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In the recent year, organic farming were become popular in order to improve the soil productivity. Many agriculture activities likes fertilizer, and ploughing were responsible to soil productivity reduce. With using microorganism like microbe, fungi, the soil productivity were promised to heal.

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I'm pretty sure organic farming decreases productivity and increases costs. No-till farming can be used just fine with normal agriculture.

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Organic farming does not increase yeild or anything like that...in fact organic farming is far more damaging to the enviroment than conventional farming.

 

Using manure as a fertiliser is bad, not only because it can spread E. coli and other pathogenic species, but the nutrients in it are easily leached out during rainfall and contaiminate natural water supplies. It is also far less effective as a fertiliser than synthetic ones.

 

The natural pesticides that they use are also far more damaging to the enviroment; they kill all insects indiscriminantly whereas synthetic ones show selectivity to the pest you are trying to remove.

 

There is a reason why we abandoned organic farming and turned to modern agriculture....organic farming is just too inefficient at producing food on a scale that the worlds population now requires

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In the recent year, organic farming were become popular in order to improve the soil productivity. Many agriculture activities likes fertilizer, and ploughing were responsible to soil productivity reduce. With using microorganism like microbe, fungi, the soil productivity were promised to heal.

 

If everyone farmed organically, global food production would be significantly reduced, further exacerbating the already pretty rough problem of world hunger.

 

Natural is not always better, there is nothing inherently good about things that come from nature. Billions of dollars of research go into agricultural science that has increased global food productivity significantly since the industrial revolution. It is actually quite mind boggling that so many people think that taking farming methods back to circa 1500 is a good idea.

 

Besides, what is organic anyway? Is there something different about the carbons in the biomolecules of "organic" corn than "non-organic" corn, I think not. I'm willing to intake a few ppt of some pesticide than take my chances with botulism.

Edited by mississippichem

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I'm pretty sure organic farming decreases productivity and increases costs. No-till farming can be used just fine with normal agriculture.

 

Ok..thanks for your comment Sir. By the way we are living in tropic land, in which the climate were very excessive to reduce the soil fertility and the used of chemical fertilizer seems not very effective, because high rate of run off could leach the fertilizer away from the root area, so green manure were become good choice for us as the effort in order to returning the soil productivity including to recover soil physic, chemical, and biological condition. The other way, in tropic area there were two seasons in which rain and dry seasons, the pest life cycle were not broken as affected by that kind tropic climate type. It means pesticide was very excessive in used, we can imagine about the impact to our environment. The used of plant resistant variety, crop circle, plant rotation were the best solution to reduce the pesticide need in cultivation activities. So that is why the organic farming as we considered as the good choice.

 

If everyone farmed organically, global food production would be significantly reduced, further exacerbating the already pretty rough problem of world hunger.

 

Natural is not always better, there is nothing inherently good about things that come from nature. Billions of dollars of research go into agricultural science that has increased global food productivity significantly since the industrial revolution. It is actually quite mind boggling that so many people think that taking farming methods back to circa 1500 is a good idea.

 

Besides, what is organic anyway? Is there something different about the carbons in the biomolecules of "organic" corn than "non-organic" corn, I think not. I'm willing to intake a few ppt of some pesticide than take my chances with botulism.

 

Ok..thanks for your comment I agree with you. By the way we are living in tropic land, in which the climate were very excessive to reduce the soil fertility and the used of chemical fertilizer seems not very effective, because high rate of run off could leach the fertilizer away from the root area, so green manure were become good choice for us as the effort in order to returning the soil productivity including to recover soil physic, chemical, and biological condition. The other way, in tropic area there were two seasons in which rain and dry seasons, the pest life cycle were not broken as affected by that kind tropic climate type. It means pesticide was very excessive in used, we can imagine about the impact to our environment. The used of plant resistant variety, crop circle, plant rotation were the best solution to reduce the pesticide need in cultivation activities. So that is why the organic farming as we considered as the good choice.

 

The organic farming was introduce from the outside of development countries. We as the development country, third world country still push to run of it. We are still accused as forest defoliation, shifting cultivation, chemical excessive used in many agriculture activities, and we conscious that we have to legacy our environment to young generation, so we received and accept the concept about green agriculture and we believe that was a good way to help our environment, and we run that concept. But the pesticide production was not from our country, that was came out from the outside of us, the chemical fertilizer not as our own production, formerly that was came from the outside of us. Now we run the concept of "Back to the Nature" but why the many peoples from Developing Countries seems to reverse direction against the organic farming?

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Organic farming does not increase yeild or anything like that...in fact organic farming is far more damaging to the enviroment than conventional farming.

