As we’re all aware at this point, the agri-chemical business is changing, and changing drastically. Bayer and Monsanto have recently completed their mammoth $66 billion deal, which was analysed in-depth by ThatsFarming.com’s Tom Jordan here. The narrowing of global control over our farming industry is most certainly a call for concern, if we listen to experts in the field.
Less or More?
Reports are cropping up that this deal can only mean bad things for farming in general, and the global population’s health. If we are to look at the progress made in recent decades, we see that there’s been an increase in production levels, but at a price. Some experts believe that the increase in yield that we as a farming community have achieved is short-lived. We may be able to produce more each year than our grandparents, but this progress could backfire.
The population is set to increase by a few billion by the time 2050 arrives; this is something the UN in particular has been straining to get into the public mindset. We’re set to reach mass food shortages and completely depleted natural resources if we do not address the problems with our current rate of production. It’s simply not sustainable to continue the way we do today.
Heavy use of pesticides can increase the rate at which farmers produce crops, for example. Certainly the bigger farms in the United States benefit greatly from chemical additions to their soil. Here in Ireland, we were used to ‘Roundup’, even though reports have caused the EU to recently crack down heavily on its use after evidence came to light of its carcinogenic properties.
Pesticides, Hormones, and Fertilisers
This reliance on chemical interference, although helpful in reducing crop disease and pest damage, is on the brink of reversing all of our progress in farming. Pesticide resistance is on the up, and biodiversity is decreasing. Farmers’ global yield could dramatically fall if this is to continue, as some research shows that per hectare, there can be better output from more mixed and diverse farms.
There are arguments that call for more small-scale and labour-intensive farming methods in the place of larger intensive farms. In Ireland, we’re lucky in that we have a greater grip on our national food quality. Irish produce is known for its natural and more sustainable production methods, and we easily produce more than we consume. In fact, over 80% of our dairy and beef is exported each year, whereas the UK must import a third of all produce consumed. Our internal sustainability gives us a massive advantage compared to the rest of the world.
However, we must still listen to reports that warn us of the dangers in modern farming. As the agri-chemical giants collaborate together, our choices become reduced, and our power as farmers is belittled. Farming organisations can find it hard to face up to such staggering powers as Bayer-Monsanto. Fairness and global teamwork is needed to solve the impending food and climate crisis, and it may be best not to assume that money-making companies like Monsanto are working in our best interests as farmers and citizens.