Thursday, June 9, 2011

Biosolids: Advantages v.s. Disadvantages!

Left: a picture of biosolid being poured onto a hand

Biosolids are the organic waste that has been treated under large tanks known as “digesters”. The purposes of the digesters are reduce odours and to break down the bacteria living in biosolids. The term biosolids may sound disgusting because it is formed from organic waste, but did you know that they play a huge role in our society? That’s right, biosolids act as fertilizers in our farms to stimulate the growth of crops.

Above: Biosolid being distrubted onto the grounds

Before biosolids were introduced to us, our environment suffered from the increasing mountains of organic waste dumped into waste lands and contamination to the rivers. Now that biosolids are used as fertilizers, it has help reduce the piling of organic waste and clear pollutio such as contamination in the water and atmosphere. Not only do they improve the land, they are also seen as excellent sources of fertilizers for many reasons:

  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, copper, and other nutrients are present in biosolid, which are important components into aiding the growth of crops
  • Humus is found in biosolid and can be used to store water and nutrients
  • Phosphorus is an essential nutrient because it is found in every living plant cell and is used to transform energy in the plant cells into proteins, lipids, and metabolic efficiency (Ogg 1).
  • Nitrogen is stored in the molecules of the organic waste and is released when growing season is nearing to stimulate the growth of crops
  • Studies show that by using biosolids, trees lacking nutrients will become healthy again and result in longer needles and buds as well as become greener in colour (Wickman 1).

Although the use of biosolids may seem like an advantage to the society, there are also many down sides regarding this product:

  • Over a period of time, the so-called 'nutrients' will build up and damage the soil
  • If biosolid is consumed, there will be a slight chance that the person may become ill
  • Excess proportions of copper, lead, zinc, and mercury may be dangerous to the environment
  • The odour coming from the organic waste may be disturbing to many people
  • Pathogens may be present in biosolid and cause diseases

In conclusion, I would consider that the advantages of biosolids outweigh the disadvantages at this point. My reasoning to it is because biosolid does not seem to be threatening our society, but saving it from the massive pile of organic waste. Imagine if the idea of biowaste has not come to mind, the world would be filled with organic waste and cause pollute to the atmosphere and water. Overall, I would think that as long as biowaste is not causing any outstanding harm towards the society, then this method should be given a chance.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sustainable vs Industrial

Remember when we were little, our teachers would read us books about animals on the farm mooing and quacking in a warm and grassy field. But as we grow up, we’ve learn that the world cannot be based on our little story books. We are now old enough to face the reality and put aside our fantasy from our childhood. Nowadays, farms are divided into two categories; the sustainable agriculture and industrial agriculture.

Cows on a sustainable farm

Sustainable agriculture can be defined as the practice of farming in an eco-friendly manner such as using natural resources to raise their crops and animals. The crops and animals are respected under one harmonious system which includes the treatment of crop rotation, covering crops, soil and nutrient management. By using the eco-friendly methods, plants and animals will be raised in a healthy behaviour and provide a better diet for us to enjoy. Although the food is produced in a more eco-logically friendly routine, the current state of our society does not allow that to take place.

Cows on an industrial farm

With the population increasing daily, the demand for food is crucial to feed our world and that is where the second method comes into play. Industrial agriculture can be described as modern farming that uses unsanitary methods to produce crops and raise animals. The reason why this method is being practiced by many farmers is because it is cost efficient and the time it takes to produce a large amount of products for our society to enjoy.

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Crops contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant which can help fight against cancer
  • Foods are produced without the use of pesticides and other chemicals
  • Animals are raised without the use of antibiotics which cannot be poisonous which prevents the growth of resistance for plants and animals.
  • Animals are not given hormones which provides a steady and healthy growth
  • Animals are treated with respect and are able to wander around in the fields
  • Conserves water resources and keep them from being contaminated by harmful chemicals.

Industrial Agriculture

  • Crops contain more artificial vitamins and minerals as well as preservatives
  • Foods are produced with the use of pesticides and that increases the risk of cancer
  • Animals are raised with the use of antibiotics which can be costly and be less effective for us when treated with a sickness
  • Animals are given hormones which speed up their growth and increase the risk of cancer
  • Animals are placed in a crowded area with limited sunlight and fresh air
  • Contaminates their water with harmful chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, and manure

Based upon the comparison mentioned above, I am in favour of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture provides a healthy and clean environment for both the animals and humans to coexist. Although the industrial agriculture may benefit a bigger part of the world by providing it with more food, it does so at the cost of our environment, which our future generations will grow up in. By using the sustainable agriculture, we are protecting our environment and making it a better place for us to live in.


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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Help Save a Life... or Design a Baby!

