Industrialized Agriculture Sustainability Thesis

Pages: 4 (1458 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

Industrialized Agriculture

Sustainability

We are what we reap: Sustainable vs. industrialized agriculture in America

What is commonly referred to a 'conventional' agriculture, or the type of industrialized farming that is the norm in America is actually a fairly recent development. Ironically, although conventionally practiced, conventional agricultural is anything but natural -- a better term might be mass-produced agriculture, as it is based on a similar profit model to the big food and restaurant corporations whose interests it serves. Conventional agriculture is characterized by mechanization, not simply in terms of harvesting, but also in the mechanical way even animals raised for food and dairy production are kept. It is characterized by monocultures, as a single crop is grown for profit, and the needs of the market drive the selection of the crop, not human health or the quality of the soul. It is also characterized by the use of synthetic inputs into the soil "such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, with an emphasis on maximizing productivity and profitability" (Organic agriculture: A glossary of terms, 2009, UC-Davis.). It often does not produce basic foods like meat, dairy, and produce, but is used in the creation of industrialized, processed food, or in the case of corn and ethanol, non-foods.

Industrialized agriculture has become standard only since World War II in the developed world. In contrast, although it is practiced far less, and on a much smaller scale today, sustainable agriculture was the norm for many centuries. "Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals -- environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance. Stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of laborers, the needs of rural communities, and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future. Stewardship of land and natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long-term" (Feenstra, Ingels, & Campbell 2009). Rotating crops, truly free-ranging animals, and minimally processed foods are its cornerstones.

Popular interest in sustainable agriculture, long an obsession of the environmental and vegetarian movements, has peaked in recent decades, partially out of concern for human health in the wake of the obesity epidemic. The UC-Berkley professor and journalist Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore's Dilemma and in Defense of Food has been sustainability's most notable voice of reason in the popular media. Pollan argues that Americans, because of agricultural subsidies to large-scale farms, have become 'the people of corn,' or rather, the people of high-fructose corn syrup. He is a vocal critic of agricultural monocultures. He dates the severity of our current obesity epidemic back to the 1970s, when in response to high food prices the Nixon Administration "dropped the target price for grain and inaugurated a new subsidy system, which eventually replaced nonrecourse loans with direct payments to farmers" (Pollan 2006). Instead of paying farmers not to overproduce, as was the case in the 1930s, "the government offered to simply cut them a check, freeing them to dump their harvests on the market no matter what the price… [Now] Big Food, working with the farm-state Congressional delegations it lavishly supports, consistently lobbies to maintain a farm policy geared to high production and cheap grain. (Pollan 2006).

Corn monocultures are not simply bad for the soil, which must be constantly replenished with chemical fertilizers as crops are not being rotated properly; they are bad for the health of the human species. "Cheap corn, transformed into cheap beef, is what allowed McDonald's to supersize its burgers and still sell many of them for no more than a dollar. Cheap corn gave us a whole raft of new highly processed foods, including the world-beating chicken nugget, which, if you study its ingredients, you discover is really a most ingenious transubstantiation of corn, from the corn-fed chicken it contains to the bulking and binding agents that hold it together.' (Pollan 2003). It is also cheap corn that feeds industrially-raised cattle that are fattened on industrial corn they cannot even digest without the aid of antibiotics. This makes them more prone to develop e.coli infections, as they are not eating grass which is their natural diet. Mark Bittman,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Industrialized Agriculture Sustainability.  (2009, March 31).  Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/industrialized-agriculture-sustainability/629333

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"Industrialized Agriculture Sustainability."  Essaytown.com.  March 31, 2009.  Accessed December 15, 2018.
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