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Sustainable vs Ind. Farm

Industrial Farming vs. Sustainable Farming

Commercial or Industrial farming has become part of an increasingly global economy that turns anything it touches into a commodity, reaching its tentacles wherever in the world a food can be produced cheaply and then transporting it wherever it can be sold most dearly. The basic strategy of a commodity is to produce for less.  The classic way for commercial farmers to lower costs of their products is by substituting capital, mechanization, new technology, and fossil fuel energy for skilled labor-----and then stepping up production exploiting the economies of scale to compensate for shrinking profit margins. In a commodity business a producer must grow ever bigger or be crushed by a competitor who does.

Sustainable farming aims to produce something special; healthy food in an environmentally friendly manner. Organic or natural food production relies as much as possible on free solar energy rather than on costly fossil fuels, animal and food waste for fertilizer, and organic materials for compost and mulch. Sustainable farming requires numerous skills and is far more labor intensive.  (tft)

Some Important Agricultural Facts:   

The United States is the world’s leader in industrialized farming yet, the U. S. has the biggest gap between rich and poor than any other industrialized nation. .  (tft)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12policy-t.html

Next to automobiles, the U.S. food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy -- 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do -- as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air.

But the 20th century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food.

Put another way, when we eat from the industrial food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis -- a process based on making food energy from sunshine. But there is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

Sustainable vs. Industrial   Industrial Farming vs Sustainable Farming


Have you ever wondered exactly how sustainable agriculture is better than industrial? The chart
below is an easy reference that quickly and easily shows how sustainable farming is much more beneficial than industrial agriculture.

 

Health

 

Sustainable farms produce foods without excessive use of pesticides and other Organic Fruits and Vegetables are Healthierhazardous chemical inputs. Research indicates that sustainable foods are often healthier than industrially produced foods.

• Organic foods contain higher levels of antioxidants, which help fight certain types of cancer.i

• Organic crops contain significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.ii


Industrial crops contain more nitrates. iv

• Heavy use of pesticides is associated with elevated cancer risks. iii  Pesticides Kill Plants, Animals, Fish, Insects and You

• Unsanitary conditions in factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses cause high levels of meat contamination which has resulted in recurrent epidemics of food borne illness. In the US, food borne illness sickens 76 million people, causes 325,000 hospitalizations, and kills 5,000 people every year.v

• A 1998 study by Consumer Reports revealed that 71% of store-bought chicken were contaminated with Campylobacter and/or Salmonella; bacteria responsible for thousands of deaths and millions of sicknesses.vi

 

Environment

 

Healthy Farm StreamSustainable farmers recognize the importance of protecting the natural environment. These individuals manage their farms in a responsible manner, maintaining the fertility of the land and preserving resources for future generations.


Industrial agriculture practices are responsible for a Poisoned Streamhost of environmental problems, including erosion, the reduction of genetic diversity, and pollution of our air, water, and soil with hazardous gasses, toxic chemicals, and harmful pathogens.

• Industrial farms cause $34.7 billion worth of environmental damage in the US each year.vii

 

Animal Welfare

 

Sustainably-raised animals are treated humanely and are permitted to carry out natural behaviors such as rooting in the dirt and pecking the ground.


Factory-farmed animals are crammed together in tightly confined areas. Unsanitary conditions in animal confinement units cause widespread disease and aggressive behavior.

• Most animals never see sunlight and their feet never touch the ground.

 

Waste

 

Sustainable farms do not raise more animals than the land is capable of sustaining. Farmers are able to use manure as fertilizer for their crops. This eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers and avoids the pollution problems associated with manure lagoons.


• Since factory farms concentrate an enormous amount of animals in a very small area, the farms generate far too much manure to be absorbed by the land. Excess manure is stored in huge holding tanks or manure lagoons, and is often over-applied to fields. Not only does all this manure create an overwhelming stench, it also releases hazardous gases into the air, and
often contaminates local groundwater and surrounding waterways with pathogens and excess nutrients.

• A Factory Farm containing 5,000 hogs can produce as much solid waste as a human city of 20,000 – unlike cities, these industrial farms are not required to have a sewage treatment plan.viii

 

Pesticides

 

Sustainable farms often rely upon alternative pest control methods such as habitat manipulation, biological control, and use of pest-resistant plant varieties.

