It's good to hear from the industrial agriculture side sometimes. They must be allowed to speak. We shouldn't depend just on how their views and practices are characterized by permies. There's a new article written by a Missouri farmer called, "The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals," in The American (http://www.american.com/archive/2009/july/the-omnivore2019s-delusion-against-the-agri-intellectuals) in which he really takes on the natural agriculture folks.
A sampling of his points:
* "Biotech crops actually cut the use of chemicals, and increase food safety. Are people who refuse to use them my moral superiors?"
Why would you want to use biotech or chemicals? Nature can do it better, if you let her.
* "Herbicides cut the need for tillage, which decreases soil erosion by millions of tons. The biggest environmental harm I have done as a farmer is the topsoil (and nutrients) I used to send down the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico before we began to practice no-till farming, made possible only by the use of herbicides. The combination of herbicides and genetically modified seed has made my farm more sustainable, not less, and actually reduces the pollution I send down the river.... Farming is more complicated than a simple morality play."
I had no clue that no-till was only made possible by using herbicides.
* "Protected from the weather and predators, today's turkeys may not be aware that they are a part of a morally reprehensible system." He goes on to tell of how turkeys will stay out in the rain and look up at the sky until they drown. "Chickens will provide lunch to any number of predators, and some number of chickens will die as flocks establish their pecking order." Talking about the dangers of free range chickens, here.
Chickens are a mighty tasty lunch, indeed. And eggs for breakfast, too.
* "The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin, and because being crushed by your mother really is an awful way to go. As is being eaten by your mother, which I've seen sows do to newborn pigs as well."
Um, I know that momma dogs will eat their dead or dying puppies. Perhaps the author mistook this for thinning the herd to the proper size and health.
* "Changing the way we raise animals will not necessarily change the scale of the companies involved in the industry. If we are about to require more expensive ways of producing food, the largest and most well-capitalized farms will have the least trouble adapting."
More expensive? Perhaps he failed to include the long-term costs with the equation. Or he's believing the FUD campaigns.
He makes some weak points but also some interesting ones. It's worth a read, IMO.
The thing about scientific farming -- and science in general -- is that it has a built-in self-correcting mechanism. Knowledge is continually being refined. Over time, what is true wins out over what is false. The problem is that it often takes too much time and we become dangerously close to disaster while waiting for the truth to emerge. Also, all the data is never finally in, so we are always drawing conclusions on incomplete data.
There is this dance going on right now between the two cultures. It seems that each one hates the other, but also needs the other and even benefits from the other. But there is no purpose served in ignoring the other. That is why I urge people to read the article to see the author's logic, rather than relying on the smattering of decontextualized points listed above.
Each statement in the article can be assessed on its own, and is true or false on its own,
There are outrageous claims made by groups on all points on the political spectrum.
And yes, if all of the land currently under industrial cultivation were to move to natural, organic practices, yields would be so low and uncertain that we would not be able to supply the markets and prices would skyrocket. But that likelihood was created by the self-created dependence on these practices to begin with. Better for more people to grow their own food to begin with and not be dependent on industrial farming.
Unfortunately, we are often guilty of this lack of proportion, too, as was laid bare last week with the publication of an extensive study that shows that there is no statistically significant nutritional advantage in organic produce. Or our ignoring the fact that pathogenic illness from organic produce is 6-8 times higher than from factory-farm produce.
Weasels were a problem, but not as much a threat as one of our typically violent early summer thunderstorms. It seems that turkeys, at least young ones, are not smart enough to come in out of the rain, and will stand outside in a downpour, with beaks open and eyes skyward, until they drown. One night Niemann lost 4,000 turkeys to drowning, along with his dream, and his farm.
On one side were eight crates of the kind that the good citizens of California have outlawed. On the other were the kind of wooden pens that our critics would have us use, where the sow could turn around, lie down, and presumably act in a natural way. Which included lying down on my 4-H project, killing several piglets, and forcing me to clean up the mess when I did my chores before school. The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin...
Chickens will provide lunch to any number of predators, and some number of chickens will die as flocks establish their pecking order.
Free-range chickens and pigs will increase the price of food, using more energy and water to produce the extra grain required for the same amount of meat, and some people will go hungry.
My Question about this is where is the proof that yields will be "so low and uncertain." Fukuoka proved that he was able to produce the same and even more rice and barley per hectare using organic no till methods than people using chemical's
I seem to find this statement false. First off what is "organic" in this study. Because nowadays in the states organic is also factory farm produced. And then how can organic be 6-8 times higher compared to factory farm when factory farm produce 90% or more of the food. Thats saying for every 100 veges produce 1 out of the 90 factory farm gives a pathogenic illness and 6-8 of the 10 organic ones give a sickness. That seems really high. Me thinks i would like to read this publication.
paul wheaton wrote:
First, when the statement is made "nobody can ..." or "always" or "never", then you only need one case to prove the statement to be false.
paul wheaton wrote:
It would seem that all fukuoka has to do is to know the exact size of his property and then record how much product he sells. He then has numbers like pounds of rice per acre which can then be compared to industry standards and to the bold statements.
paul wheaton wrote:
It is hard to make progress on the permaculture front when the media is carrying false messages which humble folks like fukuoka can prove the falsehood in a heartbeat.
Except that there are innumerable factors that could explain -- or partially explain -- the difference in output irrespective of, or in unobserved combination with, anything that Fukuoka did; e.g., soil composition differences, elevation, micro climates, water table, contaminants, etc. Unless such factors are controlled for in a study, it's hard to isolate exactly what is responsible for the differences in output.
Agreed, as the article illustrates, but "humble," is not a term used to describe Fukuoka, by the way.
Also, which 1970s blunderbuss chemicals was he competing with? There has been much progress since then in agricultural chemicals.
jeremiah bailey wrote:
As I recall, Fukuoka did account for these variables. Soil composition: he returned all left over residue to the soil and didn't open the soil to erosion by plowing. Others did not. Elevation, he compared to his direct neighbors for the most part. Water table: rice paddies are almost always flooded. He flooded his fields for a much shorter time, wasting less water. Contaminants: he didn't put any fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides on his fields, so no contaminants.
jeremiah bailey wrote:
The controls you are asking for are rather moot. To have those kinds of controls would make it no longer be natural farming.
jeremiah bailey wrote:
My main concern about industrial farming is that our food supply is basically dependent on the supply of petroleum. I think it doesn't need to be. I'm willing to put forth my own time and energy to further the goal of the supply of produce being independent from oil.
...turkeys will stay out in the rain and look up at the sky until they drown. ...
Snopes says they don't. Among other reasons: because a turkey looks up by tilting its head to one side, not leaning back with mouth open.
It has to work for any moron as long as he follows the exact instructions.
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