Too often, agriculturists see only the effects, while the actual causes of the crisis grow worse and more complicated. Yet we must recognize our agricultural problems—their causes—and correct them.
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This article is excerpted from the book Mounting Worldwide Crisis in Agriculture by Dale L. Schurter, the world’s foremost authority on biblical agriculture and sustainable husbandry. Subsequent installments will appear in The Real Truth over the coming months.
Today, many farmers feel they could not survive without chemical pesticides and fertilizers. And what is worse is that scientists feel the intensive use of chemicals and genetic modification in agriculture is still in its early stages, compared to what it will become.
These researchers envision a time when chemical pesticides will not only be used with greater efficiency and precision in eliminating pests, but also in which these artificial fertilizers will become more refined and powerful in a “cradle-to-grave” chemical regulation of plant growth, development, yield and quality! It may surprise you to learn that the following systems of control over plant development are either presently in use or in experimental stages: synthetic hormones and solar radiation (to speed up or slow down plant growth and germination, whichever is desirable), and engineered mutations (to produce a “higher breed” of crop).
All these methods demand genetic and chemical manipulation, and move further from any form of natural processes.
Other manmade control measures involve regulating the branching and leaf orientation, the time of flowering and fruit set, the color and enlargement of the fruit, and fruit ripening. It also includes “abscission control,” which prevents the premature dropping of fruit yet loosens it to make mechanical harvesting easy.
More manipulation of nature.
Artificial lighting and automatic feeding have long been widespread in livestock and poultry operations. Experiments with controlled environments show that all animals have a “comfort zone” and that temperature and humidity exert a marked influence on performance. Man hopes to raise livestock of the future in controlled environments (some even predict in high-rise, apartment-like dwellings!) and feeding is planned to be computer-programmed to meet specific needs. Estrus (sexual excitement) will be synchronized and ovulatory rates regulated with the ova being fertilized artificially with sperm of known genetic material.
With chickens, researchers are working to break through the egg-a-day barrier. It is reasoned that a hen should not have to act as a packaging machine and be required to produce a limestone container for each egg. If the shell could be discarded and only the “membrane envelope” produced, much of the time and energy now used in egg production could be eliminated (“Progress of Research and Technology on the Food Supply in the United States”).
Still more manipulation!
Hogs marketed 100 days after birth and beef animals marketed in six months were other predictions. The goal, then as now—get as much gain as possible from every pound of feed consumed. One experiment in the same article showed that caged piglets would produce close to one pound of gain for one pound of feed.
As of 1969, plastic roughage (which is added to livestock feed in an attempt to promote digestion) went on the market for cattle! This product stays in the rumen and provides a “scratch factor” needed for digestion of grain and supplement. Proponents claim that it eliminates the need for natural roughage and in some instances has even increased feed conversion by 10 percent (Western Livestock Journal). Later developments included adding substances such as cement and wood pulp to increase the bulk of cattle feed!
Ask: if you would never eat plastic, cement or wood pulp—why is it suitable for cattle?
The recycling of animal wastes as reconstituted foods for livestock and poultry is another destructive trend. This is intended to accomplish two purposes: getting rid of waste and providing cheap feed.
Again, ask: Would you knowingly eat animal feces? Or an animal fed with it?
Most American cattle are now given GMO corn, a practice so widely accepted that the term “corn-fed” is used by marketing campaigns to sell steaks. Yet, ask: when was the last time you saw cows instinctively grazing in a cornfield? These ruminants are designed to consume grasses, and the beef that results from this natural feeding has been shown to be significantly more healthful than the artificial feedlot.
