In the mid-20th century, technology and chemistry began to replace manpower in agricultural production. More people moved to the cities. Efficiencies gained through chemical fertilizers and pesticides, allowed fewer people to produce more livestock and crops, intensifying and industrializing agriculture. Monocultures are easier to manage than diversity.
Consolidation and economies of scale further intensified production. Independent producers slowly gave way to large-scale corporate farms and confinement livestock operations with attendant environmental issues such as non-point source pollution. Lags in yield were compensated for by the addition of chemicals and intensifying management practices. The pace continues to increase.
While selection and crossbreeding have improved human life since hunting and gathering way gave way to agrarian society, in recent years it has been accelerated by the advent of direct genetic modification. There is nothing inherently bad in precisely modifying genes, but advancing techniques without careful thought opens the door to unintended consequences. It’s the unintended consequences, not the techniques that have the potential for devastation.
Case in point, crop plants with inherent resistance to Roundup ®, a now ubiquitous herbicide developed by Monsanto, a agri-chemical giant which merged with Bayer, another chemical behemoth, in recent years. While developers and testers heralded it as a way to decrease the use of herbicides, there is now evidence that weeds have developed resistance to Roundup® actually requiring more herbicide instead of less.
Critics argue Bayer-Monsanto positioned itself to reap profits at the expense of the environment. Bayer-Monsanto maintains it is addressing the rising need to produce more food for more people on less land.
While the argument continues to rage, it points out the need for holistic approaches that require looking at the big picture and conscientiously trying to identify and avoid unintended consequences. At some point, an unbalanced system can’t be sustained by adding inputs.
And unintended consequences aren’t limited to farming and row crops. Confinement livestock operations take animals off the range where they efficiently convert the sun’s energy in the form of plants into protein and put the grazers in an artificial environment that is maintained with inputs such as grain. When animals of any species are overcrowded in an artificial environment it creates problems with health and behavior as well as logistical concerns like waste management.
Game species, such as elk and deer, succumb to the same pressures when they are subjected to an unnatural environment. Case in point, Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal neurological disorder that is now spreading through elk and deer. While the disease may have been present in isolation in the wild, it appeared and first became a threat in a confined elk herd at a research station in Colorado. With the advent of intense deer management, where whitetail deer are managed like livestock to grow large antlers, it has spread at an alarming pace and is now considered a serious threat to the well-being of free-ranging herds.
In another example at nearby Yellowstone National Park, the park herds of bison and elk serve as the nation’s reservoir for brucellosis, a livestock disease that has been almost eradicated. Instead of being managed holistically, the herds are managed intensively. They congregate because they are fed. They overpopulate because they are protected from predators and hunters. They are not vaccinated because it’s “not natural.” They incubate and transmit infection.
Now is the time to stop, look at the bigger picture and begin to restore the earth’s productivity by working in concert with nature instead of against her.
Read more about invasive species / biology:
One of the Most Harmful Ingredients in Processed Foods
“Why processed foods are dangerous to human health. Especially genetically-modified soybean oil, which is loaded with glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
How an Oregon Sheep Ranch Is Carrying on the Heritage of American Wool—and Shepherding It Into the Future
“As discussed below, planned, moderate rotational grazing and restricted soil disturbance on Western sheep ranches have aided the recovery of bunchgrass and fended off cheatgrass, the interior West’s most troublesome invasive species.
Book Review: Man, Cattle and Veld by Johann Zietsman
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Rotational Cattle Grazing to Restore Degraded Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands and Promote Watershed Health
Describing the Mimms Ranch in Marfa, Texas, the authors write, “The Foundation aims for practical conservation, with the belief that restored grasslands improve overall watershed health, resources for native wildlife, and continued support of ranching.” […]
‘Forever Chemicals’ in Deer, Fish Challenge Hunters, Tourism
“As discussed below, industrial compounds used in numerous products, such as nonstick cookware and clothing are increasingly found in wild game and fish. This poses a health threat to animals and humans.
Is Widespread Pesticide Use Connected To Grassland Bird Declines?
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Quoting sources for the article appearing below, ” … glyphosate is the most dangerous environmental chemical we face today due to its unique mechanism of toxicity, careless application, and pervasive presence.”
Church-Affiliated Ranch Balances Agriculture and Conservation in Central Florida
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Another excellent article by the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC) the free market conservation think tank based in Bozeman. This one is about how to address people and livelihoods while achieving the essential ecological […]
He Spent Decades Protecting Buffalo. A Microscopic Invader Threatens That Work
According the article below, Mycoplasma bovis, which is common in cattle but rarely lethal for that animal, is a rapidly an emerging killer of buffalo. Outbreaks are spiking in some herds, with mortalities of 40-50%. […]
Shane Mahoney Speech on the Wild Harvest Initiative
Shane Mahoney discusses the Wild Harvest Initiative, a landmark study to compile and analyze data relating to the significant amount of food that comes from non-commercial fishing and hunting in North America. […]
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Hailing From the Primordial Realm, Meet Mother Nature: Goddess of Earth’s Ecosystems
Don’t miss this hilarious little video from Whole Foods. As they put it, “With over 50 (million) years of experience, Mother Nature’s job is to maintain the harmony that keeps the planet spinning. Things […]
Bayer Blasts ‘Unscientific’ Rejection by Mexican Regulator of GMO Corn Permit
As discussed below, Mexico does not want Monsanto/Bayer’s Roundup-laced food. Any discussion of GMO safety is in truth a discussion of Roundup (glyphosate). GMO corn is modified to tolerate the poison, which is linked to […]