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

 

Austrian report: Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810

Publication | November 11, 2008 at 0:00

A study published today by the Austrian government identified serious health threats of genetically modified (GM) crops. In one of the very few long-term feeding studies ever conducted with GM crops, the fertility of mice fed with GM maize...

GMO orientation debate - Environment Council 20 October 2008

Publication | October 20, 2008 at 0:00

On Monday 20 October, EU environment ministers will have a policy debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The French Presidency has launched a debate on the review of the EU's GMO authorisation system. Representatives from each member...

GM crops: too many risks to ignore

Publication | September 30, 2008 at 0:00

The environmental risk assessment currently performed in the EU is inappropriate, as it is not capable of assessing the risks associated with GM plants (see Greenpeace environmental risk assessment reform briefing).

The EU GMO environmental risk assessment needs reforming

Publication | September 30, 2008 at 0:00

The current EU GMO authorisation process is affected by a fundamental problem. In breach of legal requirements, the authorisations are based exclusively on the opinions (all positive to date) of a single EU body, the European Food...

Who will feed the world?

Publication | July 31, 2008 at 0:00

Millions of people around the world are suffering food shortages, unaffordable food prices and hunger. This is due to a number of factors: industrial farming, bad harvests related to climate change, unjust distribution of food, rising oil...

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