 

Using manure as a fertiliser is bad, not only because it can spread E. coli and other pathogenic species, but the nutrients in it are easily leached out during rainfall and contaiminate natural water supplies. It is also far less effective as a fertiliser than synthetic ones.

 

The natural pesticides that they use are also far more damaging to the enviroment; they kill all insects indiscriminantly whereas synthetic ones show selectivity to the pest you are trying to remove.

 

There is a reason why we abandoned organic farming and turned to modern agriculture....organic farming is just too inefficient at producing food on a scale that the worlds population now requires

 

Right ..but do you have any date or research report that could support your argument? I have some date and report that organic farming with using bacteria could reduced soil acidity, increase plant growth and increase pH soil level beneath the neutral level. Normally, off course green manure can not support plant nutrient supply in short time, we still count on chemical fertilizer to increase high yield crop production, but in order to balance, conserve and increase soil productivity it promised. There was nothing wrong with modern agriculture in modern world in order to support human feed, but as we considered in third world country, organic farming have some good contribution to conserve the land and also still take a place for feed the world

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That still doesn't change the fact that there would be a worldwide food shortage if every farmer went back to attempting to grow everything organically. Anecdotally, I'd say my farm would put out 1/10 of the crop that it does now were it not for the fertilizers we used.

 

And also, all grain farming now is no-till, or minimum till. They have discs that do like plow and disc and sow all at the same time, with little harm to the topsoil. We know plowing is harmful. We do not use that method much anymore.

 

Farmers are not as dumb as you paint them to be.

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This artcile published in Nature, probably the most reputable scientific journals around, outlines the major flaws in organic farming.

 

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6827/pdf/410409a0.pdf

 

One interesting point that they make, one that I have never considered until now, is the disease risk has reduced massively since the use of synthetic pesticides and fungisides have been used. Fumonisin and patulin, two mycotoxins resoponsible for increasing the risk of certain cancers, are known to be at least twice as prominant in organic food where fungisides have not been used.

 

There is another study, referenced in the above article, that estimates stomach cancer levels have been slashed by 60% because of the abundance of fruit and vegtables arising from increased production avoiding organic farming. The article also provides the nessary references to back up my statements about the issues with manure. In addition to the ones I've already outlines, the degredation of manure produces a lot of methane and nitric oxide, both of which are major greenhouse gases.

 

Organic farming does the exact opposite of conserving land!!!! You need far larger areas of land cleared and devoted to farming than convential farming...and where do you think that extra land is going to come from? Clearing forests and such....over 70% of the land in the UK is used for farming (see reference)...to produce enough food for large population is going to need at least this level of usage....even higher if you want to use organic farming.

 

reduced soil acidity, increase plant growth and increase pH soil level

 

Reducing soil acidity and increasing pH soil levels are the same thing...pH is a measure of acidity

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The natural pesticides that they use are also far more damaging to the enviroment; they kill all insects indiscriminantly whereas synthetic ones show selectivity to the pest you are trying to remove.

This is a sweeping and false statement. There are a large range of pesticides used in organic agriculture, many of which are also used in intensive agriculture, and many of which are highly specific. There is certainly no credibility to the claim that organic pesticides are more harmful.

 

Bacillus thuringiensis spores are used as an organic insecticide, probably the major one. These are not only also used in non-organic agriculture as well (Bt-crops are engineered to express the Cry proteins which give B. thuringiensis its insecticidal action) but they are highly specific. They affect only larval forms of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), although some strains also affect larvae of other insects such as mosquitoes.

 

By contrast there are many non-organic pesticides which are harmful, persistent and non-specific. Atrazine is a current example, and the historical record is appalling (DDT, dieldrin, chlordane, etc which were only outlawed internationally in 2004 with the Stockholm convention).

 

By all means let's dispel the myths surrounding organic agriculture, but let's not introduce more in process.

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Yes it is a sweeping generalisation...and to a good approximation it is perfectly true. I don't have the space (or time) to to go through every single pesticide used say whether they are good or bad. That statement was based on several papers I've read in the past about organic pesticides being generally worse than synthetic ones; I shall try find them again.

 

And of course there are a whole range of synthetic ones that are just as damaging, I never said that they weren't. DDT (and the majority of its analogues) have had disaterous effects on wildlife; especially to the avian populations in the America's.

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Yes it is a sweeping generalisation...and to a good approximation it is perfectly true. I don't have the space (or time) to to go through every single pesticide used say whether they are good or bad. That statement was based on several papers I've read in the past about organic pesticides being generally worse than synthetic ones; I shall try find them again.

