What is Intensive Farming?
Intensive farming (also intensive agriculture) is the practice where a lot of labor and capital is employed to maximize agricultural produce or yields. It is characterized with the intensive use of pesticides, fertilizer and other production inputs for crops and medication as well as concentrated feeding for the animal stock. The practice concentrates more on getting the most output per area by using high input strategies.
It means the amount of inputs and work required for production goes up and this has witnessed the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, mechanical ploughing, plant and animal growth hormones, medications (antibiotics and vaccines) for animals, and plant growth regulators. For this reason, intensive farming has helped improve agricultural production. On the contrary, it has also lead to increased pollution and several other environmental concerns. In substantiating the issues surrounding intensive farming, let’s take a close look at its advantages and disadvantages.
According to Wikipedia,
“Intensive farming or intensive agriculture involves various types of agriculture with higher levels of input and output per unit of agricultural land area. It is characterised by a low fallow ratio, higher use of inputs such as capital and labour, and higher crop yields per unit land area.”
Advantages of Intensive Farming
High crop yield
One of the main rewards of intensive farming is the production of high crop yields. Agricultural products such as meat, eggs, milk, fish, and cereals are highly demanded in the contemporary world’s food markets such as restaurants and supermarkets. Satisfying the market demands has only been achievable through intensive farming because the yields are produced in large quantities on a small piece of land.
It means more variety of food can be produced
Since intensive farming mainly focuses on mass food production in a specific food crop or animal production, it leads to more variety of food for human consumption. Intensive farming requires a lot of labor, capital and resources which makes it more practical to only focus on one production area.
Accordingly, the engagement on different areas of the practice by different farmers such as intensive fruit production, intensive vegetable production on any of the numerous options namely onions, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes etc, intensive livestock farming on any of the several options namely poultry, beef, goat, rabbit, pig etc, and intensive aquiculture simply means more variety of food.
It is more efficient
Because intensive farmers utilize less farm inputs and less land per unit of the foodstuff yielded, it is more efficient. The farmer makes more profit by maximizing yields on a small piece of land as opposed to the conventional farming methods that needed large tracts of land but produced less yields/food produce. Since the requirements for equipment, space and other inputs are less compared to the food produced per unit, it is more economical and efficient.
Affordable food prices
As opposed to traditional farming, the employ of intensive farming to produce vegetables, poultry, beef, milk, eggs, and fruits has made food prices affordable. The reason for this is that intensive farming requires less space and produces more than the invested inputs. Additionally, it has substantially helped in solving the world’s hunger problem. The common people can hence afford to enjoy a nutritious and balanced diet.
Helps in ensuring regulated farming
Various agricultural institutes and environmental protection agencies have taken the initiative to monitor and control the possible adverse effects of intensive farming. Consequently, the agencies and agricultural research institutes have set certain rules and regulations on the use of farm inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, herbicides, and have even stated clear measures on how to maintain and manage livestock. This ensures regulated farming which results in healthy, safe, and affordable farm produce.
Sustainable supply of food
With the demand for food soaring across the world due to the ever-increasing number of human populations, intensive farming offers the advantage of high crop productivity with the possibility of meeting the food market demands. Besides, it requires less amount of land which means that it significantly contributes to economies of scale in meeting the ever-escalating demand for food supplies.
Disadvantages of Intensive Farming
Poor living conditions and hygiene for livestock
Intensive farming is highly criticized and thought to be cruel to the animals. Because it involves the use of various chemicals, growth hormones and excess crowding on a small space, the outcome is usually poor living conditions and hygiene for the livestock. Keeping livestock above their capacity is associated with pollution and poor hygiene which results in infections and various diseases.
Excessive use of agro-chemicals
Intensive farming as earlier stated involves the utilization of numerous types of agro-chemicals including chemical pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and acaracides. When these chemicals are used they not only destroy their intended targets such as pests, weeds and parasites but also contaminate the food products. The insecticides and pesticides also kill beneficial insects which contribute to biodiversity loss. The workers and humans nearby are equally affected by the chemical sprays and humans who consume the food indirectly take in the chemicals.
Deforestation and alteration of the natural environment
Environmental studies and reports indicate that intensive farming impacts and degrades the environment in countless ways. The removal of trees, slush and burn techniques, and the clearing of forest areas to create room for agriculture has led to massive deforestation and soil erosion.
As an outcome, natural habitats and wild animals have been heavily affected as the destructive practices have persistently contributed to habitat loss. The use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides contaminates water soils, wildlife habitats, and water bodies like oceans, rivers and lakes. Fertilizer nutrients in particular are the main cause of eutrophication in most of the world’s water bodies such as oceans, lakes, and rivers.
Risks on human health
The vegetables and fruits sourced from areas that practice intensive farming and full of invisible pesticides. The challenge is that the pesticides cannot be washed away easily and since the fruits and vegetable appear clean after a simple wash, humans indirectly consume the chemical pesticides.
The consumption of the pesticides affects the health of humans with health risks such as physical deformity, skin allergy, and congenital diseases. ADHD in children, for example, is associated with the consumption of pesticides in agricultural food products.
Higher risks of cancer and birth defects
Public health publications and cancer statistics prove a direct correlation between the consumption of food sourced from intensive farming areas and an increasing number of cancer victims. The consumption of food products procured from intensive farming areas is also said to be responsible for the increase the number of congenital abnormality cases. The public health researchers say that the rising cases of children born with defects and cancer is probably caused by the consumption of inorganic fruits, meat, vegetables, and poultry.
The use of chemical hormones in food
The majority of the food products used in intensive farming systems, especially vegetables, fruits, poultry, and livestock are full of growth hormones. If one takes a keen look at the intensive farming systems, he or she will realize there are many hybrid varieties of plants, poultry and livestock. Most of them are injected with growth hormones and other chemicals to augment production.
Possibility of poor quality food products
Since intensive farming centers primarily on mass production of nice looking food products, the production strategies overlook the need for quality and nutritious food products. As a consequence, the quality of foods sourced from intensive farming sites often lacks the same nutrition values as compared to those produced using the conventional farming methods or organic farming.
Intensive farming simply aims to produce perfectly looking yields and to possibly extend their shelf life instead of enhancing nutritional value and taste which breeds room for poor quality food products in the long-run.
Traditional farmers are unable to gain enough profits and less job creation opportunities
Intensive farming as opposed to traditional farming utilizes less space, labor and resources to produce much greater volumes. This makes very hard for traditional farmers to compete. Also, considering how industrialized intensive farming is, it does not lots of job per unit of food produced which means less job creation opportunities.