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Organic Farming

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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.

 

Actually, corn that is modified to be resistant to things or to have one more ear AREN'T more expensive than old-fashioned corn, whenever you take yields into account. The bushels per acre that we would receive without enhanced corn/fertilizer are so pathetically low that it would not be profitable to do so. Organic farmers get away with this by selling to specialty organic stores, at absurdly high prices. If all farmers did that, it wouldn't be good.

 

Kreaken, listen to what Blahah says about GMed crops. He is absolutely right on many levels.

 

What are the actual objective pros/cons of each method?

 

Organic farming is focused on preserving the Earth. But then, so is modern farming. The only real advantage I see to organic farming is that refined methods WILL help people in poorer countries grow their own food.

 

However, with modern farming, we seek to feed the world. We maximize yield. And we HAVE to take care of the land, because it's extremely hard to recover fields that have eroded topsoil. We do not overuse fertilizer or pesticides because land that is over-saturated with such things will actually harm your crops.

 

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?

 

No.

 

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 grains the factory farms use are actually very nutritional. Why would they deprive what makes them money? So no, I don't think there is any benefit to eating "organic" steak as opposed to regular steak.

 

That being side, I am actually ethically against factory farms. It really bothers me to see animals treated in such a way. The cattle we raise live a better life than some humans. And they are raised with proper food, like sileage, pasture, salt blocks, ect, BEFORE being sent to the slaughterhouse where they are fed grain to gain a few hundred pounds. A LOT of beef is like this. It's not all factory farms, though it soon may be.

 

 

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?

 

Just read his link. What me and my father do (and my dad's father did) is exactly what Salatin is proposing. He is not on to anything new or wise. Only the more inexperienced farmers just let their cattle in on a piece of land, and then just leave them there.

 

Our farm is set up to where we can achieve a systematic rotation of once every two months (this changes with summer weather, amount of rain, ect). You can't let them continuously chew down the same area of grass, because it will effectively kill it. And cows are very habit-centric animals. They do like eating in the same spots over and over. So we use temporary fences, looped fences, and other things to where we can easily move them from one patch to the next. It would be insensible to not do this. Hope that helped.

Edited by A Tripolation

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Actually, corn that is modified to be resistant to things or to have one more ear AREN'T more expensive than old-fashioned corn, whenever you take yields into account. The bushels per acre that we would receive without enhanced corn/fertilizer are so pathetically low that it would not be profitable to do so. Organic farmers get away with this by selling to specialty organic stores, at absurdly high prices. If all farmers did that, it wouldn't be good.

I know organic corn is absurdly expensive and GM or other industrially produced corn is cheaper. The irony I mentioned was that this corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup and feed livestock to add value to final products produced from it. Then, because chicken is cheap, loads of it get thrown away by fast food restaurants and other uses that prioritize convenience over waste-prevention. Also, the corn syrup gets used to produce loads of unhealthy hypersweetened products that generate lots of revenue while providing relatively little nutritional value and lucrative health problems and cavities (these are health problems too but I thought they deserved explicit mention). Ironically, if other grains than corn were produced, the complex carbohydrates would generate less revenue/profit but they would provide more people with more sustainable energy levels to accomplish more in their daily lives.

 

That being side, I am actually ethically against factory farms. It really bothers me to see animals treated in such a way. The cattle we raise live a better life than some humans. And they are raised with proper food, like sileage, pasture, salt blocks, ect, BEFORE being sent to the slaughterhouse where they are fed grain to gain a few hundred pounds. A LOT of beef is like this. It's not all factory farms, though it soon may be.

I don't eat meat so basically any form of meat that's not raised on forest vegetation seems like a waste of photosynthesis to me. Of course, there are a lot of benefits to dairy so I may not be aware of some important symbiotic relationship between dairy production and beef slaughter. Someone once told me, for example, that without veal there would be no milk because cows have to keep having calves to keep their milk production flowing. It is my understanding, though, that animal-slaughter requires lots more land and water per nutritional unit than plant-based foods.

 

 

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Someone once told me, for example, that without veal there would be no milk because cows have to keep having calves to keep their milk production flowing. It is my understanding, though, that animal-slaughter requires lots more land and water per nutritional unit than plant-based foods.

 

They're wrong. Holstein (dairy) cows continuously have milk. They MUST be milked twice a day. They were selectively bred this way. You do have to separate the cow from her calf though, as the baby will drain the mother of milk. Typically, the females are kept and fed and raised into heifers, increasing your number of cattle. The males are either (a.) sent off for slaughter as veal, (b.) raised until they are adolescents, and then sent to the slaughterhouse, or (c.) they get to live their life out as breeding bulls. Those are the lucky ones.

Edited by A Tripolation

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They're wrong. Holstein (dairy) cows continuously have milk. They MUST be milked twice a day. They were selectively bred this way. You do have to separate the cow from her calf though, as the baby will drain the mother of milk. Typically, the females are kept and fed and raised into heifers, increasing your number of cattle. The males are either (a.) sent off for slaughter as veal, (b.) raised until they are adolescents, and then sent to the slaughterhouse, or (c.) they get to live their life out as breeding bulls. Those are the lucky ones.

Thanks for clarifying that. My question now would be what is more resource efficient overall: dairy protein and fat/cholesterol (cholesterol is needed for hormone production) or other sources of protein, such as beans, etc. and using eggs for cholesterol? I also wonder, actually, if livestock isn't an efficient means of converting grass into protein usable by humans. I wonder how the same field and resources used to grow beans would compare with using that field to raise cattle.

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Thanks for clarifying that. My question now would be what is more resource efficient overall: dairy protein and fat/cholesterol (cholesterol is needed for hormone production) or other sources of protein, such as beans, etc. and using eggs for cholesterol? I also wonder, actually, if livestock isn't an efficient means of converting grass into protein usable by humans. I wonder how the same field and resources used to grow beans would compare with using that field to raise cattle.

 

This is an interesting question. I am under the impression that raising ruminant cattle for meat is a great way to turn inedible cellulose into a nutrient-concentrated, palatable meat product. The fact that the land might be overall better used (more caloric yield) by growing a certain crop instead might mean that overtime meat might become a rarity once again once the population reaches a certain point.

 

Also, is Salatin's method unique in that it actually builds topsoil? Is crop rotation in conventional agriculture just a way to prolong a piece of land before inevitable exhaustion, or does it also have potential for rebuilding valuable topsoil?

 

Connecting the two ideas, if agriculture eventually trumps over meat production via grazing, we might just end up screwing ourselves unless a viable way is generated to reverse topsoil loss.

 

Great discussion.

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This is an interesting question. I am under the impression that raising ruminant cattle for meat is a great way to turn inedible cellulose into a nutrient-concentrated, palatable meat product.

It's fun to watch them regurgitate cud too. This is also the reason I think hunting deer or other forest-fed animals converts otherwise unusable land-cover into nutrition. Of course, you could also have forests of fruit- and nut- yielding trees, but you can't get around the fact that some animals can digest things that humans can't, yet we can digest the animals. Actually, you could maybe get around that by using some form of microbe to break-down the indigestible cellulose to convert it into human-digestable protein. That's basically what the fauna in the cow's stomach is doing when it converts the grass into milk, right?

 

 

The fact that the land might be overall better used (more caloric yield) by growing a certain crop instead might mean that overtime meat might become a rarity once again once the population reaches a certain point.

It already is for many people. I read an article that said that global economic growth quickly causes food shortages as people who couldn't previously afford (much) meat suddenly can and thus create greater demand to utilize land-resources for meat-production. So, I'm not sure meat will ever cease to be a rarity for many people.

 

Also, is Salatin's method unique in that it actually builds topsoil? Is crop rotation in conventional agriculture just a way to prolong a piece of land before inevitable exhaustion, or does it also have potential for rebuilding valuable topsoil?

What is it about raising livestock that builds topsoil? Is it the grass, the manure, or both? Either way, I don't see what the difference would be between raising cattle and using a field to grow nitrogen-enriching legumes and fertilizing it with human waste (processed sufficiently to avoid contamination hazards, of course).

 

Connecting the two ideas, if agriculture eventually trumps over meat production via grazing, we might just end up screwing ourselves unless a viable way is generated to reverse topsoil loss.

Agriculture is basically human-grazing.

 

 

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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.

 

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.

 

I think part of the argument against you is that there are natural replacements for fertilizer (high in nitrogen) that are cheaper than fertilizer. I'm sure artificial fertilizers have more bang for their buck (efficiency) pound for pound, but the cost of that pound is also higher than an organic alternative.

For example: using a cod as a nutrient base for a plant as opposed to an artificial fertilizer. Let's say they both work well. The artificial fertilizer is more efficient for the, say, 10 grams used. If you used an equivalent mass of cod, the same results would not be achieved.

 

My argument here is that the efficiency of a product should be termed as a product of initial cost and total output instead of a product of mass and output. The higher the difference between the former two, the higher the efficiency.

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I think part of the argument against you is that there are natural replacements for fertilizer (high in nitrogen) that are cheaper than fertilizer. I'm sure artificial fertilizers have more bang for their buck (efficiency) pound for pound, but the cost of that pound is also higher than an organic alternative.

For example: using a cod as a nutrient base for a plant as opposed to an artificial fertilizer. Let's say they both work well. The artificial fertilizer is more efficient for the, say, 10 grams used. If you used an equivalent mass of cod, the same results would not be achieved.

 

My argument here is that the efficiency of a product should be termed as a product of initial cost and total output instead of a product of mass and output. The higher the difference between the former two, the higher the efficiency.

 

The point is that the cod (I assume you mean aquaponics) doesn't work anywhere near as well as modern agriculture using 'artificial' fertilizer when used for staple foods (cereals). The question is not about cost but about space, which is why people talk in terms of yield per unit area and not about initial cost as you suggest. The limiting factor is always space - we do not have enough space on the planet to feed the world using aquaponics, we have to use green revolution technologies for now, and soon we'll need much better technologies which will be provided by GM.