 

I'd like to see that paper if you can find it.

 

And of course there are a whole range of synthetic ones that are just as damaging, I never said that they weren't. DDT (and the majority of its analogues) have had disaterous effects on wildlife; especially to the avian populations in the America's.

Some would argue that the deleterious effects of DDT were mostly due to being used to indiscriminately. A lower, saner level could have been just as effective without being so damaging to wildlife. Point is moot now, since DDT resistance is fairly widespread in mosquitoes.

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I would like to revive this discussion as I find this topic very interesting and relevant to the times. I will say that a large portion of the issue involving agriculture (and many other issues for that matter) resides in the dichotomy that is proposed. The article posted previously (Urban Myths of Organic Farming) was an interesting read. Although the first half seemed fairly weak/semi-biased, there were some valid points made towards the end in regards to the failures of standard organic practices in comparison to decently managed conventional farming practices. I do recommend that anyone read it for themselves.

 

My proposal is that we consider a type of farming that is different then both in that it utilizes a combination of crop and animal rotation in a manner that actually builds topsoil as opposed to eroding/depleting it, all while producing a good amount of product at the end of the day. I just found and scanned through this link recently and it seems fairly informative about how complex this often simplified dilemma is:

 

http://www.jclandtrust.org/grazing.php

 

Notice towards the bottom there are additional links for further education. Joel Salatin is sort of famous by now for his use of these methods on the 'polyface farms', and has become a sort of poster boy for the more modern 'nutrient-dense, properly-raised foods'. The ecosystem-rebuilding effects are certainly a great, if not necessary given our likely future, bonus!

 

I'd like to add that my main interest in these matters is the nutrient value of the food I eat. What really is the difference between a grass-fed beef serving and a grain-fed, and all the in-between varieties (half/half, grass-fed and grain-finished, etc...)? As someone mentioned earlier, what is the real difference between a GM stalk of corn and a 'natural/organic' and a standard 'conventional' one for that matter? There is tons of misinformation out there regarding good diet that it doesn't surprise me that much of these questions remain unanswered.

 

This is my first post in these forums so I suppose a short introduction is in order. I am currently a senior undergraduate at UCF, Florida with a degree in I.S. - Nanoscience and minors in both Chemistry and Micro/Molecular Biology. I have been doing personal 'homework' on health/nutrition/fitness for years and am currently considering getting into a related career involving nutritional biochemistry or something similar. I have been through several self-experiments and am currently over 2 years into eating a sort of hybrid between the Weston A Price diet with a Paleo twist to it. This means that, as an undergrad, I have paid for premium grass-fed meats and mostly organic vegetables with a good amount of saturated fat from things like coconut, avocado, grass-fed butter, etc... So that's where I'm coming from when I say I really want to hear what people think about these things.

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Organic farming does not increase yeild or anything like that...in fact organic farming is far more damaging to the enviroment than conventional farming.

 

Using manure as a fertiliser is bad, not only because it can spread E. coli and other pathogenic species, but the nutrients in it are easily leached out during rainfall and contaiminate natural water supplies. It is also far less effective as a fertiliser than synthetic ones.

 

The natural pesticides that they use are also far more damaging to the enviroment; they kill all insects indiscriminantly whereas synthetic ones show selectivity to the pest you are trying to remove.

 

There is a reason why we abandoned organic farming and turned to modern agriculture....organic farming is just too inefficient at producing food on a scale that the worlds population now requires

 

Erm... rainfall will leach urea and such from manure. which is good. ?

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To people who say that organic-farming is less productive and more damaging to soil resources, my question is what to do about all the people globally whose diets and economic situations would improve if they had direct access to farming their own food? When agriculture is dependent on inputs that require in-sourcing, that in-sourcing also requires money. To get money, people have to sell something to someone with money. That basically means that everyone must be dependent on global capitalism to eat. If that wasn't a problem, there would be no global hunger, would there? So what option do you have for helping poor people except to refine organic farming techniques and spread knowledge about how to more effectively harness resources that are immediately on hand without depending on some form of financing or commerce?

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I'd like to add that my main interest in these matters is the nutrient value of the food I eat. What really is the difference between a grass-fed beef serving and a grain-fed, and all the in-between varieties (half/half, grass-fed and grain-finished, etc...)?

 

A lot of cows that are sent to slaughter eat pasture (which does not only include grass) before they arrive at the places where they are fed grain to fatten them up. Grain allows them to gain weight quicker. I cannot fathom how it would decrease the nutritional value in any way. I'm speaking as someone who helps maintain a 100+ head of cattle operation.

