Industrialized Food Production: A Dangerous Path
When visiting the grocery store, shoppers are bombarded with pleasant photos of farmers in their fields. This idyllic agricultural way of life may have existed in the past, but today’s farms are much different. In our modern era, a revolution has taken place and food production has changed dramatically. The industrialized method of food production has created a dangerous and unsustainable system. Choosing locally sourced foods is beneficial to the planet, health, and local economies. The 100 mile diet has brought attention to this important subject and made people aware of the impact of food choices. Humans began farming over 9000 years ago, and many technological advancements have occurred since that time (Mintz, Du Bois, 101). Most significantly in the modern era, the green revolution changed the way food was grown. The green revolution allowed for intensification of food resources, intended to alleviate world hunger (Bourlag). Lead by Norman Bourlag, hybrid variations of wheat were bred to produce higher yields and be two to three times more resistant to disease. Success was achieved, but has created more issues. From 1950 to 1999 production on the same size acreage increased 170%, producing 1.9 billion tonnes of grain (Bourlag). However, copious amounts of fertilizers need to be added to the soil to support this production; this leads to more chemical run-off and contamination of water sources. Another major problem is that the hybrid seeds lead to development of genetically engineered seeds. These grains are patented by large corporations, causing costs to rise and taking control away from farmers. The local farmer no longer has control over how they grow crops or run their farm. Large companies like Monsanto hold all the power. The genetically modified seeds that are needed for the high yields are patented, and farmers are forced to purchase new seeds each year (Food Inc.). For centuries, farmers have been able to save seeds from their crops for planting the following year. With the introduction of patents, farmers now face massive lawsuits if they try to reuse seeds. Even though many farmers do not want to use the modified seeds, it is nearly impossible because of cross contamination. Mark Anslow provides an example of one Canadian farmer: Percy Schmeiser. He found that sixty percent of his crop had been contaminated by Monsanto engineered seeds carried onto his land by the wind (12). Even though Schmeiser did not plant or want the seeds, he still faced intimidation and lawsuits from the giant biotechnology company (Anslow, 13). The power held by these agribusiness giants controls what farmers can do. The control held by corporations is not limited to grains and seeds, it extends into poultry and livestock. The high demand for meat created by the multitudes of fast food restaurants has completely changed the way animals are raised. Factory farming techniques produce plump animals from small areas. About 10 billion animals are raised and killed for food every year in the United States, many of these inhumanely ("Humane Eating : The Humane Society of the United States."). Laying hens are kept in cages so small they cannot even move. In addition, animals have been bred for meat production, leading to chickens with breasts so heavy they can barely walk; chickens often die from their own weight (_Food Inc_.). Cattle are raised in small pens with no area to graze. Instead, they are fattened up with corn (Nierenberg, 22). These feedlots are seas of manure and disease. Farmers are pressured by that large companies they hold contracts with to have the latest technologies. This means taking on massive debt that forces farmers to continue producing for that company, even if they do not agree with the practices. For example, poultry producers working for Tyson, one of the largest companies, have been forced to “upgrade” chicken houses to be large sheds with no natural...
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