Major Innovations in Agriculture Have Always Proved to be Controversial Essay

With reference to recent changes in agriculture, evaluate the validity of this statement.

* Before the WW2 the farmers used hands and horses to farms, and the fields were irregular and relatively small, few chemicals were used and yields were low by today’s standards.

* British farmers had to compete with cheap imports of grain, meat and dairy produce from Australia, New Zealand

* The war, and particularly the sinking of so many merchant ships by German U-boats, brought about the realization that Britain had to produce more of its own food and become less reliant on imports.

* Post-war periods witnessed by increasing application of science and technology farming to maximize yields and to increase profitability.

* Sudden increase in production lead to production of ‘butter mountains,’ ‘wine lakes’ which led to down scaling production.

* In China now meat consumption is rising by 10% per year.

* Consumption of animal protein is about one-quarter of that in the developed world, and demand seems set to continue rising.

* Biotechnologists, on the other hand, are confident that new technologies will be able to produce enough food for 10 billion people.

Modern methods.

* Crop rotation are used on smaller farms. But today many crops are grown on a large scale in a system of monoculture, this means the same nutrients are consistently taken from the soil, and replaced by heavy doses of chemical fertilizer. Monoculture encourages pests, therefore requires higher doses of pesticide.

* Supermarkets place tight restriction on tier farmers in terms of quality and price. This encourages high chemical use and concentration on a limited range of crops.

* Organic farming is the one operates without factory-made chemicals. It’s a return to less intensive traditional farming, and is similar to the methods that were used before the agricultural revolution at the end of the WW2.

Fertilizers

* Before the late 18th century and the 19th century all fertilizers were organic. E.g. Manure and stubble were ploughed into the ground. The only fertilizers from off the farm were seaweed, shelly sand, guano and mined potash. These provided nutrients while also maintaining soil texture.

* Modern chemical use grown from 14million tones in 1950 to 120million tones in 1995. Much is wasted. It gets washed off the land before plants can use it.

* It finds its way into water supplies and contaminates them.

* In Netherlands uses 600 kg/ha/year. France, Germany and the UK 300 kg/ha/year.

* In some LEDCs the use of modern fertilizers is increasing.

Agrochemicals

* Early chemical sprays were dangerous causing respiratory damage to people and killing wildlife. DDT persists in the soil and was concentrated in toxic doses in animals and people via the food chain.

* Modern sprays are more sophisticated, and designed to target particular insect or weed. They aim to be biodegradable and harmless to humans.

* Accidents and pollution occurs even with the strict regulations in MEDCs.

* Whilst in the LEDCs the usage is less carefully controlled so risks of environmental damage are potentially greater.

* The current increase in the use of pesticides (worth $30 billion a year) is mainly in the LEDCs.

Machinery

* Farming machinery developed rapidly after the war.

* Machinery can create furrows in the soil. In wet conditions these can concentrate run-off, and there have been cases where these have deepened over a season, concentrating flowing water and contributing to soil erosion.

* Tractors have become increasingly heavy, and this can cause problems of soil compaction, impending the infiltration of rainwater and reducing the flow of nutrients within the soil.

Field size and hedgerow removal

* The period of most remove was during he 1950s and 1960s to create larger fields in which farmers could operate larger machinery and also gain more land to increase yields.

* Removal impacts the landscape and loss of habitats for birds and other small creatures.

* There is a noticeable difference between species diversity in an old hedgerow compared with new.

* The advantage of having smaller fields is such as reduced wind erosion.

Chemicals

* Herbicides – to control weeds

* Fungicides – moulds and fungi

* Insecticides – insect pest

* In early post war period there were several problems with chemicals particularly insecticides. For instance the DDT accumulated in the food chain, having a damaging effect on wildlife and a widespread environmental impact.

* Eutrophication-loss of oxygen from the water, due to excessive plant growth. Human health of nitrogen in drinking water.

Genetically Modified Foods

* Advantages

– Increased crop yields

– Food can stay fresh for longer

– Food can taste batter

– It can be possible to produce food that is better for us, e.g. higher starch content potatoes that absorb less fat when cooked to make chips

– Herbicide resistant crops could reduce the need for chemicals that contribute to environmental damage.

* Disadvantages

– Genetic modification exposes genes to nature and to evolution:

– Doctors and scientists are worried about the effect on health – particularly a possible link with cancer.

– Over a long period people who consumed GM papaya might also develop a resistance to some antibiotics

– The GM papayas planted in the field were bigger and stronger than the non-GM varieties, he said.

* Farmers ignore the danger because they are more concerned about profits.

– Chemical sprays are affecting the health of strawberry workers in Chiang Mai.

‘Major innovations in agriculture have always proved to be controversial’

With reference to recent changes in agriculture, evaluate the validity of this statement.

Before the World War 2 farming was manual, and the fields were irregular and relatively small, few chemicals were used and yields were low by today’s standards. British farmers had to compete with cheap imports of grain, meat and dairy produce from Australia, and New Zealand. The war, and particularly the sinking of many merchant ships by German U-boats, brought about the realization that British had to produce more of its own food and become less reliant on imports.

Post war periods witnessed by increasing application of science and technology farming to maximize yields and to increase profitability. Increased use of fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, and altering the genes within the produce led to a sudden increase in production and profitability of farms, but as a consequence it also led to disputes over the environmental and human effects these innovations had. But with an increasing population, with the world population standing at 6 billion, and is forecasted to reach 10 billion by 2150, these innovations were necessary. With Chinas meat consumption rising by 10% each year, production of meat has to increase to meet the demands for the future.

