Intensive Farming: The Master of All Problems
Updated: Jul 12
Intensive Farming, as a term requires no explanation; it is the problem and solution in itself. The practice of intensive farming is characterised by higher yields wrested from plants, animals and the earth motivated by the desire for a product for less money. Appeared for the first time in 1950’s, in USA, intensive farming continued to develop and appear in Europe and India in the 60s. Increased profitability of producers, lowering the costs of consumers followers of economic liberalism got blinded and fell in love with this new production system. Yes, money is the objective and it’s sad that much of it goes to funnelling into the hands of very few. But keeping it aside, one of the troubling disadvantages of this method of farming is undoubtedly on the environment and more specifically it’s shocking contributions to the climate change.
The horrifying statistics
When it comes to agriculture sector, it has a key function to ensure global food security and increasing the food supply. The global impact of food alone on greenhouse emission is over a quarter to be precise 26%. Nearly half of the world’s habitable lands (excluding land and desserts) is used for agriculture. More than 70% of global freshwater withdrawals are used for the same purpose. 78% of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication is caused by agriculture. This overabundance because of the increased wash off of nitrates and phosphates from soils. Eutrophication generates another phenomenon that is dystrophication whereby the photosynthetic activity is reduced in the first metres under the surface, so oxygen becomes rare and living beings die. Expansion of agriculture has been one of humanity’s largest impacts on the environment. It’s influence and transformation of habitats is the greatest pressure: of the 28000 species evaluated to be threatened with extinction as listed on IUCN (International Union for Conversation of Nature) Red List, agriculture is mentioned as a threat to 24000 of them. The use of fertilisers like glyphosate rich Roundup is one of the major reasons the bees and other insects going extinct.
In spite of knowing it’s harmful effects on our environment, we cannot control the existing levels as there is a need to increase the global food production with the population being expected to top 10 billion in 2050. Which means compared to 2010, an extra 7400 tn calories will be needed a year in 2050. This takes us to a very important factor being the global meat industry. The rising meat consumption is going to have a devastating environmental impact. The average meat consumed per person was 23 kg in 1961 which rose to 43 kg in 2014. This means that the total meat production has been witnessing a five-fold increase more than the population growth. The UN review has projected an increase in the global meat consumption by mid-century. Livestock production currently accounts for 15% of all anthropogenic emissions (37% of all methane and 65% nitrous oxide emissions) and is major contributor to biodiversity loss. The anthropogenic emissions of animal agriculture is way more than the emissions from all of world’s transportation combined. Raising animals for food consumes more than half of the water, to be precise it takes 2500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. The world’s cattle alone consume more quantity of food which equals to the caloric need of 8.7 billion people- more than the entire human population on earth. Apart from this, the mismanaged animal waste is a major source of water pollution as per Environment Protection Agency. A typical hog farm produces raw waste as a city of 12000 people and is the number one source of water pollution. The fast moving fashion industry has been under light recently as another disastrous reason for water pollution and drainage.
Heavy Industrialisation of meat industry leading to environmental degradation
The future ahead
There is neither a replacement for Intensive Farming nor can we sacrifice more on our forests to satisfy our never ending needs The Earth is losing more than 18 million acres of forests per year, which equals to about 27 football fields every minute. There are solutions, but the first move should be from us. We have to let the natural food cycle remain intact. The first should be a change in our eating habits, which is the need of the hour. Reduce the consumption of meat, not only the hormones that are used while rearing them are harmful to human beings but the antibiotics used are making bacteria around immune to the existing ones. It might seem to be obnoxious but you are acting for a greater cause. Consumption of such processed meats can lead to increase risks of lymphoma, cancer and other diseases. Secondly the practice of Agroecology, which is a broad range of farming techniques that seek to minimise the environmental impacts of farming can be inculcated. This method seeks to reduce the usage of fertilisers and pesticides by closely observing the natural predator, pest and crop cycles. Another way is the practice of Biofortification, whereby nutrients are added back into food before it is consumed by humans. However, this bandaid approach is open to criticism. We are dependent on this nature, and it’s important to be grateful and compassionate for the abundant resources it blessed us with rather being exploitative. More than half of our GDP is based on farming and agriculture. Not only for the health of economy, but for our survival too, it is important to conserve environment from this moribund situation. As Mahatma Gandhi quoted “there is enough for everybody’s need but not for everybody’s greed”. Let that be our light ahead!!
She is currently pursuing BBA.LLB at Gujarat National Law University. With an obstinate love for theology and psychology, she is an ardent supporter of environment conservational causes and always welcomes the opportunity to act as a patron for the same!