Saturday, 31 August 2013

Food. Part 1: Conventional Agriculture

This post marks the first in a series on food production, and what we can do to eat and buy sustainably.

Conventional agriculture
Conventional agriculture aims to get high yields for minimum direct costs. Practices include using industrial fertilisers and pesticides, and rearing animals intensively indoors. Food production has hugely increased over the last 50 years.
Advantages include:
•    High yields
•    Cheap and varied food in the shops.

But there are very unwelcome disadvantages:
•    Loss of soil fertility, making production dependent on oil-based fertilisers
•    Loss of wildlife biodiversity through pesticides
•    Loss of adaptability, as fewer strains of plants and animals are farmed
•    High yields dependent on artificial fertilisers, pesticides, and drugs such as hormones and antibiotics
•    Unwanted and even dangerous chemicals getting into our watercourses
•    Intense animal suffering through battery farming.

What can I do?
•    Avoid intensively farmed meat, eggs and milk. Choose free-range and organic food produced humanely
•    Ask your local shop to stock more free range and organic products
•    When eating out, ask for free-range food
•    Buy local, buy organic, grow your own!

Sources: Pros and cons of intensive farming:,, Compassion in World Farming campaigns for animal welfare and against factory farming: