Mass production of corn has had grave environmental implications in the U.S. and across the globe. The environmental hazards arise from reliance on application of insecticides, fertilizers, and herbicides. These chemicals increase agricultural productivity although they also reduce biodiversity simultaneously. Economically, the production of corn has caused a surge in food and fuel costs. Economics Concepts (2011) contends that as more ethanol is produced from corn, the market prices continue to rise. A rise in returns from corn production has led to a decline in the production of other agricultural crops as more land is used in corn production. Decrease in acreage cultivated for other food crops like soybeans is a great concern for food security stakeholders. Solutions to these economic and environmental impacts of mass corn production are the focus of this paper.
First Solution to the Problem
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In order to address the problems of environmental degradation resulting from mass corn production, biological pest control methods needs to be introduced. Part of the crisis caused by corn production is the use of pesticides and herbicides to control the weeds (Ackerman et al, 2003). However, the application of biological pest and weed control approaches would reduce pollution of water and the river caused by spillage and the run-off that carries farm chemicals downstream. Alternative eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides can thus be explored.
Further, instead of using chemical fertilizers, bio-fertilizers should be used. Biological wastes used as fertilizers can reduce the pollution and consequent environmental degradation caused by application of chemical fertilizers in corn production. The bio-fertilizers, available in form of bio-solids can be introduced in mass corn production. However, the bio-fertilizers must also undergo a series of chemical, physical and biological treatment to reduce any potential harmful effects.
The wastes products of the chemical industries that produce herbicides for corn treatment should be recycled instead of being dumped. This will reduce the build-up of wastes and the leaching of toxic substances into the waterways. Discharge of farm wastes to the waterways can therefore be reduced by intercepting and treating all the contaminated chemicals and chemical containers used in the corn farms. The chemical spills that are washed downstream will thus be controlled. This will protect and promote the survival of biodiversity (Sustainable Table, n.d.).
The expansion of corn production is the consequence of its use in the production of ethanol. The U.S. energy needs should therefore be accurately assessed and the alternative energy options that are environmentally-friendly explored. This will reduce extensive production of corn while enhancing environmental stewardship. Besides, alternative energy producing crops which are environmentally friendly such as soybeans can be used especially for biodiesel. Besides, alternative renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal and solar energy should be explored. This will reduce overdependence and production of corn that has had severe implications on the environment.
Second Solution to the Problem
Agricultural and economic problems caused by extensive corn production can be solved through promotion of the plantation of other alternative crops. The increase in acreage under corn production is due to the high market price of corn. This has led to reduction of land for other crops. Therefore, the production of other crops such as soybeans and other food crops should be promoted. This will reduce overdependence on corn which has caused a great threat to food security in U.S. and Mexico.
Deforestation of land for corn production is the cause of soil erosion, depletion and extinction of biodiversity. This problem can be prevented through promotion of forest conservation approaches. Encroachment into forest reserves for agricultural purposes should thus be limited and instead be reversed through promotion of re-forestation approaches, reclamation and restoration of forest lands. This will protect the life of biodiversity while promoting environmental sustainability and preservation of the ecosystem.
On the economic front, trading between U.S. and Mexico on corn and corn products should be regulated and evaluated based on environmental sustainability. For example, world market prices should be determined by the extent to which the production of corn is free from any adverse environmental hazards. Economic policies regulating corn production and promoting environmentally-friendly corn production approaches should thus be promoted.
Action points for Mitigation of Negative impacts of Mass Corn Production
Environmental organizations such as United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and in collaboration with World Food Program (WFP) and World Trade Organization (WTO) should collectively work towards development of effective corn production, marketing and distribution policies, laws and by-laws so that extensive production of the crop does not impede environmental conservation efforts (Great Lakes Commission for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes & Ohio River Division, 2007). The state environmental and agricultural corporations and agencies should develop very clear environmental policy guidelines for corn production. There is thus need for policy changes both at the state, sub-state and farm levels.
The environmental and agricultural organizations should be strict and in fact close down all the corn processing plants or pesticide and herbicide plants that do not adhere to the principles of sustainable agriculture and environment. For this to be realized, clear and accountable standard-setting at every level of corn production and administrative enforcement should be developed. In order to promote environmental accountability and stewardship, the federal state and the county authorities use incentives to motivate adoption of technology that is environmentally-friendly while sanctioning corn production practices that are environmentally hazardous.
Corn production remains to be one of the greatest environment-threatening activities in the U.S. Whereas the energy needs of the U.S. and the food needs of Mexico remains, environmental stewardship remains the key to the realization of food security and meeting of the energy needs of U. S. Much effort is thus needed for the realization of environmental sustainability in corn production.