 

So what option do you have for helping poor people except to refine organic farming techniques and spread knowledge about how to more effectively harness resources that are immediately on hand without depending on some form of financing or commerce?

 

There is world hunger because these unstable regions that you speak of do not have consistent yields. Their crops are often destroyed. Organic farming DOES decrease the amount of product you are able to have.

 

My proposal is that we consider a type of farming that is different then both in that it utilizes a combination of crop and animal rotation in a manner that actually builds topsoil as opposed to eroding/depleting it, all while producing a good amount of product at the end of the day.

 

We DO rotate crops. Why are so many pro-organic production people under the assumption that we do not? We do not use the same fields more than three years in a row. We do not over-fertilize with unnecessary nitrogen of phosphorous. We DO rotate which pastures are cattle graze in, so as to give them a chance to recover.

 

Nothing organic farming does can help us.

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There is world hunger because these unstable regions that you speak of do not have consistent yields. Their crops are often destroyed. Organic farming DOES decrease the amount of product you are able to have.

You still haven't addressed the issue of how poor people are supposed to afford non-organic inputs. Also, as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, how do you expect farming to evolve as a self-contained local process?

 

We DO rotate crops. Why are so many pro-organic production people under the assumption that we do not? We do not use the same fields more than three years in a row. We do not over-fertilize with unnecessary nitrogen of phosphorous. We DO rotate which pastures are cattle graze in, so as to give them a chance to recover.

 

Nothing organic farming does can help us.

Why wouldn't you just say that much of 'non-organic' farming methods are actually organic? Crop-rotation is an organic method, as is remaining accountable to the natural behaviors of the soil, no? I think generally farming could benefit from overcoming the tendency to categorize itself into dichotomous labels like organic vs. non-organic and focus instead of the benefits and drawback of specific activities. Obviously "organic" activities are the most resource-efficient, even when they involve more intensive labor. Yet when 'non-organic' interventions can improve things with little detriment, those should not be demonized because they fit the label "artificial."

 

 

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You still haven't addressed the issue of how poor people are supposed to afford non-organic inputs. Also, as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, how do you expect farming to evolve as a self-contained local process?

 

 

Why wouldn't you just say that much of 'non-organic' farming methods are actually organic? Crop-rotation is an organic method, as is remaining accountable to the natural behaviors of the soil, no? I think generally farming could benefit from overcoming the tendency to categorize itself into dichotomous labels like organic vs. non-organic and focus instead of the benefits and drawback of specific activities. Obviously "organic" activities are the most resource-efficient, even when they involve more intensive labor. Yet when 'non-organic' interventions can improve things with little detriment, those should not be demonized because they fit the label "artificial."

 

...Self-contained local process? What does that even mean with respect to countries like the US? Fertilizer prices have skyrocketed in the past few years. That does not suddenly make organic farming profitable. I think you're having a hard time understanding this because you don't see how much MORE yield is gained whenever you don't use fertilizer, as compared to when you do. We ran out of fertilizer this year in one of our tobacco patches. So it only had half of what it needed. The result was smaller tobacco, with smaller leaves, compared to its seven-foot, +27 leaf brothers. The result was a loss we had to claim on that field that didn't have the proper fertilizer.

 

The same goes for food crop, like wheat, corn, and soy. Farming has always been about getting the most "bushels per acre" that you possibly can. That's why I use the labels. Farming moved to fertilizers, because fertilizers helped push yields beyond previously unimaginable levels. They still kept all the "old" techniques of rotations, no-till farming, ect ect. So no, I think those traits belong to modern farming, not organic. Organic farming is COMPLETELY different than what we do. Their yield is much lower. If a cow being raised on an organic farm develops an infection after birthing, guess what? The cow dies, because the evil penicillin and other antibiotics can't be used, because it taints the cow, and makes it "unnatural".

 

So no, I stand by my statement that organic farming has nothing to offer modern farming.

Edited by A Tripolation

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...Self-contained local process? What does that even mean with respect to countries like the US? Fertilizer prices have skyrocketed in the past few years. That does not suddenly make organic farming profitable. I think you're having a hard time understanding this because you don't see how much MORE yield is gained whenever you don't use fertilizer, as compared to when you do. We ran out of fertilizer this year in one of our tobacco patches. So it only had half of what it needed. The result was smaller tobacco, with smaller leaves, compared to its seven-foot, +27 leaf brothers. The result was a loss we had to claim on that field that didn't have the proper fertilizer.

