Ecological farming – farming for the future

Agroforestry plot with walnut and vegetables in the south of France. Ecological farming bans the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and plastics, and can ensure environmentally sustainable food production that also helps farmers make a living.

 

For most of us, farming conjures up images of green fields, cute little farmhouses and fluffy sheep. The reality couldn’t be more different.

Vast tracts of our countryside have been taken over by intensively farmed monocultures that depend on the heavy use of machinery and chemicals in pesticides and fertilisers. Wheat, barley and maize are the three plants most widely cultivated in Europe.

Industrial agriculture is depleting natural resources and leading to water pollution, soil degradation and diseases, and is fuelling climate change.  

Meanwhile, the number of farmers in the EU continues to fall, leaving farming and food production in the hands of fewer and fewer companies.

The American nightmare

Countries outside the EU, such as the US and Argentina, have pushed the industrial agriculture model to the extreme and are growing genetically modified (GM) crops. Most GM crops are engineered to resist pesticides, sold by the same companies. Experience in these countries shows that this has further exacerbated environmental, health and social problems. It has led to:

  • even greater use of chemical pesticides to fight weeds and pests;
  • catastrophic loss of wild plant and animal life;       
  • serious human illnesses linked to the use of pesticides;
  • spiralling costs for small-scale farmers who are increasingly dependent on patented seeds, pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, driving all but the largest companies out of business.

Beyond these serious impacts, we still don’t know if GM crops are safe to eat. There are hardly any independent long-term studies on their health impacts. The main reason for this is that research is largely dependent on funding from biotech multinationals.

For now, the EU has largely resisted the temptation to go down this path. Only one GM crop, a maize sold by US company Monsanto, is currently grown in the EU. Only 0.1 per cent of the EU’s farmland is used to grow GM crops, compared to 5.7 per cent for organic farming (NB: the calculations of the percentages are based on figures published by the ISAAA and Eurostat. Click on the links for more information). This makes the EU similar to most of the world’s regions – excluding the Americas – where farmers overwhelmingly grow conventional crops.

The future of farming

Greenpeace is campaigning to end the devastating impacts of industrial agriculture and GM crops. We are working to reduce the use of harmful chemical pesticides and to promote a broad shift towards ecological farming practices.

Industrial agriculture and GM crops are not a necessary evil to help feed the world. In fact, their effects on natural resources and the environment are the greatest threat to our ability to feed ourselves in the future.

Ecological farming can instead ensure environmentally sustainable food production that also helps farmers make a living. It coexists with wildlife, protects soils, water and the climate. And it guards against corporate control of food production by powerful multinationals.

Only healthy food from healthy farming can feed us today and for generations to come.

The latest updates

 

What are pesticides doing in our eggs?

Blog entry by Christiane Huxdorff & Davin Hutchins | August 10, 2017

In case you missed the news this week, here’s what we know so far: during the first week in August, the Dutch food safety authority (NWMA) announced that they discovered tens of thousands of eggs contaminated with fipronil - a toxic...

The Commission's next home-made PR disaster

Blog entry by franziska achterberg | October 10, 2016

Despite Brexit and despite repeated talk of bringing Europe closer to its citizens, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is about to alienate Europeans further. He is planning to authorise three GM crops for cultivation in...

TTIP is not about trade, it's about us

Blog entry by Susan Cohen Jehoram | February 22, 2016

European and American trade negotiators have a tough week ahead of them. They are meeting behind closed doors to negotiate a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) We want to put an end to these negotiations...

New GM food could end up on your plate untested and unlabelled

Blog entry by franziska achterberg | January 20, 2016

After two decades of commercial use, Europeans still  can’t stomach genetically modified (GM) food. But their producers may have found a way to bypass public opposition and safety regulation. A new range of GM plants and animals...

EFSA accuses world-class cancer experts of engaging in 'Facebook science'

Blog entry by franziska achterberg | December 8, 2015

This article was published on 7 December 2015 on Euractiv.com The European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) said on 12 November that there is no scientific evidence that glyphosate – the active ingredient in the world’s most...

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