Danger: Chemical Agriculture!

Allison Hall

A problem facing modern society remains the use of chemicals in agriculture. While they provide some benefits, the negative aspects far outweigh the positive. Chemically modified agriculture poses a threat to humanity by contaminating livestock, poisoning plant life and contributing to the international phenomenon of global warming.

Modernly, farmers and livestock owners use growth hormones and other chemicals to rapidly grow animals to disperse the meat in bulk and quickly. These methods are used not only to help the animal to grow but also to bump up the speed to which they grow to profit both farmers and corporations. These chemicals pose not only a threat to the animals but also possibly to the people ingesting it. If the thought of humans ingesting excess growth hormone does not terrify you, then the idea that factories use substances such as ammonia to sterilize meats should. The real points are the idea that these animals do not get the proper treatment and care that they deserve and the ingestion of this meat could result in dangers. Most chickens raised for their meat lack the ability to walk or see by the time they are slaughtered for profit. These steroids have the capabilities of working on humans the way that it works on any other mammal. It is impossible to tell whether the hormones in the meats eaten are natural or not. According to Renu Ghandi and Suzanne M. Snedeker, authors of “Consumer Concerns about Hormones in Food”, “… it is not possible to differentiate between the hormones produced naturally by the animal and those used to treat the animal. This makes it “difficult to determine exactly how much of the hormone used for treatment remains in the meat or the milk.” This obviously raises questions, such as whether these added hormones are contributing to ailments such as cancers or obesity.

In relation to the contamination to meats, plants are suffering as well. Genetic engineering, pesticides and weed killers are being used to kill insects and weeds and enhance plant growth; however, it is being done in excess and at times not even hitting the intended target. Instead, it partakes in run-off which adds to the contamination of both water outlets and, yet again, animals. These chemicals travel from the plants to other location via rain and normal hydration methods. Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring says, “… chemicals sprayed on crop lands or forests or gardens lie long in soil, entering into living organisms, passing from one to another in a chain of poisoning and death.” Not only does this harm animals, but it harms animals that, once again, humans consume. This is not the only draw back to chemicals in farming. As far as chemically modifying plants, it would have the same effect as modifying animals. These growth hormones and chemicals are present in food consumed by man. The effects may not be drastic immediately, but a slow build up is sure to be a problem.

It is no secret that the earth’s atmosphere has been altered in ways that could be both artificial as well as naturally produced. In fact, Carson wrote “The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous lethal materials.”  These chemical contaminating, pesticides in particular, contribute to global warming. They increase the carbon levels in the atmosphere which plays a hand in the rising heat levels. Carbon creates this sort of blanket that traps in heat. With no escape the rays from the sun bounce around in the earth’s atmosphere and cause rising heat levels. Yes, other things have become a problem in this regard, but in trying to fix the issue, chemical agriculture should be looked at.

In conclusion, using chemicals in our agriculture lessens the health accountability for both our animals and plants while also playing part in the demotion of atmospheric stability. It may, at this point, not be a possibility to completely outlaw the use of chemicals, but alternatives could be found and in the mean time the use of these chemicals can be lessened.

Seeds for Life

Spring is here and there is no better time than now to start your first fruit and vegetable garden. Having a home garden is beneficial for many reasons, the primary reasons are it being cost effective and your harvest is usually more nutrient dense than store bought produce. Growing your own garden can be very rewarding for you and the environment. If this is a task you are willing to tackle, there are several things you should know in order to ensure success of your first gardening attempts.

Having the proper gear is essential to growing a home garden; it makes gardening easier so that it feels more like a hobby rather than a task. Here are the basic but necessary tools every gardener should equip their self with.

Trowel-this small but mighty tool aids in digging holes for seeds and transplants.

Gloves-Blisters are inevitable, however, wearing gloves will help minimize harm to your hands and protect them from bugs and foreign objects found in the soil.

Sun hat/ cap-Protection from the sun is very important; use sunscreen as additional protection.

Water hose & Sprinkler- This will help minimize the hassle of watering plants. Simply turn the sprinkler system on for 15 minutes upon waking up in the morning, this will protect the vegetation from full sun radiation damage.

Hoe-This will assist in controlling weeds in your garden beds.

Wheel Barrow-For transportation of soil and compost.

Rake-For spreading soil and compost as well as mulch, hay and straw.

Shears- Will help maintain and prune plants.

After the necessary tools have been bought it is important to determine where exactly the garden will be and which type of garden will be used. It is recommend that it lie in a area where plants will see full sun, this means at minimum 6-8 hours. The garden should be isolated and free from other plants, trees and invasive species.

Traditional in ground gardens are more difficult to maintain but allow for larger garden beds. Plants should be at least 8 inches deep with varying distances apart.

Raised-bed increase the drainage and prevent your soil from holding too much water.

Container- the easiest and simplest of all garden beds, allow for the gardener to focus on one plant at a time and can be located anywhere within full sun’s reach.

Once the location has been decided, whether its in ground or in a raised bed, it is time to prep the soil. Soil is the most important aspect of a garden, it must be of good quality and free from sand, clay, glass and other contaminants and most importantly well aerated and dry for preparation of seeds and transplants. Clay tends to hold water, so strongly consider adding compost to alleviate standing water, which will attract mold, mosquitoes and other problems. Compost will make the soil more nutrient dense as an added bonus. Make sure to test the PH of the soil; most plants tend to prefer a more acidic environment. This can be achieved by adding sawdust or easily accessible pine needles.

Choose fruits and vegetables that grow well in your geographical zone, here in Texas these plants thrive in our environment.

Leafy greens such as Kale, spinach and lettuce that can even survive mild winters.

Squash/Zucchini-These crops will have a high yield; just a few plants can feed a large family.

Radishes-plant these in late spring or early fall, they are easy to grow and don’t require special soil.

Green Beans-plant right after the last winter freeze.

Peppers-Whether its Bell, Jalapeno, or habanera, they are sure to add spice to your life. Let ripen and watch the color change.

Tomatoes-produce large crops.

Herbs, Herbs, Herbs-even those without a green thumb can grow herbs.

Fertilize with sea minerals or fish fertilizer and ensure your plants get around 1 inch of water a week. If leaves are drooping and brown, they aren’t receiving enough, on the other hand if the stems are light green, or there is standing water by days end, you may be overwatering.

Most importantly, remember to start small, gardening should be an art, don’t overwhelm yourself and get frustrated. 100 sq. ft per person should provide an adequate yield to last through the year. As your plants grow, so will you.

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