Fertile land around the world disappears at a rate of 12 million hectares per year, but this is not the only consequence of intensive agricultural production.
In parallel with the industrial revolution in the 19th century, and especially in the early 20th century, there was a sharp increase in the intensity of agricultural production. Then agricultural practices related to farming were introduced with machinery and the use of large quantities of pesticides and mineral fertilizers to increase yield per unit area. A similar thing happened in livestock breeding. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition at the beginning of the 20th century enabled the cultivation of animals in closed plants, and the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines also made it easier to breed larger numbers of animals in a smaller area, along with disease reduction.
The use of pesticides initially seemed a useful and tempting practice due to the control and suppressionof harmful organisms, with a significant reduction in yield losses, but in the meantime, numerous consequences of the use of pesticides on the environment and wild flora and fauna have been discovered.
On the other hand, many weeds and disease-causing agents have, over time, acquired resistance to pesticides, with farmers being forced to use more and more toxic chemicals in an ever-increasing amount.
Intenzifikacija poljoprivrede u smislu stočarske proizvodnje podrazumeva držanje velikog broja životinja na vrlo ograničenom prostoru. Mnogi paraziti za koje se mislilo da su pod kontrolom sve češće se ponovo pojavljuju, jer se životinje drže u uslovima koji odgovaraju razvoju i širenju ovih parazita, ali i mnogih drugih izazivača bolesti.
This leads to an increasing use of antiparasites and antibiotics to avoid death. Scientific research by world's leading experts in the field of human and animal health has shown that excessive use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock production has direct consequences for human health.
Over 98% of insecticides and 95% of herbicides actually destroy also those species that are not harmful (unintentional destruction of natural enemies of pests) or these substances get into water, air or soil, thereby polluting them.
Laying hens in battery cages lay eggs for a maximum of 18 months, while in conditions that allow them free movements their productivity lasts up to five years.
Intensification of agriculture in terms of livestockproduction implies keeping a large number of animals in a highly limited area. Many parasites thought to be under control are more and more likely to reappear, as animals are kept in conditions that correspond to the development and spread of these parasites, but also many other pathogens.This leads to an increasing use of antiparasites and antibiotics to avoid death. Scientific research by world's leading experts in the field of human and animal health has shown that excessive use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock production has direct consequences for human health.On the other hand, animals can not express their basic behavior needs in such conditions, therefore they often become aggressive and can cause mutual harm. In order to prevent this, farmers preventively remove certain parts of the animal's body, for example, beaks in the poultry or tails in pigs. Animals grown in these conditions are retained in the production process for a much shorter period compared to those cultivated in a non-intensive manner.
See how intensive agriculture affects land, water, air, and wildlife:
1/3 of the world's fertile soil is lost and it continues to disappear around the world at a rate of 12 million hectares a year. (WWF)
Healthy and quality land is important both for livestock and for crop production, since it accounts for 90% of the total food, fiber and fuel production. Land is also important for the ecosystem health as it purifies water and supports biodiversity. The practices of intensive agricultural production lead to degradation , pollution and reduced soil fertility:
1. Increasingly frequent and more extensive spraying with pesticides leads to changes in the chemical composition of soil, and besides pests, pesticides destroy other types of useful plants and animals in the treated area;
2. By intensive grazing, when farmers allow the presence of a large number of animals in a limited area of pastures, it comes to a rapid disappearance of vegetation and compaction of soil by treading. The land cleared of vegetation is significantly more susceptible to washing of the most fertile, upper layer.
3. Intensive cultivation of cultivated plants leads to accelerated exhaustion of nutrients from soil causing loss of fertility.
4. By eliminating the surrounding bushes and woody plants from agricultural land, it becomes additionally susceptible to erosion
All these intensive practices significantly reduce the value of agricultural land, which at one time will no longer be able to be used for further agricultural production.
Water consumption will be doubled every twenty years. This is twice as high as the growth rate of the world's population(Consumer Federation of America)
Intensive agriculture requires the consumption of a huge amount of water. Water demand in agriculture accounts for 70% of global water use, and in many less developed countries and more than 90%.
The main causes of high water consumtion in intensive agriculture are:
1. poor and unsustainable irrigation systems which lead to leakage of water;
2. bulk methods of watering crops on agricultural land;
3. cultivation of crops not adapted to the conditions of the local climate and require additional watering.