 

Aquaponics is cool, it's a nice self-contained system, but it can't feed the world. It's nice for small-scale vegetable production, but from what I've seen so far, no good for producing staple foods on an enormous scale.

 

There seems to be very little scientific literature about aquaponics, it's all from aquaponics organisations and companies. I'd like to see some real research about its potential.

Edited by Blahah

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The point is that the cod (I assume you mean aquaponics) doesn't work anywhere near as well as modern agriculture using 'artificial' fertilizer when used for staple foods (cereals). The question is not about cost but about space, which is why people talk in terms of yield per unit area and not about initial cost as you suggest. The limiting factor is always space - we do not have enough space on the planet to feed the world using aquaponics, we have to use green revolution technologies for now, and soon we'll need much better technologies which will be provided by GM.

 

Aquaponics is cool, it's a nice self-contained system, but it can't feed the world. It's nice for small-scale vegetable production, but from what I've seen so far, no good for producing staple foods on an enormous scale.

 

There seems to be very little scientific literature about aquaponics, it's all from aquaponics organisations and companies. I'd like to see some real research about its potential.

This is why applied intelligence instead of marketing should drive decision-making about what methods to choose for which products. If it makes sense for mass grain production to use chemical fertilizer because of scale, then why should marketing promote fish-meal fertilized wheat bread? On the other hand, if fish by-products are being wasted, why not use them for some form of agriculture? The point is that it is possible for people to think more logically in terms of resource-efficiency and less in terms of how to generate the most sales at the highest price to produce the most revenues. The problem is that when people get the idea that other things are more important than money, other people exploit this attitude to make more money off them. Cost-efficiency tends to reflect resource-efficiency except insofar as the high expense of one resource relative to another has the capacity to dwarf the efficiency achieved in the less expensive input. For example, if labor is very expensive relative to fuel, labor-saving practices will make products cheaper even when they use fuel less efficiently. The same happens in food-distribution; i.e. restaurants and other producers/distributors buy ingredients relatively cheaply and resell them for a lot; which means that it makes more business sense to throw away anything that may cause the customer to choose a competitor next time. Food choice and convenience = more waste.

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The question is not about cost but about space, which is why people talk in terms of yield per unit area and not about initial cost as you suggest. The limiting factor is always space - we do not have enough space on the planet to feed the world using aquaponics, we have to use green revolution technologies for now, and soon we'll need much better technologies which will be provided by GM.

 

Well said, Blahah. This is precisely what I'm trying to convey. We want such and such bushels or pounds per ACRE. We only have 200 acres. We have to manage that area wisely. Using "organic" fertilizer will not produce the yields we need to run a sustainable operation.

 

Also, is Salatin's method unique in that it actually builds topsoil? Is crop rotation in conventional agriculture just a way to prolong a piece of land before inevitable exhaustion, or does it also have potential for rebuilding valuable topsoil?

 

I really can't see how he claims to be "rebuilding" top soil. Top soil takes a long time to naturally occur. He is preserving it, but then again, pretty much all rotation methods do by not allowing the cows to chew all the way down to the roots, thus preventing erosion.

 

It's fun to watch them regurgitate cud too. This is also the reason I think hunting deer or other forest-fed animals converts otherwise unusable land-cover into nutrition. Of course, you could also have forests of fruit- and nut- yielding trees, but you can't get around the fact that some animals can digest things that humans can't, yet we can digest the animals.

 

This is a very insightful point, lemur. I've been asked by vegans, "Why not just raise corn everywhere instead of cattle? Surely that would feed more people." Yes, if it were all flat plains. The farmers in the Midwest do exactly this. But where I live, there are a LOT of hills and forests. We can't plant crops on a steep slope. We don't want to cut the trees down. That would be terrible for the environment and biodiversity of our farm. But we CAN let cattle graze in those places. They can keep the invasive vegetation chewed down in the forest, and they can eat the grass that grows on the hills. And we can feed people with the cattle.

Edited by A Tripolation

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Haha, I actually meant sticking a cod under the root system of a plant. As the cod decomposes and the nutrients become part of the soil, the plant growth greatly accelerates.

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Guest Joe Raman

Its nice one provides a lots of information on topic also more information on topic.

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This is a very insightful point, lemur. I've been asked by vegans, "Why not just raise corn everywhere instead of cattle? Surely that would feed more people." Yes, if it were all flat plains. The farmers in the Midwest do exactly this. But where I live, there are a LOT of hills and forests. We can't plant crops on a steep slope. We don't want to cut the trees down. That would be terrible for the environment and biodiversity of our farm. But we CAN let cattle graze in those places. They can keep the invasive vegetation chewed down in the forest, and they can eat the grass that grows on the hills. And we can feed people with the cattle.

But consider this: If you had to use the absolute minimum possible land to produce the maximum amount of nutrition sustainably, would you use the forest cattle for beef or dairy or both?

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