There are three types of farming, crop rotation, monoculture, and organic farming. Crop rotations are used on smaller farms, which allows farmers to switch crops on their farms in order to alter the nutrients taken out and put into the soil by the crops. This is a very natural for farming and has little effect on the environment. After the World War 2 farming has grown on a larger scale, and therefore smaller farms joined and became bigger farms which utilized monoculture. This means the same nutrients are consistently taken from the soil, and replaced by heavy doses of chemical fertilizer. Monoculture encourages pests, therefore requires higher doses of pesticide. Supermarkets place tight restrictions on their farmers in terms of quality and price. This encourages high chemical use and concentration on a limited range of crops. Therefore having strong negative implication up the surrounding environment. But with monoculture businesses are able to grow and farm their crops for more profits and therefore sell on the markets for cheaper. Organic farming is the one operates without factory-made chemicals. It’s a return to less intensive traditional farming, and is similar to the methods that were used before the agriculture revolution at the end of the World War 2.

Before the late 18th century and the 19th century all fertilizers were organic, e.g. manure and stubble were ploughed into the ground. The only fertilizers from off the farm were seaweed, shelly sand, guano and mind potash. These provided nutrients while also maintaining soil texture. Modern chemicals use has grown from 14 million tons in 1950 to 120 million tons in 1995. Much is wasted into the surrounding areas, it gets washed off the land before plats can use it. It finds its way into water supplies and contaminates them. The contaminated water can also damage human health due to the excessive amount of nitrogen within the water. They are also able to wash into the nearby lakes and destroy the underwater life within up through euntrophication. This happens due to the plants within the lakes or ponds receiving enough nutrients to grow and use up the oxygen within the lake, as well block off the sunlight for the plants underwater. Though the use of fertilizer does have the benefits of increasing the yield for the farmers, therefore lets them become more efficient on the farms with increasing profits. In some countries there is a reduced use of fertilizer as they see the negative effects on the environment such as France, Germany and UK use 300 kg/ha/year, whilst in the Netherlands its 600 kg/ha/year. There is also a ban in some areas of using nitrogenous fertilizers, if monitoring shows that a watercourse is being seriously damaged. Low-lying areas near rivers and the coast have seen considerable change as a result of intensification in farming. Notable examples include the wetlands of Somerset and the Norfolk.

Early chemical sprays were dangerous causing respitory damage to people and killing wildlife. DDT persists in the soil and was concentrated in toxic doses in animals and people via the food chain. One example could be the weakening of falcon eggs, where there was a high build up in the falcon food chain, that when the eggs were layed they would hatch, hence decreasing the falcon population. Modern sprays are more sophisticated, and designed to target particular insect or weed. For example herbicides are used to control weeds, fungicides are against moulds and fungi, and insecticides are against insect pest. The modern sprays aim to be biodegradable and harmless to humans. Accidents and pollution occurs even with the strict regulation in MEDCs. Whilst in the LEDCs the usage is less carefully controlled so risks of environmental damages are potentially greater. One such danger is the bio accumulation of DDT within the food chain. This is when the toxic pesticide is accumulated in the food chain, and can have damaging effect on wildlife and a widespread environmental impact. The current increase in the use of pesticides is worth $30 billion a year is mainly in the LEDCs.

Farming machinery developed rapidly after the war. Machinery can create furrows in the soil. In wet condition these can concentrate run-off, and there have been cases where they have deepened over a season, concentrating flowing water and contributing to soil erosion. Tractors have become increasing heave, and this can cause problems of soil compaction, impending the infiltration of rainwater and reducing the flow of nutrients within the soil. Though the machinery did have a positive effect of decreasing the time needed for farming and seeding. Whilst increasing the amount of yield, therefore the profitably of the farm.

With the advances in the Genetically modified foods after the green revolution led to dispute, but it also led to be crops. The advantages of having GM foods is the increased crop yields and giving the crops an ability to grown in harsh conditions. One example is the mixture between a tomato plant and the DNA from the flounder, which gives us a frost resistant tomato plant. Therefore giving it the ability to grow in colder countries. This was going on since the 1970’s where mixing food with animal DNA resulted in the plant gaining the benefits of the animal. But there is also a strong opposition to GM foods, which resulted in fields full of GM crops being destroyed in 1999 in England. The opposition comes from vegans and religious groups, where vegans oppose the use of animal DNA, whilst the religious groups oppose the changing of nature, where they believe that changing the nature is against god’s will. But doctors and scientists are worried about the effect on health of consuming the GM foods, where there could be a possible link with cancer. There is also concern over how the GM foods can become resistant to some antibiotics. Crops can also be altered to become herbicide resistant, therefore farmers could reduce the need for chemicals that contribute to environmental damage.

Ultimately all the innovations in technology have their negative effects upon the environment, but they are developed in order to cater for the increasing demand for foods. With accelerating growth in world population scientists developed ways to increase yields, time taken for crops to mature, decrease the pests etc. With the technology developed scientists are now developing them to become more environmentally friendly. For example the pesticides, where when they were developed they were dangerous to the environment and the food chains, but now they have become biodegradable and less dangerous.

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