Term Paper: Issue With Food Supply

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¶ … Food Supply

Technology, Industrialization, and the Problem of the Modern Food Industry

One of the interesting features of modernity is that human beings today are almost obsessed with efficiency, trying to achieve the maximum at the shortest time, get the most out of least effort, and earn as much profit as possible. There is certainly nothing wrong with efficiency -- it is essentially a good thing -- but the way efficiency is pursued today somehow blinds people to the extent that they no longer see hidden costs of many of their efforts. For example, because of too much focus on the directly quantifiable costs of production, industries, and to a lesser extent ordinary folks, cannot differentiate between the price of producing a good and the cost of it. This is most evident in the way the food industry operates today. Attempts to maximize the food production while spending less and working less have made us negligent to the hidden costs of this business -- costs such as irreparable damage done to the Earth's crust, atmosphere, and human health.

The nature without human intervention operates in a balanced and cyclic way, where every living organism and chemical contributes to overall stability. McDonough and Braungart (2002) explain that the system of nutrients and metabolism in nature make sure that there is no such thing as waste. For instance, extra blossoms on trees that fall are not useless. They decompose on the ground and feed a variety of organisms and microorganisms, while also enriching the soil. Another example is how carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and animals are taken in by plants for their own growth. Animal dung is the safest and most natural fertilizer humans have used for ages. In other words, the cycling and recycling of the Earth's nutrients in a natural way ensures that "waste equals food" (McDonough and Braungart, 2002, p. 92).

This natural equilibrium of the Earth's ecosystem, however, was disrupted by the Industrial Revolution when humans began to alter the equilibrium, taking away substances from the land and altering them substantially, making the return of these substances to the soil almost impossible (McDonough and Braungart, 2002, pp. 98, 101-2). With the technological development during Industrialization, which allowed better transportation and more efficient means of harvesting and gathering agricultural products, people began massively transfer nutrients from place to place, disrupting the natural balance that ensured ecological stability (ibid, p. 96). Efficiency of the industrial era led to the development of consumer societies, which further disrupted the Earth's natural equilibrium and damaged the ecosystem. For example, many people today prefer dumping recyclable products that contain toxic materials into landfills rather than reuse or repair them. And many businesses that produce goods operate in such a manner that recycling is not profitable; so they package products in such a way that they cannot be reused (ibid, p. 98). People buy more, allowing producers to earn more, but this seemingly profitable way of running businesses has hidden costs that may turn out to be too costly for humans and the planet in the long run.

Since the beginning of the industrial age, people learned the values of technology and efficiency, assuming that with smart brains and machinery, people could conquer the nature. With this faulty mindset, humans calculate the costs of production in terms of price rather than cost although business accounts often confuse the two words. In agriculture, there… [END OF PREVIEW]

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