“We have come to think of ‘cornfed’ as some kind of old-fashioned virtue; we shouldn’t,” Michael Pollan wrote in The New York Times. “Granted, a cornfed cow develops well-marbled flesh, giving it a taste and texture American consumers have learned to like. Yet this meat is demonstrably less healthy to eat, since it contains more saturated fat. [A] study in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the meat of grass-fed livestock not only had substantially less fat than grain-fed meat but that the type of fats found in grass-fed meat were much healthier. (Grass-fed meat has more omega 3 fatty acids and fewer omega 6, which is believed to promote heart disease; it also contains betacarotine and CLA, another ‘good’ fat.) A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with cornfed beef. In the same way ruminants [were not made] to eat grain, humans may not be well adapted to eating grain-fed animals. Yet the U.S.D.A.’s [U.S. Department of Agriculture] grading system continues to reward marbling—that is, intermuscular fat—and thus the feeding of corn to cows.
“The economic logic behind corn is unassailable, and on a factory farm, there is no other kind. Calories are calories, and corn is the cheapest, most convenient source of calories. Of course the identical industrial logic—protein is protein—led to the feeding of rendered cow parts back to cows, a practice the F.D.A. [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] banned in 1997 after scientists realized it was spreading mad-cow disease.”
However, he continued, “F.D.A. rules still permit feedlots to feed nonruminant animal protein to cows. (Feather meal is an accepted cattle feed, as are pig and fish protein and chicken manure.) Some public-health advocates worry that since the bovine meat [beef] and bone meal that cows used to eat is now being fed to chickens, pigs and fish, infectious prions [virus-like particles] could find their way back into cattle when they eat the protein of the animals that have been eating them.”
As if this unnatural diet was not enough, to further speed the process of beef development, “American regulators permit hormone implants on the grounds that no risk to human health has been proved, even though measurable hormone residues do turn up in the meat we eat. These contribute to the buildup of estrogenic compounds in the environment, which some scientists believe may explain falling sperm counts [in men] and premature maturation in girls…studies have also found elevated levels of synthetic growth hormones in feedlot wastes; these persistent chemicals eventually wind up in the waterways downstream of feedlots, where scientists have found fish exhibiting abnormal sex characteristics” (ibid.).
More recently, 66 percent of commercial chicken feed was found to contain substances such as “acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, Benadryl, an antihistamine, even Prozac, an antidepressant. Farms feed chickens these mood-altering drugs to reduce their anxiety. Chickens are anxious because they are bred on overcrowded and filthy factory farms. Stressed-out birds develop meat that is tough and unpalatable, so they need to be sedated. Yet, chickens on tranquilizers sleep all the time and do not eat enough. So they are given high doses of caffeine (which was also found in the feather meal) to keep them awake at night to feed and fatten up” (Guardian).
Obviously, something is terribly wrong with this picture!
The biggest problem with the glowing predictions we read is that nothing can quickly, practically, cheaply and effectively be put to work in solving our race against worldwide famine!
Projections may sound good. Some few may even come to pass in carefully controlled experiments or on some acreage in rich countries such as the U.S. But this is a far cry from having the capital and skilled manpower to make them useful on a large scale.
Besides, too often these glamorous-sounding projects deal with relatively minor factors as far as food production is concerned. The really big problems of shrinking available arable land (due to erosion, salt destruction, and urban development), a sinking water table, and the continuing general worldwide decline in soil fertility are almost totally ignored. Little or nothing is being done to solve these major problems. In fact, modern practices are all too often hastening the destruction of these priceless resources.
Look at the end result of many “successful” practices of modern farming, such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers, drugs, antibiotics in feeds, hybrids and GMOs. Every one of these is largely at odds with natural laws.
Some of these unnatural practices may appear to be successful—until we begin reaping the penalties. Already we are seeing the social and economic consequences of modern agriculture. New and deadlier diseases are increasingly being traced to what we eat and ultimately to poor farming practices.
The cost-price squeeze is one of many factors driving small farmers off the land and into already overcrowded cities, where they try to eke out an existence. While big farmers force all they can out of the land, the cost-price squeeze is also slowly but surely closing in on them.
And what about developing, hungry countries? There, limited agricultural resources (and almost all fertilizers) are used to grow cash crops such as coffee, peanuts or even plants used in illegal drug trade. These products are then often exported in exchange for foreign currency. Meanwhile, local people suffer from malnutrition and hunger.
