Step forward with organic farming?

 04 Jul 2017 - 10:24

Not only large proportion of people, but also decision makers are convinced that the only way to have a sustainable future is through investing in pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. In addition to this, thousands of research papers about organic farming are neglected, that reminds me of the qualitative and quantitative concepts, whereas we would be concerned about large amount of yields forgetting the outcomes and deterministic consequences that may happen as a result of this way of thinking. Perhaps the massive yield resulting from conventional farming made us forget where fertilizers are originating from?

Alongside the world’s aspirations toward a sustainable future, using fertilizers and pesticides for cultivations is increasing massively. It is rarely said that many of these chemicals are petroleum based. Warding off pests and increasing yields are benefits hard to get without environmental costs.

Reviewing the common scenario, fertilizers will be used with the intention of growing better crops, which means the existence of weeds, then, herbicides are required. Once plants are germinated, this will attract insects, then again, pesticides are needed too. Ignorance of the fate and consequences of fertilizers is the gap here, the point that exceeds collective consciousness.

The excessive and unconscious application of conventional farming has led to major problems in many agricultural areas of the world, resulting in contamination of drinking water resources in aquifers as well as eutrophication of freshwater and costal marine ecosystems.

One of the environmental consequences resulting from conventional farming is soil erosion which happens as result of electrolyte imbalance and chemical toxins because the same crop is being grown time after time, on the contrary of organic farming, which enhances and promotes health of the soil through the crop rotation.

In this regard, the Japanese farmer and philosopher: Masanobu Fukoka commented in his book the one-straw revolution “When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings”. Fukoka is one of many who thinks a sustainable future can only be achieved by organic farming.

Conventional farming uses a vast group of synthetic chemicals, many of them will last for hundreds and thousands of years before decomposition. It also uses fossil fuels, water and topsoil at unsustainable rate, which leads to multiple forms of environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, soil depletion and disturbing biodiversity.

The degree of toxicity of these chemicals is high, and they are harmful for both humans and animals. The extent of exposure to these chemicals can elevate health risks for workers and consumers.

In 1988, the world applied 137 million metric tons of chemical fertilizers, of which US agricultural system consumed approximately 15% of them.  It was estimated that around one-third of the nitrogen applied to farmlands were absorbed by crops, as a result, the major cause of the ‘‘dead zone’’ in the Gulf of Mexico has been attributed to the Nitrogen that ran off croplands into the Mississippi River.

The marine environment in this zone suffers from hypoxia or a dearth of dissolved oxygen, excess nutrients fuels algal growth manipulates the algae’s growth-and-decay cycle, which resulting in reducing oxygen levels in the water, consequently, killing off different species, such as fish and shrimp.  

On the other hand, organic farming has proven itself in many regions around the world. Although it is well-known that the crop yields as a result of organic farming are slightly lower than conventional farming. The advantages of sustainable farming can cover this shortage, as it would produce good crop yields with minimum impact on ecological factors, such as soil fertility and promoting biodiversity. A fertile soil is rich in nutrients which is highly important for crop plant growth. A study has shown the biodiversity is greater on organic farms than on conventional farms, the organic farms part had: an overall 12% increase in biodiversity, greater floral diversity, more earthworms, more butterflies and an increased number of some birds.

Food toxicity is one of the miserable consequences of industrial farming and it can lead to direct carcinogenic and other diseases. In the past, many of pesticides and insecticides were forbidden from use.
Chlorpyrifos is a crystalline organophosphate insecticide and it has been banned from use because it turns out that there is a relationship between this and autoimmune diseases and neurological damage, however, 93% of Americans that were tested by the Centre for Disease Control had metabolites of chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin in their urine.

Nevertheless, it is still widely sprayed all over the food. Alongside, DDT is a persistent toxin that needs an extended period of time to decompose, and is considered to be a cancerogenic chemical. Unfortunately, over 99% of Americans were tested positive for exposure to DDT.  It is worth mentioning that DDT has been banned from use in the U.S. since 1972, however, it is still manufactured and exported to many countries for agricultural usage.  

Promoting organic farming will minimise many current issues, such as climate change and contamination of drinking water which are considered to be the most challenging issues nowadays. In the use of conventional farming there is a clear infringement of the right to ecology as well as the marine environment.

Taking a serious step to minimise conventional farming has become a necessary step to take, as we need to meet the current and future demand in a safe way. Yet, many stakeholders would not confess that industrial farming is a way to a deleterious ecological system, and many research papers are going to be neglected. The question remains: Are we stepping toward a sustainable future?

The writer is a graduate from University of Nottingham and Bachelor of Environmental Science.