• Chemical pesticides are either excluded from production entirely, or used only in small amounts when other pest-control methods are ineffective.


Industrial agriculture operations use huge amounts of toxic pesticides to eliminate pests. These chemicals are known to damage the environment and human health.

• According to the EPA, over 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the US every year.x

• In 2002, 69,000 children suffered from pesticide related poisoning or exposure to poisonous pesticides.xi

 

Antibiotics

 

• Animals are raised without routine use of antibiotics, and antibiotics are administered only if an animal is sick. Some farmers (such as organic farmers) do not give any antibiotics to their animals.


• Every year, approximately 25 million pounds of antibiotics and related drugs are administered to animals for non-therapeutic purposes. This is more than 8 times the amount used to treat disease in humans.xii

• Overuse of antibiotics is contributing to antibiotic resistance, making human medicines less effective and causing US health care costs to increase by $4 billion each year.xiii

 

Hormones

 

• Hormones are not administered to animals on sustainable farms. This protects human health, animal health, and the natural environment, which is otherwise polluted with hormone residues contained in manure.


• Hormones are given to beef cattle in order to speed up their growth, and they are administered to about two-thirds of American cattle.xiv This widespread use of artificial hormones is concerning, because no comprehensive studies had been conducted to determine whether hormone residues in meat can be cancer-causing. xv

Industrial dairy farms also use a hormone called rBGH to increase milk production. Cows injected with rBGH have been known to develop an udder disease called mastitis, hoof diseases, open sores and internal bleeding.xvi

• rBGH has been proven to damage the health of cows and is banned by the EU and Canada.

 

Genetic Diversity

 

Sustainable farms help preserve genetic diversity by raising a wide range of animal breeds and crop varieties.

• These farmers raise animal and plant varieties that are adapted to the surrounding environment, thus avoiding reliance upon large quantities of chemical inputs or genetically modified crop varieties.

• They raise animal and plant varieties that are adapted to the surrounding environment, thus avoiding reliance upon large quantities of chemical inputs or genetically modified crop varieties.


• Large-scale industrial farms rely upon monoculture crop systems, thereby reducing genetic diversity. They also reduce genetic diversity in animals because they only raise a few selected breeds.

• The use of genetically engineered crops further impedes genetic diversity.

 

Fossil Fuel

 

Sustainable farms minimize fossil fuel consumption through techniques such as no-tillage or low-tillage farming, efficient application of manure, and crop rotation.

• Small-scale, organic farming operations have been shown to use 60% less fossil fuel per unit of food than conventional industrial farms. xvii


• Energy-intensive production methods are used to produce food. Large amounts of fossil fuel are required to plow fields, produce fertilizers, process foods, and transport foods.

• As a result of industrial farming practices, 17% of all fossil fuel used in the US is currently consumed by the food production system.xviii

 

Transportation

 

• Rather than shipping food thousands of miles away, sustainable farms sell produce locally through farmers markets, farm stands, or community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. This prevents environmental damage and human health problems caused by transportation-generated pollution.

• Foods purchased locally are also fresher, and therefore contain more nutrients.


Large-scale, centralized production requires extensive food transportation.

• Conventional produce, for example, is shipped an average of 1,500 miles before reaching consumers.

• In order to facilitate long distance shipment, foods are highly processed, supplemented

with preservatives, and require excessive packaging.

 

Economic Development/ Rural Communities

 

Sustainable farms support local economies by providing jobs for members of the community and by purchasing supplies and materials from local businesses.

• Studies have shown that small farms spend a much larger portion of their income within the local community than large farms do.xix

• Owners of small, sustainable farms are actively involved in their communities, boosting the level of civic participation and helping to build resilient rural communities.


Factory farms hire as few workers as possible and typically purchase equipment, supplies, and animal feed from companies outside the region. This causes economic stagnation in struggling rural communities.

• Local governments are often forced to pay for expensive infrastructure development projects, such as paving roads for large trucks.

• A 1996 study determined that the value of homes in Iowa located within ½ mile of a CAFO were reduced by 40%, within 1 mile by 30%, 1.5 miles by 20% and 2 miles by 10%.xx

• The focus is on gaining short-term profit, with minimal concern for the environment or the well-being future generations.

