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Global Warming as an Industrial Farming’s Harvest

            Can you draw a picture of connection between agriculture and global warming? Most people draw a blank. Surprisingly, industrial farming and global warming are related. Producing and growing the food for people on an industrial scale does not pass by without a trace. The process includes such consequences as contaminated water, air, soil, and global warming impact. According to Anna Lappe, author of the chapter, "The Climate at the End of Our Forks," in Food Inc., industrial agriculture is responsible for a significant percentage of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Lappe writes, “Agriculture is responsible for most of the human-made methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, which contribute 13.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from animal waste mismanagement, fertilizer overuse, the natural effects of ruminant digestion, and to a small degree rice production.(1.5 percent of total emissions come from methane produced during rice cultivation)”(111). This passage reveals the problem that most of greenhouse gases are released by livestock production and its activity. For example, it is known that cows burp a lot because of their natural digestion. A herd of cows emit a lot of methane and greenhouse gas when burping. The amount of their gas emissions is enough to impact global warming. The effect of their activity can be even more significant for the environment than emissions from cars. The solution to the problem is organic farming. How can greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide impact global warming and how can organic farming reduce greenhouse and other gases emissions? Unlike industrial farming, organic farming has benefits that can help lower greenhouse gases emissions in the atmosphere, thus reducing the global warming effect.
            Industrial farming, with its large scale production, alone releases large amounts of greenhouse gases. Factory farming includes palm oil or other plantations, production of livestock, product transportation and processing, waste and landfills. What makes industrial farming to be so significant in playing a role in climate change? The main factor of climate change is gases in the atmosphere, which is caused by humans and contributed by industrial agriculture. Thomas E. Drennen, an associate professor of economics, says, “Various estimates place agriculture’s contribution at between 15 and 33 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The remainder comes mainly from fossil fuel sources”(Drennen). In other words, agriculture is estimated as a large contributor of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by experts.
            Crops from plantations release most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. For example, palm oil from plantations today is an ingredient in almost all processed foods. Therefore, this crop occupies large lots of land and, as a result, palm oil production on its mass scale releases a lot of greenhouse gases. Lappe writes, “As oil palm plantations expand on rainforests and peatlands in Southeast Asia, the natural swamp forests that formerly filled those lands are cut down and drained, and the peat-filled soils release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere”(Lappe 108). We can see from this passage that palm oil production is directly connected with gas emissions into the atmosphere. Moreover, this production is designed to produce a large quantity for the world market. Due to its popularity and mass production, palm oil plantations are an essential source of greenhouse gas emissions. All crop plantations require wide lots of the ground. For this purpose, people make deforestation that includes burning the trees. Situation gets worse when crop plantations grow from peat lands since peat lands contain the methane gas.
            The next issue of mass farming, which releases big volume of gases, is production of livestock. Lappe claims in Food Inc., “Poorly managed pastures lead to overgrazing, compaction, and erosion, which release stored carbon into the atmosphere” (Lappe 109). According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Globally, approximately 56 billion land animals are reared and slaughtered for human consumption annually, and livestock inventories are expected to double by 2050, with most increases occurring in the developing world. As the numbers of farm animals reared for meat, egg, and dairy production rise, so do their GHG emissions” (FAOSTAT). The U.S. Department of Agriculture has noted that, “GHG emissions from livestock are inherently tied to livestock population sizes because the livestock are either directly or indirectly the source for the emissions” (USDA). All of these quotations support my statement that production of livestock causes greenhouse gas emissions.
            An example of how livestock production is harmful can be seen through the production of cows. Cows release methane through eating and burping, which makes them large emitters of greenhouse gases. Lappe explains, “Ruminants digest through microbial, or enteric, fermentation, which produces methane that is then released by the animals, mainly through belching” (Lappe 112). This fact is worth counting. If we imagine the quantity of ruminants grown for slaughter and all the methane released through belching, it is going to be a serious problem for the environment. Drennen asserts, “The atmospheric content of CH4 increases annually at 32 million metric tons. The remainder breaks down in the atmosphere. Methane is 9 to 63 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2”(Drennen). In other words, amount of methane in the air increases every year with a fast trend. Thus, from this passage we can see why ruminants’ natural fermentation can be essential for the environment.