No, I've tried very hard to garden without fertilizer but the results are pathetic. I can't figure out what people did before commercial fertilizer was available. I suppose you can compost, but what could you even compost without powered equipment like a lawnmower to generate lawn clippings? Still, fossil fuel is going to continue to increase in price as it runs out so some sustainable fuel-independent methods of agriculture need to be developed, no?

 

The same goes for food crop, like wheat, corn, and soy. Farming has always been about getting the most "bushels per acre" that you possibly can. That's why I use the labels. Farming moved to fertilizers, because fertilizers helped push yields beyond previously unimaginable levels. They still kept all the "old" techniques of rotations, no-till farming, ect ect. So no, I think those traits belong to modern farming, not organic. Organic farming is COMPLETELY different than what we do. Their yield is much lower. If a cow being raised on an organic farm develops an infection after birthing, guess what? The cow dies, because the evil penicillin and other antibiotics can't be used, because it taints the cow, and makes it "unnatural".

 

So no, I stand by my statement that organic farming has nothing to offer modern farming.

You're doing it again. The point is that "organic" shouldn't refer to a "total model." It should be an adjective that describes techniques that rely on natural processes. Crop rotation is thus "organic" because it doesn't require artificial inputs, per se'. Petrolium-based fertilizer, on the other hand, is "non-organic" because it can't be produced without industrial processing. See my point? It's not that you have to achieve maximum organic agriculture but that the more organic processes you can integrate into your farming, the less dependent you are on suppliers. Less dependence = greater independence and thus greater possibility of replicating your techniques by poor people who may not be able to afford various "non organic" inputs.

 

 

 

...Self-contained local process? What does that even mean with respect to countries like the US? Fertilizer prices have skyrocketed in the past few years. That does not suddenly make organic farming profitable. I think you're having a hard time understanding this because you don't see how much MORE yield is gained whenever you don't use fertilizer, as compared to when you do. We ran out of fertilizer this year in one of our tobacco patches. So it only had half of what it needed. The result was smaller tobacco, with smaller leaves, compared to its seven-foot, +27 leaf brothers. The result was a loss we had to claim on that field that didn't have the proper fertilizer.

No, I've tried very hard to garden without fertilizer but the results are pathetic. I can't figure out what people did before commercial fertilizer was available. I suppose you can compost, but what could you even compost without powered equipment like a lawnmower to generate lawn clippings? Still, fossil fuel is going to continue to increase in price as it runs out so some sustainable fuel-independent methods of agriculture need to be developed, no?

 

The same goes for food crop, like wheat, corn, and soy. Farming has always been about getting the most "bushels per acre" that you possibly can. That's why I use the labels. Farming moved to fertilizers, because fertilizers helped push yields beyond previously unimaginable levels. They still kept all the "old" techniques of rotations, no-till farming, ect ect. So no, I think those traits belong to modern farming, not organic. Organic farming is COMPLETELY different than what we do. Their yield is much lower. If a cow being raised on an organic farm develops an infection after birthing, guess what? The cow dies, because the evil penicillin and other antibiotics can't be used, because it taints the cow, and makes it "unnatural".

 

So no, I stand by my statement that organic farming has nothing to offer modern farming.

You're doing it again. The point is that "organic" shouldn't refer to a "total model." It should be an adjective that describes techniques that rely on natural processes. Crop rotation is thus "organic" because it doesn't require artificial inputs, per se'. Petrolium-based fertilizer, on the other hand, is "non-organic" because it can't be produced without industrial processing. See my point? It's not that you have to achieve maximum organic agriculture but that the more organic processes you can integrate into your farming, the less dependent you are on suppliers. Less dependence = greater independence and thus greater possibility of replicating your techniques by poor people who may not be able to afford various "non organic" inputs.

 

 

btw: can you send me any tobacco seeds legally? I want to grow cigars:)

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No, I've tried very hard to garden without fertilizer but the results are pathetic. I can't figure out what people did before commercial fertilizer was available. I suppose you can compost, but what could you even compost without powered equipment like a lawnmower to generate lawn clippings? Still, fossil fuel is going to continue to increase in price as it runs out so some sustainable fuel-independent methods of agriculture need to be developed, no?

 

No, farming that is necessary to feed the world will always require machines that guzzle energy. You should see some of the tractors the farmers in the wheat region use. They are huge. I have a hard time seeing how any electric motor could create the same amount of low-end torque that a good diesel engine can.

 

It's not that you have to achieve maximum organic agriculture but that the more organic processes you can integrate into your farming, the less dependent you are on suppliers. Less dependence = greater independence and thus greater possibility of replicating your techniques by poor people who may not be able to afford various "non organic" inputs.

