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

 

Comments on Polish draft Law on Genetically Modified Organisms

Publication | August 28, 2007 at 0:00

Comments on the European Commission’s notification pursuant to Article 95, paragraph 5 of the EC Treaty, concerning the Polish draft Act on Genetically Modified Organisms.

Background note to Council vote on BASF potato

Publication | July 16, 2007 at 0:00

Chronology of the antibiotic resistant genes controversy - adds detail to press release of 13 July 2007

Letter to EU Commission on unauthorised genetically engineered US maize entering...

Publication | April 30, 2007 at 0:00

Greenpeace letter to the European Commission on 28 April 2007, alerting it to an illegal GMO that Greenpeace detected in a shipment from the US to Europe. Includes results of laboratory tests. Greenpeace is calling for immediate EU intervention...

‘Could Try Harder’: A mid-term report on the European Commission’s environmental record

Publication | April 27, 2007 at 0:00

A review produced by the Green 10, a group of leading environmental NGOs active at EU level

New peer-reviewed evaluation of Monsanto's data shows MON863 should not have been...

Publication | March 13, 2007 at 0:00

MON863 is a genetically engineered (GE) insect resistant maize (corn) that expresses a Bt-toxin (Cry3Bb1). This toxin, which stems from a micro-organism (Bacillus thuringiensis), is meant to protect the maize against the corn rootworm pest.

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