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Farming methods that harm our Planet

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Modern farming produces huge amounts of food to feed our over-populated planet, yet more than 800 million people go hungry. Despite its successes most agriculture practices harm our planet- and our health. Something is clearly not working

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In the Beginning…

Roughly 10,000 years ago, humankind had one of its biggest breakthroughs: the advent of farming. That may not sound glamorous, but agriculture changed everything. Freed from the constant search for food, humans could settle down and form communities. From there came the development of trade, then cities, then science, then technology, and then the world we know today. The first farmers used organic techniques. So did their children, and their children’s children. Generation after generation produced food in Earth-friendly ways. It’s not that they were early environmentalists. There just wasn’t any other way to farm. Traditional farmers used animal manure as a natural fertiliser. They rotated the types of crops grown on the same piece of land to avoid wearing out the soil. And they let fields life fallow, or unplanted, every few years to help the soil rejuvenate itself. Most of the time, these farmers’ methods did not do major environmental damage. (That was possible because the population was fairly small and land was cheap and plentiful)

Not so Long Ago…

Farmers were always at the mercy of the weather. Just a modest drought could wipe out an entire crop. Even if the weather cooperated, there was always the risk that insects or other pests might devour the harvest. Feeding everyone was often a daunting task. With each improvement of their relatively primitive farming technology, early civilizations may have begun to harm the land that gave them food. Irrigation ditches, canals and other changes to the land helped farmers water crops and run their farms—but could have also negatively affected the natural environment.

modern-farmOur ‘Modern World’…

Then came the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Biologists and chemists created fertilizers that worked faster and better than manure. After WWII, most farmers began to rely on chemical pesticides, which wiped out weeds and insects. New plant varieties withstood weather fluctuations and yielded more produce per acre. High-tech irrigation methods literally turned deserts green. Monoculture replaced crop rotation. In the 1960s and 1970s, just when it looked like population growth might exceed our capacity to grow food, technology created the Green Revolution. Scientists developed combinations of irrigation, new seeds, and chemicals to dramatically increase farm yield, but led to other problems such as pesticide runoff. By 2000, humans grew more food than ever before. And the number of underfed people was reduced to half what it had been in 1970. Still, by 2050, the United Nations Population Report estimates there will be roughly 10 billion people in the world and more than 4 billion of them will suffer from malnutrition. As with most developments in human history, the Green Revolution solved certain problems but created new ones. We are just beginning to grasp how modern, commercial farming can harm the environment.

A Return to the Past…

Some farmers have responded by returning to old techniques. You probably recognize the word “organic” from supermarket labels and farmers markets. Some grocery stores and restaurants specialize in organic foods. If we are to protect our Planet from devastation then natural farming techniques have to be re-instated. But first there must be a demand and that means YOU the consumer must choose to buy Organic Produce from sustainable producers.

With thanks from EcoHealth

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