Greenhouse crops burn the planet
The cultivation of each agricultural product involves a need for energy (solar, water, nutritional, ecological, etc.). Although complex, it is possible to take stock of the performance of each individual agricultural production, from which it follows that not all cultivation and production methods have the same performance.
Therefore, when we buy an agricultural product we must not only evaluate its competitiveness in terms of market price but a sum that includes the market price and its ecological footprint *.
When one enters specialized, “avant-garde” and / or industrialized agricultural production systems, it is discovered, in light of the ecological footprint calculation, that higher productivity often hides a disproportionately higher use of resources. This is for example the case of growing tomatoes, or other products, in greenhouses compared to those produced in the open.
It turns out that even if the greenhouse productivity of these products is much higher, in the order of 7-9 times, the global ecological footprint of this type of production is between 10-20 times higher than in field cultivation. The result is therefore that the absolute net balance between the two production methods is against the one obtained in the greenhouse; in fact, to obtain an average advantage of 800%, additional resources of the order of 1,500% must be invested (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996).
At this point a paradox of evaluation is created, to which the modern economy must however find a solution; in fact, while the greater production is completely for the benefit of the company, the combined costs with additional resources that also include common resources of global scale, such as the emission of greenhouse gases, the impoverishment of water tables, and so on, weigh heavily part on a much larger and larger system of planetary level. Paradox that also requires political interventions to disadvantage protected production methods in favor of those in the open.
That is why talking about the competitiveness of agricultural products (like many other products) without a joint cost assessment (single ecological footprints) no longer does justice to the real competitiveness of the process.
For this reason we must find economic and monetary solutions that include the entire competitiveness of a process by reconciling the interest of the individual with the global interest of the world community.
* The ecological footprint is a complex indicator used to evaluate the human consumption of natural resources compared to the Earth’s ability to regenerate them. The concept of ecological footprint was introduced by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees in their book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth, published in 1996.