Agribusiness disguises itself as green and talks about agroecology

After thirty years of using transgenic organisms in agriculture, some segments of agribusiness are recognizing the negative impacts on the environment.

However, instead of reflecting on this, they try to present themselves as defenders of agroecology to continue prioritizing profitability over respect for nature and life. “Agroecology is a science and a dialogue of knowledge”explains the member of the INTA Agroecology Network.

After many years of denial, the extensive agribusiness model finally recognizes the economic, social and environmental damage it has caused in the territory. This system, based on the use of chemical inputs, has caused negative impacts at economic, social and environmental levels.

There are those who, in an attempt to appear friendly to the environment, use strategies to “go green”. This implies appropriating concepts such as agroecology and superficially using them as tools to solve problems that they themselves contributed to create. Agroecology is distinguished by being a discipline that arises from the knowledge and experiences of farmers, promoting dialogue between traditional and scientific knowledge.

Accelerated increase and hoarding of agricultural land by agribusiness

Since the mid-1990s, a rapid increase in agricultural area has been observed in Argentina due to the adoption of practices such as direct sowing and the use of transgenic crops, in addition to the use of chemical fertilizers to cover the nutritional needs of agricultural crops and the almost exclusive use of chemically synthesized phytosanitary products for the control of weeds, pests and diseases that affect the productive potential.

Conventional extensive agriculture, with its industrial approach, has been shown to be highly inefficient in terms of energy, social and environmental impact. Meeting the nutritional requirements of crops is achieved through the use of synthetic fertilizers derived from petroleum. These fertilizers generally have low diversity of macro and micronutrients, but are highly soluble in water. In addition, most of these inputs are imported, which impacts the Argentine economy, generating high economic and ecological costs.

Increased consumption of chemically synthesized phytosanitary products

In recent decades we have observed a significant and worrying increase in the annual consumption of chemically synthesized phytosanitary products. In the 1990s, the amount of agrochemicals used annually was less than 50 million kilograms or liters. Currently, the number of kilograms or liters of herbicides used per year exceeds 500 million, with herbicides being the most predominant products. However, this increase has caused the emergence of weeds resistant to several active principles used in their control.

Agriculture based on the use of chemical inputs has caused negative effects on soils in the Pampas region. Because they specialize in production, soils suffer degradation, erosion, compaction and impoverishment, which has generated a negative balance of organic matter and macro and micronutrients, affecting the sustainability of agroecosystems.

Increase of artificial fertilizers in agribusiness

In the last three decades, there has been a notable increase in the consumption of artificial fertilizers and synthetic phytosanitary products per unit area compared to the increase in productivity of agricultural crops. This growth has been about twelve times greater, indicating a greater use of these inputs to maintain and increase agricultural production.

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An example is the increase in the application of agrochemicals per hectare over time. In 1991, 1.95 liters per hectare were used, while in 2020 this figure rose to 16.11 liters per hectare.

Agribusiness in search of a more efficient model

The industrial agriculture model, known as agribusiness, is clearly inefficient, as the amount of product obtained (grains) for each unit of chemical input applied (fertilizers and pesticides) is increasingly smaller. This drop is evident and reflects the need to seek more efficient agricultural models, as it generates negative externalities on the health of food, the environment and people.

Today, it is widely recognized that extensive agriculture with chemical input technology has caused significant economic, social and environmental damage to the territory. However, at the same time, it tries to be prolonged and replicated through various strategies such as implementing climate-smart agricultural approaches, digitizing agriculture and promoting sustainable practices to increase productivity. These actions seek to guarantee the continuous development of the agricultural sector in harmony with the environment.

The implementation of a green economy based on the carbon market offers numerous benefits. In addition to promoting the expansion of wealth, it also contributes to the concentration of economic power and to the balance of international prices. It also allows monetizing the valuable ecosystem services provided by natural resources.

Agroecology is more than just ecological practices and techniques

Agroecology goes beyond the simple application of a set of ecological techniques to improve the sustainability of an agroecosystem. It is a holistic approach that seeks to understand and promote the harmonious interaction between agricultural systems and the surrounding natural ecosystems. It is based on principles such as diversification, nutrient recycling, efficient use of water and protection of natural resources.

To promote agroecology effectively, it is important to plan and carry out a phased approach. This implies working not only at the level of a crop plot, but also redesigning and managing production models that do not use fossil fuels. In this way, it seeks to achieve a more sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture, resilient to climate change and multifunctional to provide different economic, environmental and social services.

In addition, it is necessary to promote the creation of alternative distribution channels for agricultural products from family and peasant agriculture, such as local or proximity markets. The active participation of social movements is essential to establish connections and form strategic alliances between conscious producers and consumers. In this way, a collaborative relationship is fostered that promotes sustainability and responsible consumption.

Agroecology is a versatile tool that addresses multiple dimensions, in addition to technical and productive aspects. Its main objective is to transform the current agro-food system, which is dominant, corporate, globalized, concentrated, extractive and polluting. By adopting agroecological practices, it seeks to promote a more sustainable and equitable approach to food production. At the same time, it invites us to rethink our relationship with the environment and with our fellow human beings, in order to achieve a fairer and more inclusive world for all.

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