Monday, April 27, 2009

People in the developed world spend the least fractions of their household expenditure on food. ("We should all thank our productive and efficient farmers and ranchers for making that bargain possible." - Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture) Does this reflect the true costs of industrial agriculture?

Environmental costs:

Intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers seriously pollute our water, soil, and air. ... animal factories produce 1.3 billion tons of manure each year. Laden with chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones, the manure leaches into rivers and water tables, polluting drinking supplies and causing fish kills. ... Currently, consumers pay billions of dollars annually in environmental costs directly attributed to industrial food production, not including the loss of biodiversity and topsoil...
Health costs:
Conventional analyses also ignore the human health costs of consuming industrial foods, including the contribution of pesticides, hormones and other chemical inputs to our current cancer epidemic... Taken together, these medical health costs [of cancer, food borne illnesses, obesity, diabetes etc.] are clearly in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Tax subsidies:
Price supports, price "fixing", tax credits, and product promotion are all forms of welfare for agribusiness. ... Taken together, these subsidies add almost $3 billion to the hidden cost of food to consumers.
In conclusion:
When we calculate the real price, it is clear that far from being cheap, our current food production system is imposing staggering monetary burdens on us and future generations [in the form of environmental, health and social costs]. By contrast, non-industrial food production significantly reduces, and can even eliminate most of these costs.
- pg 54-55, Fatal Harvest.

This is the third in the series of excerpts from the book Fatal Harvest. While these facts are now much better known, at least in the "organic lifestyle" community in the first world, industrial farming practices are increasingly being promoted by corporations and governments in the developing world. Hence, I am posting these excerpts so that they are available to everyone who is interested in this issue.



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