Michael Pollan, a Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of California, wrote a book named, “The Omnivores Dilemma” in which he explains the history of farming. In the chapter, “The Animals: Practicing Complexity,” Pollan writes about an alternative to traditional agribusiness and profile’s farmer Joel Salatin who shows Pollan the complexity of his farm. In addition, Pollan explains how Polyface Farm, Salatin’s farm, is very different and successful from other farms. Polyface Farm is described as “holon” based—in which each element is simultaneously an individual whole and an active part in a complex system (Pollan 343). In other words, the Polyface Farm is a multicultural farm. Multicultural farming is the agricultural practice of producing or growing more than one crop, plant, or livestock species in a field or farming system at a time, whereas monoculture farming is the opposite. That is, monoculture farming deals with the production of only one crop, plant, or livestock species bred at a time. Both monoculture and multicultural farms have benefits and drawbacks when producing food, but only one proves to be most efficient in food production. Since multicultural farms produce multiple crops and are all natural; multicultural farms would be the most efficient in food production.
In monoculture farming, farmers use biotechnology in the form of vaccines, disease-resistant varieties, chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified seeds. With biotechnology, farmers have the upper-hand. Farmers no longer have to work countless hours from morning to noon when their work is done for them. The crops will be able to grow faster and won’t have to depend on farmers to do anything for the matter. According to Greentumble, an Environmental educational website, the use of biotechnology in the field of agriculture allows “crops to grow more and under more difficult circumstances.” In other words, science allows us to introduce specific genes needed to increase the nutritional value of crops. In fact, Dr. Moalem, a neurogeneticist has a written theory on genetics, that talks about genetic mutations with the use of technology. Moalem tells us that, When such technologies are used for medical reasons—-as used in the curing of a particular genetic deficiency—one can deeply sympathize” (Gyatso 66). Potentially, this could be the same for the use of biotechnology as a method in farming. For example, genetically modified plants can be resistant to specific pesticides and herbicides while becoming adaptive to changing environmental conditions. This is because scientists have genetically altered the gene or genes found in a plant that are susceptible to pesticides. Therefore, with the use of biotechnology, it creates disease-resistant plants, allowing farmers to produce healthy crops.
However, with the advantages of biotechnology as a method used in monoculture farming, comes many disadvantages as well. On May 29, 1992, the FDA released a statement of policy on genetically modified foods, and the effects it possibly has on humans. The FDA claimed that the effects of consuming genetically modified foods (GMOs) can cause allergies to non-GM foods, liver problems, reproductive problems, infant mortality, many types of diseases and even high risks of death (United States, Dept. of Health and Human Services, Fed. Food and Drug Administration, Vol. 57, No. 104).
In addition to biotechnology having many effects on humans, it also has effects on crops too. Because of biotechnology and monoculture favoring only the cultivation of one specific crop and breeds at a time, results in a loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution. In the US, the Livestock Conservancy estimates that nearly 200 endangered livestock breeds may become extinct due to the over-reliance on very few and highly specialized breeds. Not only that, but the effects from both pesticides and fertilizers on the environment are producing chemicals that find their way in groundwater sources and in the air causing pollution. This shows that the use of biotechnology in monoculture farms effects are dangerous on not only humans, but the produce as well.
In multicultural farming, farmers like Joel Salatin don’t use any chemical fertilizers, GMOs, or vaccines when it comes to food production. On Salatin’s farm, everything operates on more than one level and is all natural. Michael Pollan describes Joel Salatin’s farm as “holon-based” because his farm works as an “organism rather than a machine”(347). Polyface farm is “built on the efficiencies that come from mimicking relationships found in nature—-the idea is not to slavishly imitate nature, but to model a natural ecosystem in all its diversity and interdependence” (Pollan 348). In other words, Joel Salatin takes advantage of each species “natural proclivities in a way that not only benefits that animal but other species as well” (Pollan 348). For example, instead of treating the chickens as “money-makers” or “egg-machines”, Salatin lets the chickens do whatever they desire as if they were in the wild. These desires include pecking in the grass and cleaning up after herbivores. As the chicken get to do and eat what it is evolved to do and eat, the farmer and his cattle both profit (Pollan 348). Unlike at a monoculture farm where the chickens are not free and are caged to serve one purpose: produce eggs.
Another reason as to why Polyface farm is most efficient than monoculture farms is because of the amount of food that is produced in a season. Pollan asked Salatin, “How much food does Polyface produce in a season”(353)? And Saltin answered, “30,000 chickens, 10,000 broilers, 800 stewing hens, 50 beeves representing 250,000 pounds of beef, 250 hogs representing 25,000 pounds of pork, 1,000 turkeys, and 500 rabbits” (353). This is way much more food than a monoculture farm produces in one season. This is also food that is non-GMO, and organic-based. Meaning, the consumers, and the crops are more likely resistant to any diseases, pesticides, and environmental pollution. On the contrary to monoculture farms, where farmers use biotechnology to produce their crops and put their crops and consumers at high risks of being susceptible to diseases.
Although, multicultural farms have many benefits–being higher benefits than monoculture farming, it’s not perfect. Multicultural farms involve farmers to be hands-on. Because more than one type of species is being produced on the farm, requires farmers to control and supervise 24/7. If the farmer is not responsible of his duties, than the crops will more than likely die. In addition, multicultural farms require a lot of equipment. Even though, multicultural farms are all-natural, it still needs the tools in order to plant every species. Unlike monoculture farms that don’t require a lot of equipment to plant.
To conclude, multicultural farms are most efficient in food production than monoculture farms because multicultural farms produce multiple crops and are all natural. Although multicultural farms require a lot of work and the maintaining of animals and crops, it proves out to be the most efficient. Unlike, monoculture farms where farmers are not hands-on when it comes to food production. Monoculture farms are too dependent on biotechnology and produce the same crop or livestock species each season allowing consumers to not have a choice of variety. Also, the use of chemical fertilizers in monoculture farms places many crops and consumers at high risks of diseases. This goes into saying, the practice, or technique that is being used in monoculture farming is unsafe and unhealthy when it comes to food production.
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