Do we need another agrarian revolution?

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With the rise in the world’s population, there exists a pressing need to feed the world. However, the adverse environmental impact of modern agriculture and growing ethical concerns over animal welfare have called today’s current methods into question.

Between the 1940s and the 1970s, the so-called Green Revolution took place, where governments of the world put forward initiatives in the research, development, and transfer of agricultural technology to increase agricultural output. The technologies developed include advanced irrigation techniques, synthetic petroleum-derived nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and improved crop and livestock varieties.

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And while yields have increased worldwide, a number of factors have prevented this green revolution from taking root in many developing countries. Moreover, it has been discovered that these now standard agricultural practices have a negative effect on the environment. Some of the new irrigation methods deplete water supplies. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides pollute the soil and water. Farms now grow and raise only a few breeds of plant and animal at a time, threatening genetic diversity.

In addition, animal welfare activists have called into question raising larger animals that would live with disabilities caused by their size, saying that it would be unethical to let an animal live in suffering simply to produce more meat.

With the advent of genetic engineering technology in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the development of genetically modified strains of crops and livestock promises to increase yields even more. Regardless, questions surrounding modern intensive agriculture must be answered to balance the needed increased agricultural output of a new Green Revolution with ethical and environmental concerns.

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