Organic P1: Agriculture is the most important user of environmental resources and plays a crucial role in the economy, human health, and production of food and fiber. Currently the debate over agriculture is how to feed the world’s growing population, but in a non-damaging process. Agriculture needs a change resulting in sustainability, but the debate begins with how to achieve sustainability in agriculture. One side insists on expanding the current system of industrial agriculture, which depends on monoculture and mechanization.
This modern approach to agriculture, which developed during the 20th century, has successfully fed the growing population, but has resulted in devastating effects on the environment and human health. Organic farming techniques, on the other hand, have recently been introduced as another possible solution to sustainable agriculture. Organic methods, including of crop rotation, pest management, and cover crops, have proven to be less damaging to the environment. Despite the proven benefits, some believe that organic farming methods will not produce enough food to feed the world’s growing population.
Therefore, this side of the agricultural debate insists on merging organic farming and industrial agriculture together. Even though feeding the world’s growing population is essential, human health should never be at cost. Organic farming needs to completely replace industrial agriculture. According to Gracelinks. org, “Sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare. This definition proves that industrial agriculture does not meet the requirements of sustainability due to its cause of land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and pollution. Industrial agriculture has successfully produced an abundant amount of food, but the harmful effects it causes on the environment and public health are unacceptable and unsustainable. P2: Sustainable agriculture techniques aim to embrace farming practices that mimic natural ecological practices.
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Methods that are sustainable will benefit the farmer, the land, and the community as a whole. Brodt Sonja from The Nature Education Knowledge Project states, “Agricultural sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ” This definition only begins to prove that organic farming is more sustainable than industrial agriculture. Industrial techniques compromise future generations’ ability to meet their needs.
Even though industrial methods produce an abundant amount of food, the impacts are overwhelming on the environment and human health, resulting in an unsustainable world. Despite those who support industrial agriculture or a combination of industrial and organic methods, I found research which proves that organic farming is solely the answer. The results I found confirm that the key to sustainable agriculture involves a complete shift of methods. After researching the debate, I am confident that a change from industrial to organic is vital to improve our environment and attain a sustainable agriculture.
The organic farming approach to agriculture has proven to be more beneficial to the environment and public health, along with producing high yields. Agriculture will be made sustainable and ecologically sound by adopting organic farming techniques such as crop rotation, crop diversity, cover crops and pest management. These organic farming methods will continue to feed the world’s growing population without damaging consequences. P3: Sustainable agriculture strives to provide an abundance of food while using methods that do not harm the environment and improve human health.
The Union of Concerned Scientists states, “Sustainable agriculture is grounded in the idea of stewardship: preserving the resources that allow us to meet our own needs, so that future generations can meet theirs too. ” This means that an approach to farming needs to be economically viable, environmentally friendly, and beneficial to the society in order to be sustainable. Impacts of agriculture currently include land degradation, limits to water availability, loss of biodiversity, and pollution. These negative outcomes are caused by industrial agriculture methods.
Yet, some people argue that industrial agriculture is more sustainable than organic farming. P4: Industrial agriculture is the current form of agriculture used in the United States and other developed countries. Economy Watch defines industrial agriculture as a “modern form of capital intensive farming which requires huge amounts of innovation in agriculture machinery. ” The properties of industrial agriculture, which include monoculture, the practice of growing a single crop year after year, and reliance on chemical fertilizer, both result in destructive effects on the environment.
Despite these consequences, industrial agriculture produces an abundant amount of food. Therefore, some people argue that the techniques of industrial farming need to be adjusted, not replaced. The article, “Will Organic Food Fail to Feed the World,” written by David Biello, argues a hybrid approach to sustainable agriculture. Biello states that industrial technologies have “fed the swelling human population” and “the world already produces 22 trillion calories annually via agriculture. The evidence supports his argument that the methods of industrial agriculture result in an abundant production of food that successfully feeds the growing population. However, the methods used to produce the great amount of food are harmful to the environment. David Biello also attempts to argue that organic farming will not supply enough food. Quoting environmental scientist Verena Seufert, from McGill University, Biello states, “We found that, overall, organic yields are considerably lower than conventional yields. By quoting Verena Seufert, Biello uses an ethical appeal to support his argument. It proves the importance of industrial agriculture due to its high yields and food production. His solution to agriculture, combining methods of both industrial and organic farming techniques, is not sustainable. The impacts caused by industrial agriculture out way the benefits. There is a completely sustainable approach that allows farmers to produce enough food without harming human health or the environment. The approach is organic farming.
Even though industrial agriculture produces an abundant amount of food, the methods rely on mechanization, monoculture, and synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides. The reliance on these methods exhaust the natural resources that human life depends on. The Pesticide Action Network states, “Industrial agriculture treats the farm as a factory, with inputs (pesticides and fertilizers), and outputs (crops. )” The use of comparison between farms and factories, two very opposite areas, informs the reader of the negative impacts of industrial farming.
