Agricultural modification, also known as biotechnology or genetic modification, is the process by which crops and livestock are synthetically altered or controlled to produce more yield. As the global population has grown, farmers and livestock ranchers have had to incorporate new techniques and new technologies to sustain the people of the world. It’s a vicious cycle with a positive feedback loop: the more people to feed, the more food to grow; the more food to grow, the more people can be fed.
Unfortunately, experts predict that this cycle may be destabilized and collapse in the coming years. Part of this has to do with the relatively new practice of agricultural modification, or biotechnology. It’s affecting our environment and the world’s ecosystems in a way that simply isn’t sustainable. So, what exactly is happening? How can biotechnology influence the environment? Let’s take a look.
- Fertilizer Leaching. Fertilizer is used to support the natural growth of a plant, often making for a stronger and healthier crop with more yield. Traditionally, this was composed of a mixture of manure and composted material. But modern agricultural practices employ synthetic fertilizers designed to boost growth to unnatural proportions. These fertilizers contain chemicals that pose a threat to the natural balance of nature. Once these chemicals have intermingled with bacteria in the soil, they can become toxic pollutants that leach into the ground and are carried away by rainwater. After the toxins have been swept away by the water, there’s no controlling where they end up, although they have poisoned many bodies of water.
- Overgrazing. Livestock feed on large swaths of grass and other low greenery. Overgrazing can pose a serious threat to the environment in the form of erosion and pollution. Allowing livestock to eat away at the grass means that there will be less root support to keep the soil in place. Furthermore, overeating means an increase in manure, which may prove to be toxic when mixed with rainwater and runoff.
- Irresponsible Irrigation. Not only does irrigation tie up a significant portion of the freshwater supply, but it can be done incorrectly, causing more harm than good. Many cases of erosion can be traced back to improper or overzealous irrigation. Not only that, but overwatered plants can contract root rot and begin to decompose.
Of course, agricultural modification also has some benefits, such as faster production and increased yield. But we should be careful to practice responsible farming, lest we damage the delicate balance of our ecosystems. Keep an eye on the IES Neptune blog for more articles and information in the future!