ALTERNATIVE FARMING MAKES FOR HEALTHIER LIVES
Environmental News Network
Farming methods that reduce the use of toxic chemicals on weeds,
pests and crops could make the world a healthier place for everyone,
according to a report on alternative farming methods.
"There is a tremendous untapped potential for alternative farming
methods to reduce pesticide use in U.S. agriculture," said Jennifer
Curtis, author of the report, Fields of Change: A New Crop of
American Farmers Finds Alternatives to Pesticides.
"The challenge is to break down walls and the stigma in industrial
agriculture that prevent farmers from knowing about, and using,
biologically based pest control methods," said Curtis. The report was
released by the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of a
strategy by the environmental organization to raise awareness and
obtain increased funding for alternative farmers from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
According to the EPA nearly 4.5 billion pounds of chemicals are used as
pesticides in the U.S. in a typical year. Fighting the political
pressure applied by the chemical manufacturers promises to be the
organization's largest battle. The NRDC report profiles stories from
22 farmers and operations in 16 states. Each farmer in the report
developed a localized, economically viable pest and farm management
system that has lead to substantial reductions in synthetic pesticide
"The motivations to change were strikingly similar among the
farmers we surveyed. They wanted lower production costs, less soil
erosion, incomes that could withstand fluctuations in markets and
regulations, reduced health risks from toxic chemicals, and less
water pollution from farm runoff," said Curtis.
According to the report, biologically based pest management projects
make up less than five percent of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's research and education budget. The USDA spent about
$132 million directly or indirectly on Integrated Pest Management
research in 1997, roughly 7 percent of the total agency research and
education budget of $1.9 billion. Only about one percent of 30,000
agricultural research projects supported by USDA were pertinent to
organic farming, while only one-tenth of one percent were explicitly
focused on organic farming, said the NRDC.
NRDC proposes increasing funding for USDA's sustainable agriculture
research and education program by $50 million over the next five years.
In addition, NRDC advocates a $38 million funding level for research
on organic farming methods and systems.
"If these biologically based methods are adopted everyone wins," says
Jacqueline Hamilton, senior attorney with NRDC's public health program.
"Kids health will be better protected, consumers will have more options
for healthier foods, farmers can lower costs and improve profits, and
rural communities will see improved water quality."
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