Organic Farming and World Hunger
I believe the only ethical type of organic farming is that of animal products. Organic plant and grain farms should be abolished and replaced with conventional ones and all factory farms should be replaced with organic animal farms. Organic plant and grain farms contradict global efforts to eliminate world hunger, and therefore, it is unjust to support them. In this paper, I will use the utilitarian moral theory to prove my view as the most ethical plan for worldwide agriculture.
The most substantive argument against organic plant and grain farming, which from now on will be referred to as organic non-animal farming, is an appeal to the environment, and the human rights implications that follow. Studies have shown that organic farms usually yield only 50-80% of that of a conventional farm (Wilcox). Therefore, a conventional non-animal farm could yield more produce in less space. The less efficient, organic non-animal farm impacts the environment more by taking up more space.
From a utilitarian perspective, all benefits to organic non-animal farming are insignificant when compared to the needs and rights of people. The difference between the impact of organic and nonorganic pesticides on human health and the environment has not been conclusively proven (Weisberg). Any health or environmental benefit from organic non-animal farms is insignificant compared to a person’s right to adequate nourishment. Any damage due to the pesticides of conventional non-animal farms is negligible in the need to feed those who suffer from famine.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are being developed to assist the hungry and malnourished. There are approximately 800 million people who lack appropriate nourishment, roughly one million of whom will die of starvation (Wilcox). Promoting organic non-animal farming would not only stifle this effort, as organic farms do not advocate GMOs, but increase the number of suffering people, as lower crop yields means less people fed.
Although supporting organic non-animal farms is unethical, organic animal farms are another story. Many utilitarians, like Peter Singer, argue it is morally impermissible to support factory farms, and I agree. I believe organic animal farming practices are permitted as, using the utilitarian theory, we must weigh the interests of nonhuman animals equally to the interests of humans. We must consider whether animals’ suffering in factory farms creates more wellbeing than the suffering of hungry and malnourished people. I believe that the extreme suffering of animals in factory farms is not worth the benefit people gain from their slaughter. Plants and grains should be considered commodities, whereas animals should be considered sentient beings. I have come to this conclusion from the additional benefits that would be provided for people if all organic plant farming practices were abolished.
If we follow my views, there will be an increase in the yield of plant production, which can assist in feeding the hungry. GMOs will be used more frequently to assist in feeding the hungry, and the yield of GMO plants would increase, as the abolished organic non-animal farms would be replaced by conventional ones that are not against using GMOs. We do not need to increase the amount of land dedicated to agricultural use, as replacing all organic non-animal farms with conventional farms will augment the total yield. It is undeniable that organic animal farms will be less efficient than factory farms, and therefore, less animals will be raised. If this is the case, however, less plants and grain would be spent to raise them, and could be distributed amongst the hungry, providing more nourishment than the animal itself. The additional space could also be used to manufacture more efficient, protein-rich products, such as soybeans.
One could object and argue that the collective action problem, the typical objection to most utilitarian arguments, would refute this argument. In this case, however, it is an inadequate objection as my view still allows for people to do what is in their interest. It is the interest of the meat-eater to simply consume animal products, regardless of whether they were raised on an organic or factory farm. The abolition of organic non-animal farms and factory farms still allow people to do what is in their best interest, while still making ethical choices.
One could also argue that allowing damage to be done to the environment for the sake of suffering people today would, as a consequence, harm the lives of future generations. It is incorrect to assume organic non-animal farming is better for the environment. Factory organic farms use their own set of organic pesticides which can still damage the environment (Wilcox). In addition, their reluctance to use GMOs prevents them from using practices that improve the impact of farming on the environment (Wilcox). Therefore, organic or conventional, the environment is still severely affected.
Ultimately, the utilitarian theory supports my belief that all organic non-animal farms should be replaced with conventional farming practices and factory farms should be replaced with organic animal farms. There is no conclusive evidence that nonorganic pesticides damage the environment more than organic pesticides, the use of GMOs and the increase of crop yield will mitigate world hunger, and there would be an increase of general wellbeing for both humans and animals. The individual would be satisfied, as their interests are met, and efforts would be furthered to meet the needs of humankind.
Weisberg, Jonathan. But People are *Hungry*: Feeding a World of Billions. Mississauga. 7 November 2013. Lecture.
Wilcox, Christie. Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture. 18 July 2011. Web. 26 November 2013.