The production of food in factories and the use of chemicals result in negative externalities. The reliance on monoculture in industrial agriculture results in a threat to biodiversity. Monoculture farming depends heavily on chemical inputs because growing the same plant in the same place year after year quickly depletes nutrients that plants rely on. The only way to replenish the nutrients lost, is by adding synthetic fertilizers. The synthetic products added to soil deplete the nutrients in crops as well as producing harmful pollutants into the air.
The Pesticide Action Network notes that industrial agriculture uses 70% of the planet’s fresh water along with being responsible for 1/3 of global greenhouse gas emissions. These outrageous percentages can be reduced only if industrial agriculture is replaced. Industrial agriculture has a high price tag as well. In the article “Environmental, Energetic, and Economic Comparisons of Organic and Conventional Farming Systems,” David Pimentel quotes the National Research Council when stating, “The cost of excessive fertilizer use- that is, fertilizer inputs that exceed the amount crops can use- is $2. billion per year. ” Pimentel’s use of ethos and logos together successfully persuades the reader away from industrial farming. The harmful chemicals and high costs make industrial farming unsustainable. If sustainable agriculture is the goal, industrial methods and techniques must be replaced all together. Despite the arguments supporting industrial agriculture, organic farming has proven to be the solution to sustainable agriculture. The beneficial results include more fertile soil, greater biodiversity and healthier food products for consumers.
These benefits support the requirements of sustainability and are achieved through organic agriculture techniques. Organic farming methods include crop rotation, pest management, crop diversity, and absence of chemicals. By adopting these methods, farmers will produce sustainable farms that can feed the world’s growing population, without negative externalities that halt future generations from succeeding. Crop rotation is the process of growing different crops in succession in the same field or area. When farmers use this organic farming method they avoid consequences such as soil degradation.
Crop rotations help to replenish nitrogen in the crop’s soil, therefor chemicals are not needed to replenish the soil’s nutrients. Crop rotation also provides a solution to pest problems. Many pests prefer a specific crop, therefore continuing to grow the same in crop year after year guarantees pests a steady food supply. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ article, “Sustainable Agriculture Techniques,” states that “rotation reduces pest pressure on all the crops in the rotation by breaking the pest reproductive cycles. ” This statement proves that organic farming methods are able to reduce the presence of pests.
By planting different crops in a series, farmers decrease the chance of pest problems, in addition to using non-chemical fertilizers. The use of crop rotation allows farmers to produce healthier soil due to the absence of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The use of different plants in a row allows for an increase in soil organic matter which is healthier for the soil and crops being grown. The article, “Sustainable Development: Five Ways to Get Rid of Pests without Using Chemicals,” argues that the switch from chemical pesticides has led to better soil health.
The article quotes Thakur Das, a rice farmer with experience from switching to organic farming, and states, “Most farmers use chemicals, but their soil is totally dead. ” This use of ethos sways the reader to believe the argument. Interviewing a farmer with experience, proves that organic farmers have healthier soil in comparison to farmers who use chemicals. Healthy soil is one of the most important elements of agriculture. Enriched healthy soil can improve yields and produce crops less vulnerable to pests. Another unique benefit of organic farming is its ability to improve biodiversity.
Biodiversity in farming is a key contributor to sustainable agriculture. While industrial techniques lack in biodiversity, organic methods increase and support biodiversity. James Randerson, author of the article “Organic Farming Boosts Biodiversity,” discusses seventy-six studies that measured biodiversity. After the studies were reviewed, the results proved that sixty-six out of ninety-nine found organic farming more beneficial to wildlife. Randerson states, “Organic farming increases biodiversity at ever level of the food chain. His use of logos blatantly displays the evidence to the reader, supporting the argument that biodiversity is increased through organic farming. In addition to Randerson’s proof regarding biodiversity, the article, “Sustainable Development: Five Ways to Get Rid of Pests without Using Chemicals,” also proves that crop diversity improves agricultural biodiversity. Currently, pests thrive in monocultures. Monoculture is simply the practice of growing a single crop over a large area. This results in negative effects on the environment. An easy solution to this is crop diversity.
The article quotes sustainable agriculture expert, Jules Pretty, when stating, “Farm biodiversity is a more sustainable method of dealing with pests. ” The use of ethos helps persuade the reader that crop diversity is a sustainable method. Due to Pretty’s expertise, the information provided is likely to be true. Chemical additives, which pollute air and destroy crops, are in no way helpful to agriculture. Using techniques such as crop diversity will decrease the need for chemicals. Organic farming methods have proven to increase biodiversity in agriculture, making it a more sustainable approach.
The use of organic farming methods result is a sustainable farm. Sustainable farms produce foods without excessive use of pesticides. This process makes the food healthier for the consumer. Research from the Green Peace Corporation states that “organic crops contain significantly more vitamin C, iron, and magnesium. ” Each of these are important to human health. The research supports organic farming, as opposed to industrial agriculture. Sustainable farming successfully produces healthy food in an environmentally friendly manner.
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