A response to HIS response to a post, at Blast Magazine entitled “Modern agriculture’s enormous environmental footprint.” His comment become long enough that he decided to re-post it there on his blog.
It became “High Tech Ag is Good for the Earth and the Wallet.” I hope I’ve done it justice in it’s introduction here. Please read it, because a lot of farmers feel this way.
Here’s my rebutt:
The proper environmental response is that high tech ag is not natural.
The response to your first paragraph, where you talk about all the benefits to GE crops, is that you are using a clone seed. Exactly like your neighbor is using. And all the other corn farmers in the Midwest (or, wherever..). It attracts pests that eat that one variety. This makes the basis for what you have to spray. The right response is not to make the sprays better, but to grow your own seeds from the best producing plants. They survived so they have a tolerance. That’s the environmental basis for seed saving, and also against herbicides. At the best of sustainable farms, we use heritage seeds or save our own. At those organic farms that are sales-oriented, there are catalogs for that. If plants replicate themselves, you don’t have to spend the money. I think we can all agree on that.
Just so I hit all the points mentioned– Drought immunity in the seed is impossible. IMO. All plants need water. Spend the money on drip, and don’t buy that stuff they’re selling you. Droughts are coming up, especially in Southern US areas because of climate change. No modified plant is going to make up for having a plan on how to water your plants. re N: Planting any seed takes nitrogen out of the soil. What matters is where is your nitrogen coming from? If it’s 10 tons of cattle manure from that guy down the street, that’s okay. If it’s anhydrous ammonia which is based in fossil fuels and leaches through the ground and kills fish and frogs and people from some company who’s charging and arm and a leg for it to import oil from the Middle East where they’re killing people, that’s going to be harder to maintain in the future. Rotate/cover crop and fallow some, which you alluded to there. Get the maximum composting action you can, like by turning in clovers/organic material/COMPOST TEA graze some animals, cover rows with leaves, flood it!, all of the above, whatever! See Oregon Tilth and http://ATTRA.org/ for good resources on managing long-term soil health. But this is very important. Reducing how much fertilizer and pesticides your plants need should come from the yearly continual improvements on the soil you are observing. If you’re just giving the plants “enough,” then that leaves the soil with nothing at the end of the year. Got me? It’s a dead substrate, not natural..
Leads to the response to the second paragraph. About GPS. You are planting a monoculture. This is the [other] number one thing to watch out for. Monoculture creates the problems that technology tries to fix. On my farm, we have asparagus, beans, beets, brocolli, cauliflower, collards, greens, kale, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, squash, onions, garlic, more varieties, more tomatoes, more lettuce, etc. In a day where most food grown by farmers is not edible, I think the right way to think about your farm is: “What would I want to eat,” and then if it grows I will have extra for my markets. DIVERSIFY.
Solves all that. Technology saves time, sure. Tractors do. But in a time where there are NO jobs for men out there? Wouldn’t you rather have a few interns or volunteers and do vegetable rows? Or (if you’re farm’s massive) a young entrepreneurial farmer pair manage a field for your community? If you have a farm that helps decrease the national waistline, you won’t need GPS to tell you what to do. Save the GPS/VRT machine and get their pitchforks and wheelbarrows to put more compost on the squash mounds that are sometimes shady. I say (firstly that more people need to be into farming, and secondly) that we need to learn from nature. It’s the only way that plants have grown provenly in long periods on this planet. The rainforest grows a bountiful diversity of plants from composted topsoil. And that has been around for millions of years.
BU ’10 — Economics and Sustainability.