Science - March 17, 2010

Organic and factory farming both slated

Both factory livestock farming and extensive organic farming are dead ends for agriculture. The future lies in intensive farming that delivers food directly to the consumer. This was the message at a conference of the livestock students' society De Veeteelers on 11 March.

Mega sheds for livestock are out. The new chairman of the agricultural organization ZLTO announced last month that farmers too are against industrial this kind of meat production. And at the Veeteelers conference in Wageningen on 11 March, Henny Swinkels, director of the veal producing Van Drie groep, knocked another nail in its coffin. 'To increase animal welfare, we place a high value on the relationship between people and animals. For that reason mega-farms are not an option for us', he said.
Upscaling is not the best business strategy in the current crisis in Agriculture, which faces low prices and ecological problems, said agricultural sociologist Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. Agriculture specialist Pierre Berntsen of the ABN Amro bank agreed with him: 'I can confirm van der Ploeg's conclusions. Dairy farms that grow gradually do better than companies that borrow extensively in order to grow fast.'
Agriculture is reaching certain ecological limits and, interestingly, this goes for extensive agriculture too. Production ecologist Prem Bindraban was very clear on this point: 'We need to deal with natural resources much more efficiently. Organic agriculture is not efficient or sustainable from an ecological point of view.'

Re:act