October 2, 2022 2:40 pm

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The Pros and Cons of Agriculture


The Pros and Cons of Agriculture


Agriculture is one of the most important parts of our economy, but it isn’t without its downsides.


The discovery of agriculture was one of the most important steps in human history, as it freed up large groups of people to do other things besides hunt and gather food. 


Whether you’re an environmentalist, an animal lover, or just concerned about your health, you should be aware of the pros and cons of agriculture in order to make informed decisions about your personal health and diet choices, as well as what laws and policies you want to support with your votes and activism. 


This guide will walk you through the pros and cons of agriculture so that you can increase your population, which is good because global climate change is making it harder for some regions to grow enough food for their populations. 


What will happen when we reach an even higher population?

We may need innovation and policy changes to ensure that everyone can be fed , but agriculture has certainly contributed positively to population growth so far.





Positive Impacts on the Increase in Food Supply


Food production is one of the most positive impacts agriculture has on our world. 


Farming means less competition for natural resources, as farmers generally use less fertilizer than what would otherwise be necessary to produce the same amount of food. 


In addition, farming allows us access to foods that we might not have been able to grow at all or grow with such efficiency if we had not farmed them. 


Crops like corn and soybeans are used in a variety of ways, including animal feed and vegetable oil, which are produced on an industrial scale by only a few countries. 


The final impact that agriculture has is that it makes some countries self-sufficient in their supply of food. 


Countries without any other agricultural products often rely heavily on just a few major crops to provide enough food for their population. 


Some of these major crops include maize, rice, potatoes, sugarcane, and wheat.  

These crops make up more than half of the total global crop yield and come from countries that produce over 95% of the total. 


Countries like Pakistan, India, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Brazil, and Ukraine depend largely on these grains to provide nourishment for themselves.





Positive Impact on Economy


There are also economic benefits. 

Agricultural activity stimulates economic growth, provides jobs, and reduces poverty. 


It also provides a livelihood for many people who are fortunate enough to own land where they can work their trade. 


For example, in China and India, the introduction of rice cultivation has helped reduce hunger among many people who rely on it as their main source of nutrition.


Many developing countries could potentially increase the rate at which they can catch up economically if they were better fed because increased productivity would lead to more money coming into the country. 


The use of animals in agriculture also contributes substantially to global wealth; the production of food from animals accounts for one-third of global agricultural output by value (about US$1 trillion annually).





Positive Impact on Employment


Agriculture provides employment opportunities for unemployed or underemployed workers who have been struggling to make ends meet due to extreme poverty. 


It will also allow them to generate their own income by farming. 

Many people believe it is necessary for a healthy society because food is so important. 


Another advantage is that it can prevent people from depending on others for food, which would be a benefit during difficult times such as war or natural disasters. 

It provides a sense of security in uncertain times.  





Negative impacts on land use


Food production relies heavily on farmland, and about half the world’s arable land is already being used for farming. 


Roughly 80% of that land is used to grow crops like wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, maize (corn), other grains, fruits, and vegetables. 


Farmers have also been known to clear forests for crop use. 

Over the past several decades, 60% of the native rainforest has been converted into agricultural fields in Madagascar alone. 


The clearing of these forests not only harms the habitats of local animals, but it also contributes to global warming by releasing stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 


Farms can contribute to climate change because they require natural resources like water and fertilizer, which are often made from fossil fuels.





Negative Impacts on Water Supply


Agriculture is a very important part of our society as it provides over 85% of the food that is consumed by the US population. 


However, with all the benefits agriculture brings, there are also some negative consequences that are having a negative impact on our water supply. 


One of these impacts is using up precious surface water to irrigate crops while groundwater levels decline. 


In areas where irrigation is not possible or practical, such as California’s Central Valley, farmers are looking for alternative methods to grow their crops. 


Using salt water for irrigation purposes has been seen as an option, but only if there was a cost-effective way to desalinate it in order to make the quality of the soil match what can be found in freshwater sources.





Negative Impacts on Soil Quality


The negative impact that agriculture has on soil quality can come in a variety of forms. 

Poor farming techniques, such as tillage and manure spreading, are both culprits. 


Tillage is responsible for increased soil compaction, which will inhibit the ability of water to penetrate the ground, exacerbating water shortages. 


Manure spreading can introduce heavy metals into the ground when it is washed away by rain or other events. 


Nitrogen fertilizers also have a negative effect on soil quality by introducing high levels of nitrates. 


Over time, these nitrates degrade into nitrous oxide, an atmospheric pollutant that is harmful to plants and animals alike. 


In addition, agricultural practices involving nitrogen fertilizers create large quantities of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which in turn create free radicals. 


These free radicals have been shown to contribute to ozone formation and the production of particulate matter from fossil fuel combustion.





Negative Impacts on Air Pollution


Agriculture poses some risk of air pollution, which may affect the health of people and other living organisms in close proximity to farms. 


Since chemical fertilizers are often used in conjunction with farming, nitrous oxide and ammonia are released into the atmosphere. 


Nitrous oxide is also a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, ice melt, and biodiversity loss. 


With regards to ammonia, it reacts with volatile organic compounds to form small particulate matter (PM2.5) that causes respiratory problems and cardiovascular disease, and can lead to premature death. 


Lastly, agricultural burning also produces large amounts of particulate matter (PM10), SO2 and NOx gases, which all contribute to air pollution.





Negative Impacts on Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in many ways. 

Chemicals like nitrous oxide are released into the atmosphere during crop cultivation. 


Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere. 


Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation due to agriculture also contribute to climate change since trees store carbon dioxide, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere. 


According to recent studies, between 25% and 50% of global methane emissions can be attributed to livestock production, with ruminant animals (cows) contributing the most. 


Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps up to 100 times more heat than CO2. 


Another source of greenhouse gases for agriculture comes from food waste. 

Upwards of 40% of all food produced around the world goes uneaten, wasting natural resources and adding billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the air every year.





A Personal View


Agriculture, in its simplest form, is a method of increasing food production to feed more people. 


But just because agriculture increases food production doesn’t mean it has more benefits than cons. 

To be clear, agriculture can do more harm than good if not executed correctly. 


In particular, the agricultural industry often relies on monoculture practices, which cause large amounts of damage when there are natural disasters like floods or droughts. 


If something like this happens and there’s no other way for humans to get their food, then we’re going to starve. 


The drought in California has caused an issue with supply and demand so that you can now find oranges from Texas at your local grocery store. 


The other major con to agriculture is deforestation—using land for farming instead of leaving some natural habitats intact. 


Forests provide us with oxygen, prevent flooding, help regulate temperature (it’s one thing to hear about polar bears drowning because they don’t have any ice), store carbon dioxide (which would otherwise make global warming worse), protect against soil erosion by wind and water, etc. 


Finally, pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture can pollute our drinking water while also hurting the environment. 


It’s important to recognize all of these pros and cons before jumping into a decision about whether or not you want to support agricultural processes. 


Doing so will help you decide what you feel comfortable contributing to our growing problem with climate change and how much impact on the environment you’re willing to take. 


Ultimately, as consumers, we can always choose where we spend our money and what goods or services we buy, but it’s hard to say what choices are right without understanding both sides. 


As long as we know that there are many different points of view and multiple layers to consider, making a choice shouldn’t be too difficult.



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