Designer baby is a term used to describe the modification of embryos by choosing desirable characteristics for the baby through a process called InVitro Fertilisation. It is the act of inserting an egg and some sperm into a test tube in order to alter its genetic information. Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is also used in creating a designer baby with the aid of two techniques. The first one is to choose the type of sperm used to fertilise the egg- that way one can determine the sex and genes of the baby. The other method is screening embryos for any genetic disease; in this process, diseases will be analysed and removed. The purpose of removing the gene that contains the disease is to ensure a healthy baby and avoid the inheritance of genetic diseases. The embryo will then be safely implanted back into the mother.

Judging from the two methods mentioned above, I am somewhat in favour of the ethically and socially impacts the process used to create a designer baby causes in the society. From an ethical stand point, I would like to say that I strongly agree with the idea of removing the disease-causing genes. This way, the baby will grow up to be healthy and won’t need to worry about a family history of diseases it will bring upon its descendants. Also, I think that it is a good idea for those parents who would want to save their child, who has inherited a serious disease, by allowing the practice of PGD on their child to another. Although that option is quite possible, it does concern me to imagine anyone who would give birth to a precious baby just to have them donate to their older sibling. I think it’s ethically wrong to play with one’s life just because they have the power to do so. In addition, I find it morally wrong how people will come up with such an idea behind the whole PGD process to create another feature that can be applied to the embryo to change certain characteristics inherited in a child such as the colour of their eyes, skins, hairs, etc..

Are you getting frustrated from reading all of this? Don’t you think it’s immorally wrong to perform such acts in the first place? Sure, we can help save millions of lives; but what about those who find this new technology beneficial? But do you realize how this one technology would unbalance the society; it would be having a new race of ‘super humans’! The babies will grow up to be perfect beings with shocking characteristics that will set a border between those who lack those abilities. The idea of designing a perfect being is wrong because people should treat each other with dignity for who they are despite the ability they lack to become perfect beings.

In the end, this technology to me seems like it can be publically acceptable but at the same time, I would not agree for it to be used to differentiate others because that would destroy the primary purpose of this wonderful technology.

" Bird 1: What are you carrying?
Bird 2: The same thing you're carrying; a tube from a lab used to design babies."

"Go home and install this program and play around with itand let us know which baby you would prefer!"


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Friday, October 15, 2010

Old McDonald Had a Farm...

...E-I-E-I-O and on his farm he had a- oh wait! This is biology, not vocals!

Food and animals raised in organic farms.

Do you know what organic farming is? It’s okay if you don’t, because after reading all of THIS, you will have a general idea of what it is and how it benefits biodiversity.

Organic farming utilizes natural methods to raise crops to maintain the quality of the soil and the surrounding environment. Farmers use birds and other insects to eliminate the pests by consuming them; therefore avoiding the use of pesticides. When there are weeds that need to be pulled out, farmers usually hand-pick and plough them instead of pouring dangerous chemicals into the field to destroy the weeds. When it comes to farm animals, they are left in the open, allowing them to breathe fresh air and are fed with organic food to maintain a proper healthy diet and to prevent diseases. Lastly, farmers try to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil when they fertilize the plants. Those organic matters include animal dung and urine, and adding decomposed plants into the soil. All of these methods used when farming are renewable and very eco-friendly.

A chart that compares conventional farming and organic farming.

Have you ever thought about the difference between organic and conventional farming? Well, conventional farming uses non-renewable and harmful methods that can affect us and biodiversity. When it comes to getting rid of pests and weeds, farmers use pesticides such as insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides and that can be harmful to the environment in long term usage. The farm animals are kept indoors and live in extremely crowded and foul conditions and that causes the animals to get sick. When animals are sick, farmers feed them anti-biotics for a long period of time and that can weaken the animal’s physical strength and it is bad if humans consume the animals along with the anti-biotics. Last but not least, conventional farming uses chemicals to fertilize their crops and heavy machinery run over the tilth which decreases the amount of nutrients packed in the soil. Overall, the routine of conventional farming does not benefit biodiversity; instead it causes harm to its surrounding areas and other people around it.

After reading this, you may ask why and how organic farming benefits biodiversity, right? From the methods mentioned above, we know that organic farming uses natural methods to process crops instead of a non-renewable manner. The reason why organic farming is beneficial is because they try to preserve and improve the biodiversity at the same time. Organic farming uses less water because of the huge amount of nutrients the soil contains and that allows the soil to store more water. When the crops are healthy they will benefit the biodiversity because then the wildlife would also consume a healthier diet when they feed off of the plants. By avoiding the usage of chemicals in plants and animals, it will decrease the chances of spreading diseases and lowering biodiversity. Basically, organic farming uses natural methods and renewable sources to benefit the biodiversity.

A monarch feeding off of a flower.


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