 

Workers

 

Sustainable farm owners provide a safe working environment and treat their employees with dignity and respect.


Factory farm laborers often endure dangerous and unhealthy working conditions.

• Among the most serious hazards faced by workers is routine exposure to dust and gases emitted from concentrated manure.

• 58% of swine confinement workers suffer from chronic bronchitis – this is three times higher than the incidence of chronic bronchitis among workers in conventional swine housing units.xxi



Sources

 

i.              http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/polyphenolics031203.cfm How Sustainable Ag Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture.

ii.             Nutritional Quality of Organic Vs. Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains (PDF) Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine 2001;7;2:161–173

"Organic crops contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops. There were non-significant trends showing less protein but of a better quality and a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones." http://www.organicts.com/organic_info/articles/downloads/organic.pdf

iii.            http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2002/110p445-456horrigan/EHP110p445PDF.PDF

iv.           Nutritional Quality of Organic Vs. Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains (PDF)

Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine 2001;7;2:161–173

"Organic crops contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops. There were non-significant trends showing less protein but of a better quality and a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones." http://www.organicts.com/organic_info/articles/downloads/organic.pdf

v.            David Brubaker, Industrial Animal Production in the United States : Shelton , D "Sources of Pathogens in a Watershed: Humans, Wildlife, Farm Animals?" USDA/ARS position paper, April 2000.

vi.           Consumer's Union . “Press Release: Consumer Reports Finds 71 Percent of Store-Bought Chicken Contains Harmful Bacteria” February 23, 1998. http://www.consumersunion.org/food/chickbacny698.htm

vii.          Norberg-Hodge, Helena , Todd Merrifield,; and Steven Gorelick. Bringing the Food Economy Home: Local Alternatives to Global Agribusiness. Bloomfield , CT : Kumarian Press, Inc. 2002.

viii.         Walker, Polly and Robert Lawrence. “American Meat: A Threat to Your Health and to the Environment” Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. Vol IV:1 Winter 2004.

ix.           Horrigan, Leo, Robert S. Lawrence, and Polly Walker. “How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture.” Environmental Health Perspectives Vol 110, 5 May 2002.

x.            U.S. EPA. “Pesticides – The EPA and Food Security” April 2004. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/securty.htm

xi.           US EPA “Pesticides and Child Safety” EPA February 2004. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/childsaf.htm

xii.          Union of Concerned Scientists. “Food and Environment: Antibiotic Resistance.” UCS October 2003.

http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/antibiotic_resistance/index.cfm

xiii.         Keep Antibiotics Working. “Antibiotic Resistance: A Growing Health Threat to You and Your Family.” Keep Antibiotics Working. August 2003.

xiv.         Raloff, Janet. “Hormones: Here's the Beef: environmental concerns reemerge over steroids given to livestock.” Science News 161, no. 1, January 5, 2002, 10.

xv.          The Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health. “Assessment of Potential Risks to Human Health from Hormone Residues in Bovine Meat and Meat Products.” European Commission, April 30, 1999.

xvi.         Christiansen, Andrew. “Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone: Alarming Tests, Unfounded Approval.” Rural Vermont, 1995.

xvii.        Norberg-Hodge, Helena , Todd Merrifield, and Steven Gorelick. Bringing The Food Economy Home: Local Alternatives to Global Agribusiness. Bloomfield , CT : Kumarian Press. 2002. p.45

xviii.       Horrigan, Leo, Robert S. Lawrence, and Polly Walker. “How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture.” Environmental Health Perspectives Vol 110, 5 May 2002.

xix.         Chism and Levins 1994 as cited by William Weida “Considering the Rationales for Factory Farming” GrassRoots Action Center for the Environment 2004. http://www.factoryfarm.org/docs/Foundations_of_Sand.doc

xx.          Padgett and Johnson 1996 as cited by William Weida “Considering the Rationales for Factory Farming” Grass Roots Action Center for the Environment 2004. http://www.factoryfarm.org/docs/Foundations_of_Sand.doc

18 Iowa State University . “Livestock Confinement Dust and Gases” Iowa State University ; University Extension. 1992

http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001501-d001600/d001501/d001501.html

xxi.         Iowa State University . “Livestock Confinement Dust and Gases” Iowa State University ; University Extension. 1992

http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001501-d001600/d001501/d001501.html


 

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