Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why Choose Ethical Farming?

By Nicki Coyne

So many people in the world are aware of the changes that the earth and its climate are going through and yet we continue with so many daily habits as though nothing is going on. One of these "habits" which we seem to refuse to shrug off is the way we produce our food.

Current mass production methods of farming have so many negative effects and yet we and our vested interests will not look to more sustainable agricultural practices. Let's take a look at some of the negative impacts on our home that we have due to our farming habits.

Firstly we are removing primary forests in order to make way for huge plantations, to support our growing appetite for fast foods. Trees and especially our primary forests are so important in holding on to carbon dioxide. Every time we chop down trees and burn our forests, we release yet more air born carbon dioxide, currently the major contributor to climate change.

Even ploughing fields releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as this is normally stored in the plants we grow for our food and the soil they grow in. It is the plants such as cereal based crops that require annual planting and therefore ploughing that are the biggest culprits. If we were to look at other types of plants that did not need his type of cultivation, we would save thousands of tonnes of CO2 from being released.

Adopting mono agricultural practices has so many "side effects". When we plant a singular type of crop, we remove all of the biodiversity from the area. Areas with high biodiversity are more resistant to attacks from pests as usually these pests tend to go for a single type of plant, so even if one particular plant is damaged, there are still many more that remain. Higher biodiversity also results in the existence of life forms that actually kill the nuisance bugs, leading to a more natural balance.

When we plant single crops, we remove the biodiversity; we increase the likelihood that an attack on the crop will result in the decimation of that plant, so farmers use pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, which are frequently highly toxic chemicals. These enter our food chain through land and water pollution.

In addition, mono agriculture results in the need to add fertilisers to the soil to keep growing our crops. Like the chemical pesticides the excess enters surrounding land and our water sources. Considering how little of the water on the planet that is available to use, why do we continue to poison it?

Large corporations continue to promote complex technological solutions to our problems. These are often extremely expensive financially, making them only available to the rich and powerful few or are potentially devastating for the planet. Whose interests are they looking out for, their shareholders pockets or those that need to eat?

One of the major human tragedies of mass production farms is that so much land is in the hands of the very few. The landowners are very powerful and use all sorts of tactics to ensure that they remain powerful and this is especially so in some developing countries where the poor who work the farms are exploited or are prevented from being able to feed themselves.

Ethical farming promotes more natural production methods that are more akin to natural ecological cycles and ultimately result in the need for fewer additives in the form of chemicals, less carbon dioxide emissions, higher productivity levels per acre of land and more socially acceptable farming practices. In addition, we increase the biodiversity, making it stringer and more able to stand shocks such as pest attacks.

We need to look towards more ecologically sound practices of farming that benefit us and our planet and not constantly bring in more and more complex technology to continue to feed ourselves.

Nicki has a degree in architecture and currently teaches design and technology to high school students. She has been writing articles for over a decade. Not only does Nicki specialise in ecological issues you can also check out her latest website on which provides advice on different dive fins.

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