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INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE, ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT Jennifer Sumner, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow, Rural Studies Program Presentation for Dr. Mark.

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Presentation on theme: "INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE, ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT Jennifer Sumner, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow, Rural Studies Program Presentation for Dr. Mark."— Presentation transcript:

1 INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE, ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT Jennifer Sumner, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow, Rural Studies Program Presentation for Dr. Mark Sears’ ENVB*2010 class Food Production and the Environment March 1, 2004

2 “Eating is an agricultural act.” ~Wendell Berry

3 AGRICULTURE the world’s major environmental interaction began thousands of years ago with the cultivation of wild plants and the domestication of wild animals involves not only the production of food and fibre, but also their distribution and the infrastructure for production and distribution at regional, national and global levels accounts for 3% of GDP We do not, and no-one ever will, live in a post- agricultural society.

4 INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE Industrial agriculture refers to large-scale industrialized forms of agriculture that are capital intensive, highly mechanized, use large amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and involve extensive monocropping and/or highly concentrated and intense livestock operations.

5 THE RISE OF INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE Food production, distribution and consumption were radically transformed in the 20 th century –Fully incorporated into the market system –Increased distance between producer and consumer –Production of industrial food –Externalized costs of production The emergence of a globalized food system that picks and chooses among producing countries –The environmental race to the bottom

6 THE CONSOLIDATION OF INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE horizontal integration - the expansion of firms into other geographic areas (e.g., the decreasing number of family farms) vertical integration - occurs when a firm owns several different stages in the food commodity system, which increases its economic power farm operators now have massive dependence on all manner of farm inputs and on ever-increasing outputs for foreign markets industrial agriculture has functioned more for financial gain than for human need

7 AGRIBUSINESS Agribusiness - the sum total of all operations involved in the manufacture and distribution of farm supplies, production operations on the farm, storage, and processing and distribution of farm commodities and items made from them Agribusiness and the state promote particular policies and production techniques favorable to the needs of large corporations –large use of external inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides and machinery –Turning food into agrifood It’s been a long battle by corporations to turn agriculture into agribusiness.

8 PROBLEMS WITH INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE animal disease problems –mad cow disease, hoof and mouth disease human health problems –pesticides, antibiotics and other contaminants in food and water economic problems –cost-price squeeze increasing input and machinery costs decreasing world prices –debt

9 social problems –economic stress affects: the health of farm families the vibrancy of rural communities –fewer family farms the death of many rural communities –increasing unemployment and/or increasing off-farm employment Almost 90% of American farm household income comes from non-farm sources –rural depopulation North Dakota, Manitoba

10 Environmental Problems Soil and water degradation/depletion Lack of biodiversity Habitat destruction Death of wildlife Export economy Growth imperative Herbicide-resistant weeds GMO’s Greenhouse gases

11 The environment is reduced to a source and a sink because economists cannot value what the environment is worth, merely its value in monetary terms.

12 Food Fights Increasing consumer distrust of /digust with industrial food Increasing obesity problems Increasing allergy problems International trade agreements vs. the public good Consumer-led revolts –Slow food –Organics babyfood

13 Organic Agriculture Organic agriculture is an holistic agricultural system that seeks to learn from and mimic natural processes in order to a)channel nature to the service of humanity b)avoid problems rather than creating and then solving them c)integrate enterprises to capture positive ecological and economic synergies d)internalize costs of production

14 Definition of Organic Agriculture Organic agriculture is a holistic system of production designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agroecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principle goal of organic agriculture is to develop productive enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment. Canadian General Standards Board

15 Organic Agriculture involves a total systems approach - not linear like conventional/industrial agriculture goals –elimination of agricultural chemicals –reduced energy use –greater farm and regional self-sufficiency –smaller farm units and technology –improved conservation and regeneration of agricultural resources such as soil and water

16 Impacts of Organic Family Farms on Rural Communities Economic Social Political Cultural Gendered Environmental

17 Environmental Impacts of Organic Family Farming Lowering the chemical burden on the environment Protecting/stewarding the environment –An ethic of leaving the land better than they found it –Care for the soil like a living being Promoting biodiversity –Domestic/wild plants and animals

18 Organic Agriculture Productivity Smaller farm sizes are 2 to 10 times more productive per unit acre than larger ones After transition, organic yields are comparable to conventional yields What is productivity? –Yield – production per unit of a single crop –Output – the sum of everything a small farmer produces Various grains, fruits, vegetables, fodder and animal products

19 Can Organics Feed the World? Wrong question Food production has kept pace with population growth The problem of hunger is lack of access to food –Poverty –Landlessness Food dependence vs food independence Feeding the community / region –Foodshed Food security and agricultural policy Organic agriculture as a lens through which to look at food production and the environment

20 “Eating is an environmental act.”


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