            Human or anthropogenic influence on the environmental health comes from transportation and packaging processes. Selling products of farming such as meat, for example, producers import and export meat using environmentally damaging transportation. Packaging products of farming demands to produce plastic packages or bags. Manufacturing of packaging for meat products consumes a lot of energy, which increases process footprint. This auxiliary side of agriculture also emits greenhouse gases but is totally human caused. Automobiles and “factory smokestacks” are important in the organization of the industrial food system and transportation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims, “Although some natural occurrences contribute to GHG emissions, the overwhelming consensus among the world’s most reputable climate scientists is that human activities are responsible for most of this increase in temperature. The IPCC (2007a) concluded, ‘With high confidence that anthropogenic warming over the last three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems’”(Intergovernmental). Human activity along with factories and cars are the largest greenhouse gases emitters.
            The last part of the process is the waste recycling. All the farming process emits wastes that are required to be recycled. Lappe observes, “Landfills produce greenhouse emissions from anaerobic decomposition, which produces methane, and from carbon dioxide as a by-product of incineration and waste transportation…Waste is stored in manure “lagoons”, as they’re euphemistically called. Without sufficient oxygenation, this waste emits methane and nitrous oxide gas”(Lappe 112). Animal waste is also a significant gas source among gas emitters. Feeding livestock with GMO crops and other not proper feed, creates in animals more unnatural content even in their waste. The waste becomes not useful to fertilize soils so the only way is to bring it to special pits, “lagoons” for storing it. After a while, the thrown out waste starts to release methane. Thus, “lagoons” are among main emitters of greenhouse gases (Lappe 112).
            If we sum up all the industrial farming factors that produce gas emissions, we will see that total amount of gases, which are emitted by industrial agriculture, is enough to impact the global warming. Generally, emissions of gases isolate energy and heat. Heat and warmth cannot go through layers of the atmosphere. Therefore, all those gases emissions contribute to greenhouse effect as a result. The greenhouse effect affects increasing the temperature in the atmosphere. In other words, the greenhouse effect affects the global warming. Global warming contributes to melting glaciers and pack ice from the Antarctic and global flooding as a result. The described is common picture of the global warming effect. Indeed, global warming is not a fast process. Progress in increasing the global temperature can be as slow as 1 to 4 Degrees C for the century. Drennen in his research writes, “Global climate change will affect agriculture in two ways. First, increasing temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns will directly affect agricultural productivity and management practices. Second, international actions may require changes in agricultural practices which contribute to climate change”(Drennen). As we can see today, climate change causes more disasters. Increasing in temperature of world’s oceans and greenhouse effects are responsible for forming more destructive hurricanes and storms. Hurricane Sandy 2012 is a good example of a result of global warming effect. This superstorm captured a large area and formed destructive winds due to today’s climate change.
            Unfortunately, people who are responsible for industrial agriculture do not care about climate change. Moreover, they may realize that their activity causes global warming, but do not take measures. In fact, agribusiness is a “dirty” business where farm owners mistreat farm animals and farm workers, who are usually undocumented migrants. Industrial agriculture’s business is only how to process more food from farm animals and how to sell it best. No wonder industrial farming contributes to global warming effect without caring about that.
            Fortunately, some people are interested in keeping the Earth green and safe. Those people offer organic farming as an alternative. Organic farming means farming based on all natural, no chemical fertilizers, sustainable grazing and respectful treatment to animals. Organic method of agriculture, which is not so harmful or even safe for the environment, does not cause any global warming effects. The organic method of farming involves special programs on reducing global warming impact and based on traditional methods of farming.
            In favor of organic food, there is a real difference in taste and quality between organic made food and industrial food. A lot of industrial food can be just tasteless. It is obvious that organic food is much better to eat rather than industrial processed food. But it is not the main good point in favor of organic farming. Organic farming decreases the rate of global warming. Gar Smith, environmental journalist, notes, “Organic farming offers the cheapest and quickest path to addressing global warming because CO2 emissions from organic farms can be 48 to 60 percent lower than emissions from industrial farms. Where industrial agriculture releases greenhouse gases into the air, organic farming pulls carbon out of the sky and puts it back in the ground to nourish the next harvest”(Smith). Organic farming breeds cattle in good conditions and follows traditional customs of farming. Organic agriculture is able to create favorable conditions for the environment.
