||THE POLITICS OF INDUSTRIAL
The Politics of Industrial
Agriculture by Tracey-Clunies Ross and Nicholas
Hildyard, records the results of a research and study
programme by The Ecologist, one of the world's
leading environmental journals. A long list of
internationally respected specialists in the area of food
production and agriculture land use contributed. The
author's conclusions are complementary to those of Farming In Nature's Image. Both studies
reflect the view of the international NGO movement.
industrialisation of food production, processing and
marketing within fewer and fewer corporations is a
continuing process that has not yet run its course. It is
important to recognise the nature of this process when
considering the question of sustainability of food
production technology and practice.
chapter 1 the following major impacts are identified:
of thousands of farmers and farm workers have
been thrown off the land, either because machines
and chemicals have made them redundant, or
because the high costs of farming have pushed
them over the brink into bankruptcy;
the use of agrochemicals and the drive to
maximise productivity, together have caused
massive environmental degradation - both at farm
level and beyond;
output has not brought a healthier, better-fed
population; on the contrary, problems of food
scarcity have been replaced by the threat of
production-related contamination of food with
agrochemicals and bacteria;
have become a mere cog in the food production
process: bred for early maturity, crammed in
together in their thousands, and routinely fed
growth promoters and medicaments, their welfare;
their health and those who eat them have been
ignored in the quest for cheap food.
World countries have suffered economic ruin and
exacerbated famine as their own economies have
been sucked into a world trading system which
uses their land to provide food for people and
animals of Northern countries while their farmers
have to compete with surpluses dumped on the
world market at subsidised prices by the North.
the very basis of agriculture is being undermined by the
expansion of the wider industrial economy. The energy
balance sheet is paid little attention, and global
warming threatens to render many areas either less
producive or completely unproductive.
separately, these adverse impacts of industrial
agriculture might be held to be mere side effects of an
otherwise successful system; taken together, they paint a
picture of a system that is destructive, socially unjust
and unsustainable. It is also a system in deep and
specific effects of industrial agriculture are:
compaction through heavy machinery reducing
the ability of soil to absorb water, which runs
off the soil, causing erosion. Hard layers or
"lenses" of compacted soil are formed
well below the surface. These impede growth of
plant roots, the flow of water, the transport of
nutrients and the flow of moisture in the soil.
Yields are significantly reduced.
and waterlogging in many areas from personal
irrigation has caused salinisation. Irrigation
agriculture has waterlogged soils, causing salt
to rise to the surface, turning vast areas into
salt encrusted desert, useless for agriculture.
depletion - Irrigated agriculture has led to
massive overexploitation of groundwaters, drying
up wells and forcing land out of production on a
the San Jaoquin valley of California, a major US
intensive farming region, the rate of ground
pumping exceeds replenishment by over 2.3
trillion litres a year. By 2000AD, demand is
expected to double.
and surface water pollution. In the US, 50
million citizens are at risk from pesticide
contamination, affecting 26 states.
yields decrease, so chemical input increases in response
to maintain production. This process is terminal, and
sooner or later declining yields worldwide are inevitable
in a downward spiral of diminishing food supply. How are
increasing millions of people - nearly 100 million a year
- to be fed in the next century? It is time serious
consideration was given to the many factors causing the
trend to increasing food insecurity manifested so clearly
in environmental degradation and public health concerns.
laws of thermodynamics make it clear that science and
technology cannot find any long-term answers.
Source: The Ecologist.