Intensive farming is the latest technique used to yield high productivity by using measures such as keeping a large number of livestock indoors, and using an excessive amount of chemical fertilizers on a tiny acreage. It is carried out to meet the rising demand for cheap food and to prevent future shortages.
Intensive farming is an agricultural system that aims to get maximum yield from the available land. This farming technique is also applied in supplying livestock. You could say that under this technique, food is produced in large quantities with the help of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are appropriately used to save such agricultural land from pests, and crop diseases.
Products, such as eggs, meat, and other agricultural items that are easily available in many supermarkets today are produced using modern intensive farming methods. Jay Rayner, a restaurant critic of the Observer says, ‘Sure, it might be cruel, but intensive farming saves lives.’ It is practiced widely by many developed economies of the world. Sustainable intensive farming, intensive aquaculture, intensive livestock farming, and management-intensive grazing fall under this farming category.
Advantages of Intensive Farming
One of the major advantages of intensive farming techniques is that the crop yield is high.
Protection of Livestock
Intensive farming helps the farmer to easily supervise and monitor the land and protect his livestock from being hurt or hounded by dangerous wild animals.
Lower Food Prices
With the introduction of intensive farming, farm produce, such as vegetables, fruits, and poultry products have become less expensive. It also aids in solving the worldwide hunger problems to a great extent. This means that common people can now afford a balanced and nutritious diet.
Many opine that organic food can be afforded only by the elite strata of the society. Apart from that, large farming spaces are required to cultivate organic crops using natural manure. However, with the introduction of intensive farming, the space, equipment, and other requirements for farming are less and more economical.
The EPA (Environment Protection Agency) has set certain rules and regulations on how livestock, pesticides, and animal manure are to be maintained. The farmers, who follow these set rules help to provide an affordable, safe, and healthy produce to all alike.
Sustaining Food Supply With the Demand
Another advantage is that large productivity of food is possible with less amount of land. This leads to economies of scale and directly contributes towards meeting the ever-growing demand for food supplies.
Disadvantages to Intensive Farming
Poor Living Conditions for Livestock
Intensive farming involves the use of various kinds of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides. Apart from this, it is also associated with farms that keep livestock above their holding capacity, which in turn leads to pollution, various diseases, and infections brought about by overcrowding and poor hygiene.
Reports and studies reveal that intensive farming affects and alters the environment in multiple ways. Forests are destroyed to create large open fields, and this could lead to soil erosion. It affects the natural habitat of wild animals. Use of chemical fertilizers contaminates soil and water bodies, such as lakes and rivers.
Excessive Use of Fertilizers and Pesticides
Pesticides sprayed on crops not only destroy pests and contaminate the crops, but also kill beneficial insects. Heavy use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers also affects the workers (who spray the pesticides) and the people residing nearby. Eventually, these chemicals are passed on to the human beings, who consume the agricultural produce.
Damage on Crops and Human Life
Fruits and vegetables purchased from farms that promote intensive farming are covered with invisible pesticides. These cannot be washed off easily. Exceeding the use of pesticides affects the health of human beings severely, leading to skin allergies, physical deformity, and congenital disease.
Higher Risk of Cancer
Statistics show a direct relation between the consumption of food procured from intensive farming sites and an increase in the number of cancer patients and children born with defects. Researchers opine that consumption of inorganic poisonous vegetables, fruits, poultry, and meat could probably be one of the reasons for causing such damage in the human body.
Use of Chemical Hormones In Food
There are many hybrid varieties of livestock, plants, and poultry available today. The livestock and poultry are injected with hormones and other chemicals to increase the yield.
Intensive Farming Alternatives
We are all well-accustomed to this concept of farming. It produces good quality food without using any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, helps reduce diseases, and lowers the environmental impact.
In this method, plants are grown not in the soil but in water containing dissolved nutrients, within greenhouses. This technique eradicates diseases caused by soil organisms but the plant needs constant support, supervision, and is grown in areas where there’s no soil.
Using a predator intentionally to fix the pest population size is known as biological control. This technique demands utmost caution and thorough study, as it could go all wrong, if
not managed properly.
It is very difficult to pick a side in the debate regarding intensive farming. While it is true that agricultural intensification is necessary to meet the ever-increasing population growth, it is also true that intensive use of chemical fertilizers will largely affect the health of human beings, plants, fish, honey bees, frogs, birds, and livestock. There is a tug-of-war between the animal rights activists and farmers of intensive farming. However, the debate is still ongoing, but we hope to see some new inventions or improvements in the near future.