I believe the analytical nature of human beings to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we have accumulated a wealth of knowledge as to the way things work or came to be by striving to break everything down into its finer components. Conversely, I believe that this has also caused us to lose sight of the bigger picture because we place so much focus on the minutia.
It was a breakthrough in biology when it was discovered the primary elements essential to plant growth to be nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. We could then increase production yield by increasing the availability of these nutrients. Multi-billion dollar industries developed, and yields boomed. While this is all well and good, we lost sight of everything else that is going on in the life-cycle of the produce. Ideally, the soil supporting the plant is a complex ecosystem, full of organisms and microorganisms, organic matter, elements and minerals of all kinds. We only have a baseline understanding of the interactions occurring within the soil, and it all exists in a delicate balance. By placing our focus on very specific inputs for crop production, we have disrupted the natural balance of the soil, and quality has suffered. We have marveled at our quantities, while quality went by the wayside. The nutrients we depend on from food come from the nutrients in the soil, in the chemical and biological interactions that occur within the soil’s ecosystem. Chemical fertilizers do nothing to sustain this structure if other soil building measures are not applied.
Somewhere else along the line, we figured out various chemicals and agents that could be used to inhibit or exterminate the various pests, plant and creature alike, that impede in the growth of the plant. Multi-billion dollar industries developed, and yields boomed. As science progresses, however, it is now shown that many chemicals can have negative long-term affects on health. They used to “fog” neighborhoods with DDT, a now-known carcinogen. Kids would chase the trucks down the street. When a crop is sprayed with a synthetic pesticide or herbicide, the chemical doesn’t just stay on the surface of the crop, creating a force-field against all antagonists, it is absorbed by the plant through it’s flesh and it’s roots, as it’s evolved to do of it’s entire environment. These sometimes toxic chemicals are therefore contained within this produce intended for human consumption, which could potentially cause harm to the consumer, not matter how infinitesimally small an amount of the toxin there is. In my opinion, this is negligent and unnecessary risk to take with our health, and the research is proving this.
Science has since evolved to provide us with the ability to alter or replace the genes within the DNA of the produce, and even within animals, in order to improve yields. These synthesized species have come to be known as GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms), and the use of these species is taking hold worldwide. Multi-billion dollar industries developed, and yields boomed. Many of the modifications being made enable the crop to be resistant to certain chemical pesticides and herbicides. When the GMO crops are grown, these chemicals can be sprayed at liberty, eliminating threatening pests and weeds whilst leaving the produce unscathed. However, this has led to an increase in the application of these chemicals, which destroy the soil and are absorbed into the food. The pests and weeds often become resistant to these chemicals over time, so more is applied or stronger chemicals are synthesized. Another genetic modification commonly practiced is creating plant species that produce their own pesticides. When pest insects consume these fruits and veggies, it causes their stomachs to explode. Although insects are a much less complex life-form than human beings, we are still composed of the same basic elements and proteins. Even if it is not nearly as bad for us to consume these pesticides as it is for the pests, it’s hard to believe that these chemicals cannot be harmful to human beings. It has been discovered that GMOs produce proteins the likes of which have never been seen before, and I feel that without proper study (most of which is being done by the very companies profiting by the sale of GMO seed), there is far too much risk for creating something we don’t understand or causing irreparable harm to our health or the health of the ecosystem.
I am going to be an organic farmer because I believe the organic approach to be one of realizing the bigger picture and cultivating a balanced ecosystem based on a holistic philosophy, which invariably will produce more wholesome, nutrient-dense food, while leaving the land better off for future generations to do likewise.