What are the harms of agriculture? | Life

For beautiful, green soils where the soil takes care of itself, we can easily say the following: More microorganisms live in a handful of healthy soil than any human who has ever lived. The microbes on the planet are a million times more numerous than the stars in the universe. These invisible microbes in the soil are fed sugars by plant roots under normal (healthy and symbiotic) conditions, and they can find places to cling to themselves. In return for this advantage of plants over microbes, microbes also help them absorb nutrients from the soil.

All life on our planet depends on this mutually beneficial relationship. If the soil is healthy enough for the natural micro-organisms to settle comfortably, this relationship continues smoothly and the plants naturally bear the fruits of this mutually produced wealth. Sometimes, however, modern farming practices damage the soil in order to get more yields (i.e. more crops and profits) from the soil. Humans are involved in the happy relationship of soil with microbes.

Soil is a limited resource. The rapid cultivation of the soil with modern agricultural methods on large areas mainly leads to the elimination of self-renewal cycles of the soil. Although we tried to support the nutrition of the soil with additional fertilizers and supplements, the balance of microorganisms in the soil, which did not renew itself naturally, was disturbed. Plants living in this soil will no longer get enough nutrients from the soil.

Soil on farms treated with industrial/modern farming practices has 60% less biomass than farms managed with soil health in mind, i.e. the soil microorganisms in its content have considerably decreased. Destroying the soil’s ability to supply micronutrients to plants also means reducing the nutrient density of the plants we eat. Functional medicine physician Dr. Mark Hyman says the nutrient density of the foods we eat today may be down 50% from 50 years ago, thanks to invasive farming methods.

First, too much irrigation in modern farming practices causes the top layer of soil to quickly melt and disappear. While the application of irrigation alters soil structure irreversibly, it also causes the segregation of carbon in the soil, which strongly retains carbon, from organic matter and releases it back into nature. Although we have enough problems with carbon emissions, the fact that we extract carbon from the ground with water causes us to consume resources and trigger global warming in two ways.

The erosion of this beneficial, nutritious and versatile protective layer in the soil with modern farming practices also reduces soil protection, making us more vulnerable to environmental toxins. Soil acts as a filter for various wastes and polluting parts. Many factors, including waste from industrial factories, oil and chemical leaks, construction such as road construction, sewage systems, cause contamination of soil and water by various pollutants, and these harmful substances remain in the soil for many years, greatly affecting the quality and nutrient content of the soil. Pesticides used to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses and insects in the soil are also among the important factors that destroy our soil. Throughout history, substances such as arsenic, sulfur, lead and mercury have been used to kill pests. Pesticides containing dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) have also become one of the most preferred agricultural applications of the modern era. However, it was never considered that by killing harmful bacteria, these chemicals would also destroy beneficial bacteria and completely disrupt the natural nutrient balance of the soil.

Agriculture has been our most important activity, which has been at the center of our lives throughout history, but for the first time in history, the growth of the service sector in 2006 exceeded the agricultural sector in economic terms. We seem to have forgotten that the nutrients we need to survive come from the soil. Today, soil pollution drastically reduces crop yield and quality, threatening food security:

  • In 2012, global solid waste generation was determined to be 1.3 billion tonnes. Waste production is expected to reach 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025. Between 60% and 80% of this waste contains recyclable materials, but unfortunately only a very small amount of waste that can be described as symbolic is recycled. .

  • It is known that 19% of arable land in China is contaminated with many heavy metals, including cadmium, nickel and arsenic. However, these lands are still used to produce cereals for human consumption.

  • Approximately 700,000 deaths occur each year due to antimicrobial resistant bacteria. By 2050, if the necessary precautions are not taken, deaths from bacteria are expected to be more common than deaths from cancer and cause an incredible economic burden worldwide.

  • Just 7 tablespoons of lead can dangerously pollute 1 hectare of land and 200,000 liters of water.

  • More than 3 million people are hospitalized each year for pesticide poisoning and no less than 250,000 die from it.


“How Soil Pollution Works”. Retrieved from: https://www.fao.org/about/meetings/global-symposium-on-soil-pollution/background/en/

“Modern agriculture and its impact on the environment”. Retrieved from https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/modern-agriculture-and-its-impact-on-the-environment-1518163410-1 (21.09.2020).

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