Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Real Farmville

This video (courtesy of the Animal Agriculture Alliance), makes the obvious point that modern agriculture isn't like the Facebook game 'Farmville', and it is quite a bit different than how we produced food 100 years ago. Implicit in this statement is the fact that 98% of all farms are family farms and account for 96% of output while improved management, production methods , biotech, and pharmaceutical technologies have allowed us to achieve an unprecedented balance between increased output and decreased environmental impact ( improving overall biodiversity as well as the diversity of crops planted) .

* The U.S. dairy industry produced 8.3 billion more gallons of milk than in 1944 (vs. 2007), but due to improved productivity, the carbon footprint of the entire dairy farm industry dropped 41% during the same time period. Geenhouse gas emissions per gallon of milk produced are 63% lower.

*Roundup Ready technology has allowed for glyphosate herbicide to substitute for 7.2 million pounds of other chemicals that are more toxic and persistent in the environment. Overall Biotech crops have reduced pesticide spraying 125%.

*Between 1987 and 2007 energy use per unit of output is down in corn, soybeans and cotton production by nearly 40% . Irrigated water use per unit of output decreased by 20% while carbon emissions per unit of output have dropped by 33% in the three crops.

*Grain feeding combined with growth promotants results in a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases per pound of beef compared to grass finishing, with growth promotants accounting for 25% of the reduction.

More Information:

Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2007 USDA ERS

Capper, J. L., Cady, R. A., Bauman, D. E. The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007. Journal of Animal Science, 2009; 87 (6): 2160 DOI: 10.2527/jas.2009-1781

GM crops: global socio-economic
and environmental impacts 1996-
2007 Graham Brookes & Peter Barfoot
PG Economics Ltd, UK
Dorchester, UK

The Environmental Safety and Benefits of Growth Enhancing Pharmaceutical Technologies in Beef Production
By Alex Avery and Dennis Avery, Hudson Institute, Centre for Global Food Issues.

‘‘Diversity of United States Hybrid Maize Germplasm as Revealed by
Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms.’’ Crop Science 32: 598–604

A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Cotton and Maize on Nontarget Invertebrates
Michelle Marvier, Chanel McCreedy, James Regetz, Peter Kareiva
Science 8 June 2007:
Vol. 316. no. 5830, pp. 1475 - 1477

Agricultural Outlook ERS/USDA Aug 2006.

1 comment:

Holly Michael said...

Great points about Farmville--and nice video.

It's an interesting point that farmers aren't supposed to embrace economies of scale and new technology, lest we be labeled as "factory farms."