The second method forces agriculture to manage wastes and develop rural employment. ( Lichtfouse 1-10)
All-in-all, there are numerous ways in which to make sustainable agriculture, from simple management adjustments to fundamental changes in the farming system. One course calls for the substitution of products used in agriculture. For instance, toxic chemicals and fertilizers could be substituted for less pollutant alternatives. Many persons suggest the use of Genetically Modified organisms so as to decrease dependence on toxic chemicals and fertilizers. There exists a problem within this logic, however.
The American Academy of Envrionmental Medicine (AAEM) states, "Genetically Modified foods have not been properly tested and post a serious health risk. There is more than a casual association between genetically modified foods and the adverse health effects. There is causation." The AAEM went so far as to insist physicians advise their patients of the risks of genetically modified foods. The use of genetically modified foods increased dramatically starting in 1996, where after chronic diseases and food allergies have doubled. The effort to avoid genetically modified foods has been made more difficult since President Obama appointed Michael Taylor as Food Czar in his cabinet. Taylor was once a vice president and chief lobbyist for Monsanto, the multi-national agro-industrial corporation. One aim stated in Monsanto's Mission Statement, is to own the patents for all the food seeds on the planet.
"Among the population," biologist David Schubert of the Salk Institute in San Diego, California warns that "children are the most likely to be adversely effected by toxins and other dietary problems" related to genetically modified foods. He argues that, without adequate studies, the children are used as "experimental animals." Genetic Engineering, as practiced by corporations like Monsanto, changes the genetic codes of the DNA in an organism by splicing in other genes from other life-forms, among which are other plants, insects, bacteria and even viruses. These rapidly and artificially mutating genes pose a risk to global health. Further, these practices are unsustainable in the long run, for they fail to consider future food chains. The pollution from genetically modified seeds, also, cause permanent genetic mutations not only in the engineered food stuffs, but also in crops polluted by GMO seeds that travel through the air. (Fassa)
Another strategy of sustainable agriculture calls for the application of ecological concepts to design, implementation and management of sustainable systems of agriculture. Biodiversity in agro-systems promotes nutrient cycling, soil structuration and disease control. Intercropping, rotation, agroforestry, composting and green manuring are all ways of promoting biodiversity. The philosophy of this method maintains that farming yields ought to be increased by the application of ecological principles and fitting them to farming systems.
One way in which to inform ourselves of possible methods is to look to the past. New theories about civilization in the New World argue that, in the realm of agriculture, the people of America far outstripped the descendants of Sumeria. The tomatoes of Italy, the potatoes of Ireland, and the hot peppers of Thailand descended from the western hemisphere. Over half of the crops now grown were initially produced in the Americas. The Indians, for instance, produced a myriad of maize varieties tailored to different growing conditions, thereby enabling the crop to succeed across the planet. Some researchers argue that New World crops led to an Old World population boom.
Indian agriculture helped to sustain some of the world's largest cities, such as the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, a city larger than Paris. Thousands of miles to the north, John Smith wrote of Massachusetts in 1614: "so planted with Gardens and Corne fields, and so well inhabited with a goodly strong well proportioned people… [that] I would rather live here than any where." Surely, Smith was marketing in favor of colonization, but there is evidence that his exaggeration was relative. In The Earth Shall Weep, James Wilson writes: "the western hemisphere was much larger, richer, and more populous than Europe."
By roughly 4,000 years ago, Indians were growing crops. Differing from the Europeans, who planted annual crops, the Indians focused their agricultural practices on the diverse assortment in the Amazon: on fruits, nuts and palms. The Amazonians changed large swaths of the river basin. In 1989, William Balee conservatively conjectured that 12% of the non-flooded Amazon forest was of anthropogenic origin; that is, created directly or indirectly by man. Others believe the entire forest is human-created. Indians achieved this, apparently, by altering the assortment and density of species in the region. The term "built environment," many argue, describes most, if not all, Neotropical landscapes.
Large swaths of terra preta -- a fertile black soil -- are thought to have been human-created. This soil makes up perhaps more than 10% of Amazonia -- the size of modern France. Scientists believe that terra preta is created by a melange of microorganism resistant to depletion by, for example, tropical rainstorms. Terra preta, it seems, has the capacity to regenerate itself. The value of these lessons has great implications for the future of a sustainable agriculture, one in which large populations can be supported on nutritious foods. (Mann) Such techniques very well could help us avoid some of the many contradictions in producing more food while decreasing pollution; producing fruits and vegetables without pesticides or pest damage.
Although farm work is some of the most important work in society, a farm worker makes on average $11,000 per year. When one considers the abuse a human body takes when exposed to the chemicals, long days, and backbreaking labor, this wage is a pittance. This problem, however, could seemingly be fairly easily improved upon. "Philip L. Martin, professor of agricultural economics at the University of California-Davis, has shown that even a dramatic increase in labor costs -- passed fully onto the consumer -- would have a very modest impact on the typical American household budget, which spend $322 on fresh fruits and vegetables in 2000. Martin's detailed analysis of the agricultural industry found that a 40% increase in farmworker wages would increase a household's annual spending on fruits and vegetables by only 8$ to 330$." Currently there are 1.2 million farmworkers in the United States. (Burtness)
Over time, fewer farms, but larger farms have produced a greater share of agricultural commodities, such as tobacco, vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries, and horticulture and greenhouse stuffs).
Despite the growth of these large farms, the number of farm workers working in the industry and their wages has not much increased. According to the National Agricultural Worker Survey, farmworkers work fewer weeks per year, and earn on average only $6.18 per hour.
In the industry, there has been a movement towards employing more and more undocumented workers. As a means of alleviating these problems, the U.S. Department of Labor gave these suggestions to Congress in 2000: (Labor Report)
Raise the minimum wage.
Increase resources for stronger enforcement of U.S. labor laws.
Congress should continue to fund "AgWork," an Internet-based, online job matching system to help connect agricultural employers and workers.
Encourage use of available verification systems for agricultural employers to verify the legal status of workers they hire.
Complete current efforts and continue to streamline the H-2A temporary nonimmigrant agricultural guestworker program without weakening protections for U.S. And foreign workers.
Pursue bi-lateral and (under the terms of the NAFTA labor side agreement) tri-lateral discussions with countries that send farm workers to the U.S. To explore ways in which their legal rights can be better protected.
Such measures would not only provide better lives for those involved in the intensive labor of farming, but would also give them more stake in improving the industry as a whole. For the most part, those people working in the industry do not have any intention of staying in it for very long. Therefore, there is not much motivation to change the unsustainable practices of farming in the United States. A move away from fewer, but larger farms controlling the market would give individuals more stake in food production. Further, it would cut down in often absurd transportation costs. By adopting diets and farming practices suitable to their own regions -- as native people of North America once did -- individuals could cultivate a healthier farming industry. Once eating a more healthy and nutritious diet based on sustainable agriculture and farming, not only will humans be healthier as individuals, but so too will be there environment.
1.Cruger, Roberta. Seven Food and Resources Crises on the Horizon and What You Can Do About it. Alternet, 12 April 2010.