 

True, every farmer could grow things like they did hundreds of years ago. Then the world would starve. Farmers wouldn't, but people that have never touched a garden in their entire lives would. Farmers would be totally self sufficient, like they were hundreds of years ago. You're missing the point that people would starve. There ISN'T any refining of organic farming. It's a way that's stuck in the 1500's. People think it's healthier for some odd reason. They think we spray pesticides over everything, and ram vaccinations down our cows' throats. It's not like that.

 

However, there are a plethora of things happening to refine modern farming, to produce more from smaller amounts of land, or land that isn't as good. Genetically engineered crops is one of these things. THAT'S what we need to be helping poor countries attain, not "organic" farming.

I suggest subscribing more to Progressive Farmer magazine if this interests you. It keeps me pretty well updated on the current happenings.

 

btw: can you send me any tobacco seeds legally? I want to grow cigars:)

 

I'm acutally not sure. The seeds we use are 90 and 106. Strains of tobacco that are resistant to "blackshank", a virus that can wipe entire fields out. It's pervasive in this area, so we have to use it, even though the curing times for it do not match up with our climate all that well. I also don't know how well it would translate to a cigar. I'm sure you can find suppliers online though, that will sell you seeds that are specifically for cigars.

 

Also, be warned, a tobacco seed is one of the smallest seeds known to man. And they are fairly hard to raise. It'll be quite a time-consuming task.

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No, farming that is necessary to feed the world will always require machines that guzzle energy. You should see some of the tractors the farmers in the wheat region use. They are huge. I have a hard time seeing how any electric motor could create the same amount of low-end torque that a good diesel engine can.

I don't think it's unfathomable that certain farming practices will continue to use diesel - although it may have to be biodiesel at some point. I have always thought that certain crops can best be farmed on a large scales with tractors/combines like the ones you mention. That doesn't mean, however that other crops, such as vegetables, won't be ultimately more efficiently farmed locally since those contain a lot of water, which doesn't usually need to be shipped.

 

True, every farmer could grow things like they did hundreds of years ago. Then the world would starve. Farmers wouldn't, but people that have never touched a garden in their entire lives would. Farmers would be totally self sufficient, like they were hundreds of years ago. You're missing the point that people would starve. There ISN'T any refining of organic farming. It's a way that's stuck in the 1500's. People think it's healthier for some odd reason. They think we spray pesticides over everything, and ram vaccinations down our cows' throats. It's not like that.

I agree there is a lot of food-terrorism propaganda (to use the harshest possible term I can think of). That doesn't mean, however, that all sorts of industrial processes, including agriculture, can't benefit from making them more "organic" in some ways, where "organic" only refers to saving resources by utilizing more natural processes that don't require additional energy or material inputs. Think of logging by water, for example. It may be more convenient and efficient to cut, transport, and process logs by truck now, but as fossil fuel becomes scarcer, floating them by water to a mill is going to add energy-efficiency, even if it decreases volume or labor-efficiency. I think the hardest part of all this for people to swallow is the fact that labor has to depreciate relative to other forms of energy/power.

 

However, there are a plethora of things happening to refine modern farming, to produce more from smaller amounts of land, or land that isn't as good. Genetically engineered crops is one of these things. THAT'S what we need to be helping poor countries attain, not "organic" farming.

I suggest subscribing more to Progressive Farmer magazine if this interests you. It keeps me pretty well updated on the current happenings.

I think that slowly genetic modification will come to be seen as just another agricultural technology. Certainly I've wondered if there isn't some way to genetically engineer vegetables to grow in my soil with no fertilizer the way the weeds do. I also would like a "salad tree." The thing I dislike most about genetic engineering is that it can be used to exercise even greater economic control over the food supply making people that much more dependent on selling their labor for money.

 

I'm acutally not sure. The seeds we use are 90 and 106. Strains of tobacco that are resistant to "blackshank", a virus that can wipe entire fields out. It's pervasive in this area, so we have to use it, even though the curing times for it do not match up with our climate all that well. I also don't know how well it would translate to a cigar. I'm sure you can find suppliers online though, that will sell you seeds that are specifically for cigars.

It's not that important to me, but thanks for considering. I've looked online but the seeds are expensive and I have my doubts about how good of seeds they will end up being. Wouldn't want to trade the cow for a giant beanstalk, you know:)

 

Also, be warned, a tobacco seed is one of the smallest seeds known to man. And they are fairly hard to raise. It'll be quite a time-consuming task.