            Besides healthy food without chemical residues or any additives like growth hormones, organic farming offers the solution to the problem of global warming. First of all, organic farming is a really good alternative to industrial agriculture regardless of its labor consumption. Maybe organic method of farming demands a lot of work to be done during the processing of food, but it is worthy to produce. Yet, all the processes in organic farming involve programs that decrease global warming. People, who are responsible for the organic produce, care about our planet, about the air, soils, and water conditions. Thus, we can keep our planet and our lives safe and healthy. It is actually a profitable business as well. There is no reason not to follow organic agricultural methods. Does anybody want to live in polluted environment or an Earth full of disasters? Most people would say no. With organic farming methods, people can avoid a lot of problems that are related to industrial agriculture and global warming.
            To avoid global warming problems, organic farming tries to reduce greenhouse gases emission into the atmosphere. All programs of organic farming contribute to reducing gas emissions that are inevitable in processing food. For example, if ruminants’ fermentation emits gases through belching, some organic farmers feed cows with alfalfa or flaxseed. Feeding cows with alfalfa reduces cows’ belching. If farmers can reduce cows belching, they reduce the release of methane into the atmosphere. As a result, less global warming impact. As Stonyfield Organic president, Gary Hirshberg, states, “We've been able to reduce the enteric emissions from the cows by as much as 18%, and by 12%, on average. If every US dairy were to adopt this approach, in less than one year, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we could reduce would be the equivalent of taking more than half a million cars off the road!”(Hirshberg ). Hence, organic projects really affect the environment in a positive way.
            In addition to reducing the release of methane into the atmosphere through belching of cows, organic farmers use animals’ manure as a fertilizer for soils. This fact makes organic farming special. Reuse of animal manure does not allow greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere in large amounts. Animal waste in organic farming is an important component for crop cultivating. Animal waste contains valuable nutrients to soil. Crops, if grown in fertilized soil with the manure use, absorb and receive all the required minerals. To compare with industrial agriculture, its animal waste even is not useful to enrich soils. That’s why people keep industrial agriculture wastes in landfills, which release methane in large amounts. Since organic farming recycles animal wastes, it makes the footprint of farming less.
            However, opponents of organic food assert that organic food is too expensive and the majority of people cannot afford to buy it. However, according to the article from the Internet “What Does Organic Food Cost?”, the real numbers in prices are not so different. Indeed, the average price range between organic and non-organic is one dollar. For example, the average price for organic broccoli is $2.49/lb, while the average price for non-organic broccoli is $1.99/lb. Therefore, the organic broccoli is only $.50 more expensive (“What Does Organic Food Cost?”). Furthermore, as demand for organic food rises, prices will go down. Organic farming implies safe and healthy food, ergo people would save money on medical bills. Thusly, prices in this matter are insignificant. I also did some research field in Stop&Shop. The Store offers variety of organic products. I stopped at vegetables and fruits. Concerning tomatoes, difference in prices is one dollar and fifty cents. Organic potatoes cost five dollars and ninety-nine cents per pound but non-organic are three dollars and ninety-nine cents per pound. Organic potatoes are two more dollars expensive. Prices may scary people to buy organic food but, in general, if people would consider the matter of national health and global warming effect, they would prefer to spend two dollars more for organic product rather than non-organic.
            All the listed benefits contribute to reducing global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Reuse of animal waste, reducing cows belching by alternative foods, all that is used in organic farming for mitigating the global warming. Thus, organic farming cares about the environment. People should think about switching from industrial farming to organic. Not so long ago humans used organic farming only and all people were happy with it. Organic farming helps reduce numbers of diseases, leads to less climate change, and brings less environmental pollution. For these reasons I propose organic farming as a solution.
Works Cited

Drennen, Thomas E. “Global Warming and Agriculture: the Basics.”Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm & Resource
Issues 9.2 (1994): 38 MasterFILE Premier. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.
Hirshberg, Gary. “Stonyfield Greener Cow Project.” Stonyfield.com. Stonyfield Organic, 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.

Lappe, Anna. “The Climate Crisis at the End of our Fork.” Food Inc. Ed. Karl Weber. NewYork: PublicAffairs, 2009. 105-118. Print.

Smith, Gar. “Drill, Baby Drill! No-Plant Baby, Plant!” Earth Island Journal 25.2 (2010): 15. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Global Farm Animal Production and Global Warming: Impacting and
Mitigating Climate Change.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Environ Health Perspect, 31 Jan. 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.
The United States Department of Agriculture. “Global Farm Animal Production and Global Warming: Impacting and Mitigating
Climate Change.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Environ Health Perspect, 31 Jan. 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.
“What Does Organic Food Cost?” Organic Food Cost. N.p., n.d. Web 08 Dec 2012.


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