I just got done commenting on a post at Blast Magazine entitled “Modern agriculture’s enormous environmental footprint.” My comment become long enough that I decided to re-post it here on my blog.
Judging by the title of the post on Blast you can probably guess what it says for the most part, but go ahead and click that link and read what it has to say. Basically it says we use too much fuel, fertilizer, and other chemicals to produce our food and that’s it all harming the planet without a single mention of what the industry does to protect it. Read and form you own opinion then come back here to comment and let me know what you think!
Here’s the comment I left on why I think we are doing more for the environment than ever before thanks to technological advances. And I still say we might even do it for selfish, greedy reasons.
Texas Red is right. You can’t simply correlate two things to form an opinion. You fail to mention the many ways that modern agriculture benefits the environment.
GE crops allow us to less inputs to bring a crop to harvest. Insect resistant varieties reduce our dependence on pesticides, and when we plant these varieties we are required to plant non-resistant varieties in order to maintain the insect population and keep the bugs from becoming resistant themselves. Two big things coming very soon that you would think environmentalists would be happy about are drought tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency. Drought tolerant crops will not only perform better in drought conditions, but even in good conditions will require less water which means less irrigation is needed. Nitrogen use efficiency will reduce our need for those synthetic products you mentioned.
GPS technology reduces our inputs costs in many ways. Precisely guiding equipment through the field reduces fuel costs and operator fatigue. Using guidance gives you the opportunity to employ swath control. Swath control will automatically shut off sections of application equipment as it enters part of a field that have already been worked. If you’ve done much field work you know that almost no field is perfectly square, you overlap slightly every time you turn around, and even a squared field will have point rows on one side unless the field width just happens to be a multiple of the equipment width. In one season swath control allows you to apply less seed, fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, and if needed fungicide. And then there’s variable rate technology or VRT. VRT in combination with GPS and soil testing doesn’t necessarily reduce your inputs, but allows you to put them where they are needed most. Before VRT you had to apply the same amount of fertilzer over an entire field with the application rate being set by what part of the field needs it the most. Now with GPS, VRT, and soil maps and testing application equipment will vary the amount of product put on in each area of the field, putting nutrients where they are needed most, increasing productivity and reducing losses and over application.
Don’t forget we are also seeing more no-till and minimum till practices as well as cover cropping which increases soil health and organic matter which can store more nutrients, thus reducing the need yet again for more of those inputs.