I figured they were weeds because of the poison in them. I couldn't just start them in pots and transplant outside when they're big enough? It would be nice to sell starter plants of tobacco, or even the finished product, but I think I would get in trouble with the government. I guess I wouldn't if I would pay all the taxes required but that would ruin the profits of selling leaves for $2/each after drying, grating, and packing them into paper cylinders with filters.

 

 

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I am really grateful for the discussion that has been sparked. Tripolation, your hands-on experience and knowledgeable background represent a valuable perspective. It makes me realize that a real issue is that people are generally just unaware of the realities behind things like crop yield, land conservation, farming methods, etc... I have only been exposed to the point of view that, as you mentioned, demonizes 'conventional agriculture' as if it were the cause of: the planets deterioration, our nutritional deficiencies, the increased onset of diseases and disorders, etc... I want to agree with Lemur here and say that organic/non-organic in itself should be a way to classify the ideology behind any given agricultural act, lending to the fact that any given farm could choose to employ methods from both worlds where there may be a rift as (ignorant?) consumer demands seem to be increasing towards things that are traditional/organic, despite there being many benefits to modern conventional farming. What are the actual objective pros/cons of each method?

 

The glamor behind organic food seems to be that it 'solves the issues' we have been (I want to say scared into) told can result in harmful effects on our health and planet. The problem I have had in doing my own searching into the matter is that it can be hard to interpret all the controversy and conflicting idealism. Am I really facing threatening levels of harmful synthetic/organic chemicals when adding a food item such as a 'conventionally' grown bell pepper (one of the supposedly 'dirty' vegetables) to my diet? How about after a lifetime of regular consumption? Is there a tangible nutritional benefit to choosing a truly grass-fed, free-range [re: expensive] steak over a cheaper one that came from the fully-demonized factory farms? Ridiculed for having unstable health conditions for the animals/workers, animal factory farming has been portrayed as only a 'profit-driven' enterprise where all cuttable corners are cut to net the most profit often at the expense of the consumer. It is automatically assumed that this results in a less healthy meal in the end, so where is the non-biased research that shows otherwise? Have we some proof that supports the nutritional or environmental benefits of what is unnatural - i.e. have a beef steer sit in his own filth for its life eating feed that it may not be suitable to digest correctly - meat production (with all of the obvious ethical arguments aside for the moment). Is it safe to assume that eating an unhealthy animal is bad for you? Is it true (I'd love your thoughts on this Tripolation) that a cow's stomach has a hard time digesting all that grain given the grass-loving nature of their rumen bacteria?

 

The overall question for me regards what modern progressive food science is aiming for. With the structure of research these days I would be surprised to hear that there is funding for agricultural technology/methodology that comes from anyone other than an agricultural giant that has (intrinsically) higher profits in mind. The corporate model-run world makes people uneasy, hence all the fear and confusion/misinformation if you ask me.

 

I am really curious what thoughts are on the Weston A Price Foundation who claim that today's foods are less nutrient-dense than they were in the past, and that a properly-raised animal results in health-promoting meals. I enjoyed good health in the 2 or so years that I ate mostly from a chapter that gets its meat/dairy/eggs from these 'different' farming methods. People like Joel Salatin (mentioned in my previous post) seem to have their head on pretty straight promoting his form of sustainable agriculture at Polyface farms. Does anyone (another one for you Trip, heh) know whether he really revolutionized anything? You mentioned that most if not all farmers use crop rotation and regeneration in a similar matter, is Salatin's method the same or perhaps more/less refined?

 

Again I really appreciate the comments, I obviously have tons of questions on these matters, though I will stop here before this wall of text gets any bigger :)

 

Edit: Lemur, you make some great points there regarding genetic modifications. One of the big issues (always mentioned alongside the 'food-propaganda') that has been exposed to an extent is the problems modern farmers are having coping with the debt-incurring model of adopting these new crops, let alone all of the speculation abound regarding the actual safety/danger involved in scuttling this newly developed technology into the food supply.

Edited by Kreaken

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I think we should be clear what we mean by organic farming. In the UK 'organic' when applied to foods has a regulated meaning, it means the production methods have been certified by a licensed agency as not using any of a particular list of methods or chemicals. It's a bit unfortunate that organic farming supporters have managed to get the term into general use to claim ownership of traditional or small-scale farming methods.

 

There is no reason why small-scale agriculture shouldn't make use of whatever technologies make them most efficient. It's possible that composting, crop rotation and seed saving is most effective for many farmers at the moment who don't have access to other resources, but that's a temporary solution in terms of global food supply. We will have 9 billion people to feed by 2050 at a conservative estimate, and the world's arable land will only support that population if we use it at a high efficiency, much higher than traditional varieties and methods can manage. Actually we need a higher efficiency than we can currently achieve with any technology.

