Comparison/Contrast

Sean Micklos

Organic vs. Industrial Farming

            “A healthy farm culture can be based only upon familiarity and can grow only among a people soundly established upon the land; it nourishes and safeguards human intelligence of the earth that no amount of technology can satisfactorily replace…” (Wendell Berry)

Biodiversity provides clean, consistent air and water, protection from floods and storms, a sustainable climate, and pollination of food crops. Agriculture is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. Corn is one of the most widely grown crops in the United States. It covers about 80 million acres and counts for more than twenty percent of crops grown in the US. Most of that corn is grown in an industrialized monoculture technique, which covers vast expanses of the same variety of corn. Organic corn grown with respect to biodiversity accounts for only a minute fraction of that acreage yet contains more nutritional value and is grown in a more sustainable manner than industrialized corn. Organically produced crops sustain the earth and provide healthier food for human beings than their industrialized counterparts.

Industrial monoculture covers vast expanses of land with a single crop. Being that the same nutrients are extracted from the soil, and the same crop is grown on that same plot the following season, the topsoil becomes depleted of the necessary nutrients for the crop being grown. Organically produced crops do not deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients for their growth because crops are rotated between different plots depending on the nutrients they require. This allows for the soil to regenerate between plantings of a similar crop. The establishment of cover crops or green manure between seasons replenishes the soil with organic matter and vitality. This also aids in the control of soil erosion. Industrial monoculture, on the other hand, often leaves the land barren between seasons, allowing the soil to erode through wind and other weather factors.

Industrialized monoculture applies synthetic pesticides and herbicides to control insects and weeds that compete with the survival of the crop. This destroys the biodiversity of the natural order because all insects and all vegetation are being eradicated to produce a single variety of plant. Weeds and insects are controlled without the use of synthesized chemicals when growing crops organically. Mulches, cover crops, and manual removal of weeds require more physical effort to produce a more sustainable and healthier organic product. This approach is unobtrusive in its acceptance of other species in that it provides for biodiversity to thrive. The toxic concoctions that indiscriminately pollute the industrial fields as well as the environment also leave a residue in the food found on supermarket shelves. Organic produce contains nutrients that are unpolluted by the products used to grow them.

How is life to continue when single varieties of a crop are grown, thus eradicating all other varieties of that crop, along with any competing species? The natural order is compromised by mankind’s encroachment upon the land for short-term profit-motivated endeavors that would not exist if not for government subsidies. To control the loss of biodiversity as a species is a very powerful position for mankind to be in. To create a complete monoculture is like putting all our eggs in one basket. If anything were to contaminate the survival of the only variety available, it would result in the extinction of that variety. If we continue along this path of synthetic chemical monoculture, the domino effect of losing biodiversity will inevitably lead to our demise. Why did organic agriculture become an “alternative”? Organic was simply the way crops were grown prior to the surplus of chemicals following WWII. This set us on an unsustainable course in the name of “progress” to initiate the industrial takeover of agriculture. It has been unrighteously subsidized to maintain a short-term profit-driven system rather than protecting the sustainability of life on the planet and the production of nutritious organic food.

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