Graphics: What Exactly Is Wrong With Industrial Agriculture?

An answer to the question What exactly is wrong with industrial agriculture? deserves a whole month’s of posts discovering the issue from both sides. However, sometimes a good graphic presentation, in the old phrase of “a picture is worth a thousand words”, can neatly sum up the arguments involved. Although clearly stating the case against industrial agriculture, the following infographic by The Christensen Fund, first posted by the Nourishing the Planet project, does an excellent job at illustrating why it is that the more natural agroecological methods of crop production are more environmentally and socially sound.

Agroecology looks to apply ecological thinking to agriculture and considers ways of sustaining a balance within the ecosystem by avoiding tilling the soil, by rotating crops, and by growing several crops at one time. It also uses naturally occurring symbiotic relationships between different species to enrich soils and integrated pest management techniques that naturally control unwanted pests. For example, in South Africa, ducks are used in vineyards to control snails and numbers of the boll weevil, an insect that feeds on cotton plants in China, are managed by facilitating the lives of spiders. Meanwhile, in the United States, farmer Joel Salatin has created an intricate, closed loop biological system that adds several centimeters of topsoil to his 100 acres of land every year and produces 40,000 pounds of beef, 30,000 pounds of pork, 10,000 broilers, 1,200 turkeys, 1,000 rabbits, and 35,000 dozen eggs .

As the infographic demonstrates  agroecology is diametrically opposed to an industrial system that looks to produce one crop at a time with the addition of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. For instance, agroecological farming methods capture and store carbon dioxide instead of releasing it into the atmosphere; increase biodiversity; and involve whole communities from the beginning of the production cycle to the end. These and other factors are missing in industrial farming models and the reasons why world’s production systems need to drastically change if global warming, climate change, and large-scale loss of biodiversity are to be halted and reversed.

Do you think that industrial farming should be replaced by agroecology? Leave a reply below.

Ioulia Fenton is a researcher with INESAD.

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For your reference:

Five Sustainable and Fascinatingly Fun Pest Management Techniques, Nourishing the Planet Project, September 4, 2012. By Ioulia Fenton

Ducks in Rice Paddies, Bees in Bushes and Chicken Sanitation Crews, Nourishing the Planet Project, August 28, 2012. By Ioulia Fenton.


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  1. De Schutter relies on aggcrooloey, which claims to be the application of ecological science to sustainable agriculture. However, aggcrooloey is unable to contribute to two apparent paradoxes of global food production: 1) most of our food, from small plots of rice to vast fields of soyabean, comes from monocultures supposedly biologically unstable; 2) most food, certainly Latin America and Africa, comes from introduced, and not native, crops. But aggcrooloey would suggest that local crops are locally adapted, and therefore somehow better than introduced crops.Until aggcrooloey can explain these two paradoxes it should remain a harmless academic study, rather than an untried and dangerous approach to feeding people.


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