About 1,300 liters of water are needed for the production of one kilogram of wheat, so about 40 liters of water (for raw materials and processing) are needed for the production of one 30-gramslice of bread; if a piece of 10- gramcheese is placed on the slice of bread, then they take about 90 liters of water together in production. (World Water Conference, 2008)
Experts estimate that worldwide water consumption will double every twenty years, which is twice as high as the global population growth rate. This is clearly illustrated by the unsustainability of intensive agricultural production.
Another significant consequence of intensive agriculture on water is pollution. Problems arise due to inadequate use of various chemicals (pesticides and mineral fertilizers) in agricultural production, where often large quantities of pollutants reach soil, surface or groundwater. High pollution of water flows most often comes from livestock farms and slaughter industry. The consequences of this are eutrophication and "flowering" of water due to theexcessive propagation of algae, pollution of water resources used for drinking, drying of water bodies, where many species of plants and animals die outhaving a negative impact on human and animal health.
18% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by intensive livestock production - more than traffic (FAO 2006)
AIR AND CLIMATE
10% of the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the European Union during 2012 comes from agriculture (European Environmental Agency). The largest global environmental carbon, raw materials and water footprint comes from meat and milk industry. In terms of emissions of greenhouse gases (of which the most significant are carbon dioxide and methane), livestock production and fodder production each generate three billion tons of carbon dioxide, while the transport or processingof animals and plants account for only a small part of food related emissions.
It is clear that agriculture contributes to climate change,however, it is affectedby them at the same time. Warmer air temperatures in many parts of the world have already affected the length of the plant growth season. The blooming and harvest season for many cereals today takes place a few days earlier than it was common until now. In many regions, these changes are expected to continue in the future.
Evermore present climate change issues include:
1. Extreme droughts and reduced rainfall and availability of water that can adversely affect yields (characteristic for Southern Europe);
2. change in the temperature and plant growth season can affect the spread of certain insects, weeds or diseases that can additionally adversely affect yields.
3. change in the distribution of some fish, which is already happening in the North-East Atlantic. This has a huge negative impact on local communities that rely on this source of food. Warmer temperatures can fuel the appearance of invasive species which creates additional pressure on resources.
4. increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can lead to the damage to the ozone layer and the production of acid rain fatal to all agricultural systems.
The number of common bird species in agricultural habitats has dropped by almost 50% in the last 30 years (Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, 2013).
One of the most visible consequences of intensive agriculture is the conversion of natural habitats into intensive farming systems. Over 50% of the world's natural habitats have already been converted into agricultural land, which does not cease to expand. This causes the extinction of a large number of species or a drastic reduction in their populations. On the other hand, in addition to natural, traditional extensive agricultural ecosystems provide important habitats for many wild plant and animal species. Moreover, many wildlife species (such as some kind of butterflies or birds) depend on habitats maintained by extensive farming methods such as low-intensity grazing or mosaic distribution of different habitat types in the agricultural area. However, the rising demand for food and other agricultural products has led to the destruction of such habitats in order to create space for thecultivation of monocultures. This permanent habitat loss leads to an evident decrease in the number of species populations, many of which are endangered.
It is anticipated that in developing countries another 120 million hectares of natural habitats will be converted into agricultural land to meet food demand by 2050. (WWF)
Numerous scientific studies around the world point to the link between intensive agriculture and the loss of biodiversity. For example, the extinction of wild pollinators or colonies of domestic bees is, according to many studies, a direct consequence of the widespread use of pesticides. In addition to the fact that they are becoming extinct, bees increasingly rarely visit theagricultural land where intensive agriculture is being carried out because they can not survive in areas where there are no parts of natural habitats, such as forests, meadows, hedges and other.
Scientists from University of Auckland (New Zealand) conducted a study to determine the link between intensive agriculture and the disappearance of domestic bee species. Namely, the scientists planted two meadows with field flowers: one in the surroundings of the land where intensive agriculture is carried out, and the other in the vicinity of the land where agriculture is not intensive. After a certain time, they noticed that the bee population that visited the first meadow decreased by 90%. This study showed that bees do not need a completely unchanged area to survive and continue to pollinate plants, but they need parts of the natural habitat. These parts of the natural habitat today almost do not exist in regions where intensive agriculture is carried out.