Why I support organic farmers
With all the bad news about pollution and animal extinction streaming over us daily, it is easy to become desolate at the state of our planet. This worry about our negative impact on the environment can be seen in both in the number of vegans increasing year by year, and in the general decline of meat consumption of those who do not want to go down the vegan route. This is a great thing! But even better would be if all these consumers switched to organic food. Why? Because although it may seem like a small thing for an individual, it makes a great difference if many individuals make the same shift at the same time. Just by switching to organically produced goods over mainstream produce, we can make a change in our daily habits that contribute to the welfare of our earth.
Right now we face a global insect extinction, which for humans will be a far worse catastrophe than any the world has seen this far. The dangers with chemical warfare on insects and pesticide use on crops has only recently become mainstream news; nowadays all major newspapers report on it. Conventional farming together with climate change and global pollution is one of the biggest reasons for this threat. It relies on chemical fertilisers that not only impoverish the soil of microorganisms and leach nutrients from it in the long run, but also uses pesticides that actively kill off not only the pesky crop pests but also all beneficial insects and bees. Organic farming, on the other hand, relies mainly on adding nutrients to the soil through green compost, animal manure or bone meal, and crop rotation. A healthy soil gives a healthy crop, and long before synthetic advancement of crop growth was implemented this was the surest way to achieve a good harvest. A key component in keeping the soil healthy and pests at bay is the use of crop rotation, which ensures that one type of crop is not grown in the same place year after year. This prevents crop specific disease of pests to get a foothold, and also keeps the nutrient balance in the soil through varying the nutrient needs of crops. Thanks to the system of farming subsidies in use, organic farms are also encouraged to leave some of the land for green manure and these plants act simultaneously as feed plants for bees. This means a good habitat for our vitally important insects: they are provided with food, shelter and a safe heaven from lethal chemicals. I know there is some critique that organic farming uses more space per tonne of produce than conventional production, but this is only half a truth and one way of looking at it.
Another very big problem is that conventional agriculture is built on monoculture, and this is perhaps the biggest danger to the insect population and the environment. Monoculture is the large-scale farming of a single crop over enormous distances of land without anything that breaks up the monotony. This reduces wildlife habitat and is a direct source of insect collapse worldwide, as in monoculture farmland there is no food or shelter for insects and animals. Monoculture is used for everything! And by everything I really mean everything from growing our much loved avocados to all kinds of vegetables such as corn, carrots, and potato to palm oil used in cooking and the cereal grains that your breakfast cereal is made of. Monoculture means that big machines can spray and maintain the crops effectively, without the irritation of needing to make way for ditches and little forests in the way. This is why so much jungle and ancient forests are cleared to make big plantations for bananas, palm oil palm trees and avocados. If it is all planted with just one type of crop it is more cost effective to produce. Yet, nothing else can survive in such areas as all other animals and plants are by definition excluded.
To recap all of the above, organically produced food has a lower negative impact on the environment. It is true that intensive farming produces more by acer than organic farming, but this is not at all better for us or our environment. Even if there is more food produced, it comes at the cost of an unhealthier environment which long term will negate any good intentions of those who turn vegan. We need biodiversity in our farming methods and food production to ensure a healthy insect and soil microorganism population, and conventional methods with monoculture at its heart does not allow for this. In countries such as Finland where 75% of the land is covered by forest this may not be such a big issue, but in the Amazon region where the rainforest is decimated for agricultural monoculture it really is a huge problem! When we see pictures of the rainforest being burned to ground a lot of us react strongly, yet by buying goods that we don't know where they come from we may be a part of the very problem that horrifies us. In that way it doesn't matter if it is the orangutangs we want to save or the bees of the world, because as long as we support conventional monoculture we are diminishing the chances for the natural world to survive. A more sustainable approach would be to look at the whole picture of how our food is produced, and in the same way as we consumers turn away from unethically produced goods we would turn away from environmentally damaging food produce.