 

GM doesn't need to be tied in with Monsanto and big agri-business bullying farmers and all that nonsense. China, India and Brazil have national programmes to develop their own GM varieties which are free from commercial patent restrictions. Some international charitable organisations are making huge leaps forward with GM crops, like the IRRI (rice), CGIAR (all) and CIMMYT (wheat). We don't need people to protest against Monsanto, or against GM, because international government is already working to overtake Monsanto and there's nothing wrong with GM as a technology. GM is going to play a massive part in feeding the world, theres no way any amount of public misunderstanding can stop that. People who understand it aren't afraid of it, and thankfully the important people understand it.

 

Some cool ways in which GM might help us achieve global food security and solve other problems include:

- Engineering the C4 photosynthetic pathway into rice and wheat, making them ~50% more efficient (i.e. 50% more yield per unit area per year).

- Engineering salt-tolerance into all major crops, meaning we can grow them on land which is currently unusable for agriculture like estuarine flood plains.

- Making weedy species into good bioaccumulators of various toxins, allowing us to decontaminate land for agricultural use.

- Pharma crops, which synthesize and concentrate medicines

- Improving the nutritional profile of staple crops

 

I've been thinking for many years about what the most direct career path for a scientist who wanted to help save the world would be. The best I can come up with is to work on GM crop improvement. Contributions you make have the potential to save many lives, improve quality of life for billions, eradicate some of the worst human effects on the environment by removing resource pressures, and at the same time being an awesome challenge. That's what I plan to do with my career.

 

 

Yes it is a sweeping generalisation...and to a good approximation it is perfectly true. I don't have the space (or time) to to go through every single pesticide used say whether they are good or bad. That statement was based on several papers I've read in the past about organic pesticides being generally worse than synthetic ones; I shall try find them again.

 

And of course there are a whole range of synthetic ones that are just as damaging, I never said that they weren't. DDT (and the majority of its analogues) have had disaterous effects on wildlife; especially to the avian populations in the America's.

 

Sorry to drag this out again, I just wanted to point out that it is not true to a good approximation. Especially the part where you said "they kill all insects indiscriminantly whereas synthetic ones show selectivity to the pest you are trying to remove.". There is precisely one highly targeted common pesticide in organic agriculture (Bacillus thuringiensis) and the same pesticide (the Cry protein in Bt engineered crops) is the only highly specific one used in non-organic agriculture. Most pesticides, both organic and synthetic, have low target species specificity. It is definitely not true that organic pesticides kill indiscriminately whilst synthetic ones do not: they all do to some extent apart from Bt. I'm not saying organic agriculture is good, or that you don't know what your talking about, just that your statement about the pesticides may have been poorly phrased or careless.

Edited by Blahah

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"Is it safe to assume that eating an unhealthy animal is bad for you? "

I don't know.

All the ones I have eaten have been unhealthy to the point of being dead.

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Ridiculed for having unstable health conditions for the animals/workers, animal factory farming has been portrayed as only a 'profit-driven' enterprise where all cuttable corners are cut to net the most profit often at the expense of the consumer. It is automatically assumed that this results in a less healthy meal in the end, so where is the non-biased research that shows otherwise?

What has yet to gain public consciousness is that much of the demonization of efficiency and cost-cutting is just the result of a public interest in increasing average material wealth by getting lots of people to pay as much as necessary for as many products as possible. This would be lovely if it was 1) sustainable in terms of resource consumption and 2) possible to expand high levels of prosperity to everyone globally. Since it's not, though, this game is really just about raising revenues/incomes of a certain class of people who don't mind enjoying higher levels of material consumption than most other people on the planet regardless of whether doing so contributes to limiting the growth potential of those less fortunate.

 

 

Edit: Lemur, you make some great points there regarding genetic modifications. One of the big issues (always mentioned alongside the 'food-propaganda') that has been exposed to an extent is the problems modern farmers are having coping with the debt-incurring model of adopting these new crops, let alone all of the speculation abound regarding the actual safety/danger involved in scuttling this newly developed technology into the food supply.

Yes, it is ironic that by genetically engineering corn, more corn can be produced - but by doing so, the farmers become more dependent on higher revenues to pay for the technologies. This, in turn, requires that the highest possible levels of value-addition are achieved for the various foods created from the corn. This, in turn, promotes the most profitable food-distribution/service practices that waste the most food. So by engineering higher yields for more money, we end up throwing away more and excluding more people from the standards of consumption and convenience provided by food-science advances.

 

 

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