Just look at the food crisis in the nation of Yemen. The problem continues to grow worse “because Yemenis use 40 percent of their available water to grow qat, a mildly narcotic plant that’s the country’s largest cash crop…That’s far more than they allocate to grow food,” United Press International reported.
Five million people are in need of emergency aid and it was estimated that 500,000 children could die in 2012 as a result of malnutrition or famine. Approximately 750,000 children under 5 years old suffered from malnourishment during the same year.
All the while, agribusiness debts pile higher and higher across Western nations. Farmers are forced to take out ever-bigger loans until they owe the bank or other lending agencies the majority of their total assets.
In utter incongruity, some governments have paid for taking cropland out of production to relieve a perceived surplus, while in other parts of the world fellow humans are starving, often due to their governments’ policies. In the meantime, a farmer tries as hard as he can to produce more by forcing as much as possible from his remaining or total land so he can make a living! We are living right now today the dichotomy of “surplus” alongside famine, malnutrition and starvation.
If the vast majority of man’s attempted solutions result in unintended negative consequences, where can we turn for real answers?
Time and again, biblical agriculture guidelines have been proven true. During my over 50-year career, I have seen the astounding results! Using the Bible and working within the guidelines of nature—not attempting to manipulate Creation—is the only way to produce abundance and health for the masses.
In fact, the promotion of correct farming practices is a major theme throughout this Book’s pages. Imagine a world where the following is reality:
Swords beaten into plowshares—desolate land becoming like the Garden of Eden—the plowman overtaking the reaper—an era of abundance and peace!
Sounds impossible, right? Yet unlike the utopian pronouncements of man, the Bible provides a concrete game plan of how to achieve this picture-perfect future.
Currently, however, something stands in the way.
Throughout history, man has cut down forests, overgrazed grasslands, and mined Earth’s croplands—with hardly a thought given to replacing, rebuilding and restoring. With very few exceptions, land use has been synonymous with land abuse.
And what has been at the root of this abuse? Human nature! A mindset of avarice, materialism, greed and a love of self—rather than of outflowing concern for the air, soil, plants, animals and fellowman. An attitude of getting and taking—rather than giving! Man’s character of vanity, jealousy, lust and greed manifests itself in every one of his endeavors—and agriculture is no exception.
The obvious problems of agriculture today cannot be solved unless and until self-serving human nature in man can be replaced by a character and attitude focused on giving. As long as man’s nature, with its tendencies to tear down, exploit and destroy, is allowed to dominate, there is no lasting hope for agriculture—or to feed the malnourished, hungry and starving masses of our world.
Yet there is another side to the agricultural crisis that many refuse to acknowledge: natural laws of science are really laws put in place by a Creator. If the world lived His Way, then the era of abundance and peace mentioned in the Bible could come into glorious reality.
This God, however, does not require blind faith that He exists. In the Old Testament book of Malachi, He declares: “…prove Me now herewith…” (3:10).
A major part of God’s Way includes agricultural laws and blessings. He calls on all peoples to prove for themselves that obedience to His statutes and commands brings unparalleled prosperity.
Notice Deuteronomy 28: “And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and to do all His commandments…that the Lord your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth” (vs. 1).
God boldly states that obedience will bring spectacular agricultural prominence. In a sense, He is saying, “Because I exist, these blessings will occur!”
These conditional blessings are detailed in Leviticus 26: “If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely” (vs. 3-5).
This is the solution that would immediately start turning the present agriculture disaster around!
To do so we must make it a way of life to emulate and do what God says is good, and immediately reject what any man or corporation says is “better.”
You must ask yourself whom you believe when the counsel and instruction from these two sources—God or man—differ, as they nearly always do!
Realize that your Creator states He is on your side: “I [God] call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
What a loving and merciful God! What a difference! While man’s way—without immediate and drastic change—delivers death, God’s Way promotes and promises life!
Part 6 of the series will appear in next month’s The Real Truth. To read the complete book online, visit Mounting Worldwide Crisis in Agriculture.