Farmers were mostly independent, till the last three decades and agriculture was sustainable. Seeds were locally produced and conserved to plant during the next season. Farmers had complete knowledge, understanding and control of their seeds.
High yielding varieties, BT seeds and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) were introduced for high yields. These seeds were also very demanding for all kinds of inputs such as fertilizers. They were also vulnerable to pests. To control them, growers used chemical pesticides in large quantities. The irrigation demands also grew. The whole agriculture became very intensive.
If you see, except for few, all those engaged with agriculture economy are wealthy. Some of the input supplier companies such as seed companies are the richest. Also, the agriculture processing, wholesale and retail marketing companies are wealthy.
With the loss of local varieties and transfer of seeds gene pool into the hands of GMOs, there is the deliberate exclusion of the farmers from the fundamental right of owning seeds and their use. There are instances where some multinational seed companies sued farmers for saving the seeds and reusing them or when the seeds accidentally blew into neighbors fields and grew again.
The farmers are serving the urban population. What are the urban people giving back to the farmers?
With the use of pesticides and complex chemical fertilizers, the air and water got polluted impacting local and broader geographical areas.
The farmers are serving the urban population. What are the urban people giving back to the farmers? As a priority, the relatively clean water from reservoirs and water bodies is drawn for serving the urban population. In turn, the urban people pollute it through consumption and industrial use and release the polluted water back to the water bodies. This polluted water is used for irrigation by the farmers as they don’t have any other better source(s) of water.
The polluted air and dust from cities affect the crops too. Especially in the peri-urban areas, acid rains are commonly impacting the plants and soil. In some areas, the solid waste was dumped, which cause localized pollution of land and groundwater. The produced goods by the farmers are all polluted because of the urbanization as explained above and also due to the practices of farmers such as indiscriminate use of pesticides, antibiotics, complex chemical fertilizers, polymers, plastics, etc.
The climate change is a human cause primarily from industrial pollution and excessive use of energy for many other purposes from the burning of fossil fuels. Agriculture has become dependent on machine power rather like in the past when human and animal power was used. The cutting of the forests for expansion of agriculture, itself caused the release of greenhouse gases and reduced carbon sequestration.
Through the cultivation practices of specific crops and burning of crop residue, methane gas released by the domesticated ruminant animals, etc., also contributed to climate change. Increasingly agriculture is becoming a significant contributor to greenhouse gases.
Agriculture demands for water are high. Monitoring and control of water in irrigation systems is negligible. As a result, efficient use of water is low. The water is used extensively; the water from irrigation systems as drainage carrying loads of pollution is also a concern.
The rivers and streams are, and except during the rainy season mostly found to be bone dry. The eutrophication in the water bodies leads to algal boom and depletion of oxygen in the water bodies. The diversity of life in the water bodies is very low due to high biological oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand. The freshwater wetlands have also disappeared.
In the U.S., on September 26, 2017, a Denver-based lawyer and a far-left environmental group asked a judge to recognize the Colorado river as a person, considering the river to have the basic right to exist, flourish, regenerate, and naturally evolve.
The farmers were givers in the past, paid the tax and made the king’s, kingdoms and government systems exist. Now they are and highly vulnerable in all aspects and are at the receiving end for survival and existence. The traditional farmers and practices have become redundant. Today, farmers are living in a world of information-based agriculture where knowledge, skills and smartness of farmers are more important. Otherwise, agricultural economy is just not sustainable.
Farmers deserve the right price for their produce, and this is the only major sector lacking integrity. There is no way for a farmer to be independent. Every decision made by a farmer is because of several other factors such as: climate change, global warming; urbanization impact on agriculture; industrialization impacts on agriculture, salinization of soils, polluted soil; polluted water bodies – rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wells, and bore-wells; and polluted air; GMO seeds, exotic invasive plants as weeds; high external inputs in agriculture such as use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers; loss of bees and and other natural pollinators due to pollution, mechanization of agriculture external use of fossil fuels, dependency on electricity and other energy sources produced from fossil fuels, use of plastics in agriculture for mulching, irrigation, shade-nets and packaging; reduction of human and animal power in agriculture, increasing irrigation demands; information based agriculture management; right price for the produce and minimum profit margin for sustaining livelihoods. Above all the policies of the government and formal financial and other institutions support influence on the choice of crop cultivated. The lack of insurance mechanisms to cope with losses is one of the significant aspects.
Humans are the only species, knowingly on the path of self-destruction, cause of extinction and endangering of many other species and creating an imbalance to the natural systems drastically.
(Views expressed here are of the personal opinion of the author: Dr. Sai Bhaskar Reddy Nakka, International Consultant – Climate Change, Environment, Disasters and Development, e-mail: email@example.com , mobile: 9676799191.)