What Is Industrial Agriculture?
Industrial agriculture is defined as “the large-scale, intensive production of crops and animals, often involving chemical fertilizers on crops or the routine, harmful use of antibiotics in animals.” Also known as industrial farming, this production is unsustainable and has a wide range of negative consequences. Here’s a look at the detrimental impacts of industrial agriculture.
Industrial Agriculture Problems
Air and Water Pollution
Industrial agriculture contributes heavily to air pollution, with significant carbon dioxide and methane emissions that fuel climate change and reduce air quality. It’s reported that “3.3 million people die each year as a result of air pollution from industrial animal waste and fertilizer.”
Industrial fertilizer is also a major cause of water pollution. Runoff can leach chemicals like phosphorus and nitrogen into rivers, streams, and groundwater. This can lead to negative health effects in human and animal populations that rely on the polluted water. Nutrient runoff can also create hypoxic areas, or “dead zones,” as dissolved oxygen concentrations are reduced in water.
Industrial farming also contributes to desertification in the US. As unsafe and unsustainable farming practices are continued, soil integrity declines on farmland. This allows more soil to be blown away by the wind, while further degrading the remaining earth. The US Department of State reported back in 1998 that “severe or moderate desertification affects 74% of the land in North America.” Desertification remains a national and global issue today.
Animal welfare is also severely affected by industrial agriculture. Industrial animal farms known as “factory farms” house large numbers of animals in cramped and unhealthy conditions. Inhumane treatment, unhealthy antibiotic usage, and inefficient energy use are all perpetuated by these food systems.
Industrial agriculture can incentivize farmers to grow monoculture crops, a practice also known as monocropping. A simple monoculture definition is “a single crop repeatedly grown on the same land.” This process can lead to soil deterioration, while an overemphasis on single species can leave crops vulnerable to disease.
Environmental Justice Issues
There are also a wide range of environmental justice issues that stem from industrial farming practices. Industrial pollutants disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Migrant farmworkers face unfair disadvantages. Government subsidies are largely given to industrial farms producing commodity crops used in processed foods, rather than sustainable farms producing fruits and vegetables.
For all these reasons and more, it’s important to promote alternative forms of agriculture. Sustainable food systems can reduce environmental impact, increase food access, and promote environmental justice.
Here at Appetite For Change, we use food as a tool to build health, wealth, and social change in North Minneapolis. We bring people together to learn, cook, eat, and grow food, creating change that lasts. Learn about our own urban agriculture projects and explore what we do for our community. Browse our shop, consider volunteering, or donate today to support our incredible impact in North Minneapolis! Together, we can create well-rooted and flourishing change!