According to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Nestle corporation, “By 2050, the world will have to feed more than nine billion people. To meet this demand, current levels of global food production must double.” Because of the world’s exponentially increasing population, agricultural means have been forced to increase productivity to be able to support this trend. However, with the growing need of large farming operations around the world also comes the destructive qualities it brings to the environment. Some of the most prominent impacts mass agriculture has had on the earth’s environment are habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and erosion to the earth’s surface.
According to the well-known conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF), about 50% of earth’s habitable land has been converted into some kind of farm land. “This area is still expanding. It is predicted that in developing countries, a further 120 million hectares of natural habitats will be converted to farmland to meet demand for food by 2050. This will include land with high biodiversity value.” These inevitable changes will mean the end of many species of wildlife as their habitats are converted into monoculture environments. Some of the more recent examples of this mass conversion occurs in large areas of the Brazilian savannah and the Amazon have been turned into cattle and soybean farms, as well as areas of the Indonesian rainforests becoming palm oil plantations.
Pollution has also become a very concerning problem as it can directly affect the health of the world’s population and its environments. Due to widespread farming, the use of contaminants such as pesticides and fertilizers has increased about 26 times what was used 50 years ago to produce larger large crops. Due to run-off, these chemicals travel to the world’s water supply and into marine environments as well, disrupting the natural nutrient levels of the water resulting in eutrophication—an increased growth in algae due to an excess of nutrients in the water. The algae in turn depletes the oxygen in the water and is capable of suffocating massive populations of fish and other marine life.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t seem to have a solution for this problem as the needs of the population must be met as time passes. Hopefully through a better understanding of our environment, humans can help reduce the negative effects that mass agriculture has on the earth.