industrial agriculture

The Failure of Modern Industrial Agriculture

Americans are being subjected to an ongoing multimillion-dollar propaganda campaign designed to “increase confidence and trust in today’s agriculture.” Food Dialogues, just one example of this broader trend, is a campaign sponsored by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance—an industry organization whose funders and board members include Monsanto, DuPont, and John Deere. The campaign features the “faces of farming and ranching”—articulate, attractive young farmers, obviously chosen to put the best possible face on the increasingly ugly business of industrial agriculture, which dominates our food- production system.

Genetically engineered crops, inhumane treatment of farm animals, and routine feeding of antibiotics to confined animals—among many other problems—have eroded public trust in American agriculture. In response, the defenders of so-called modern agriculture have employed top public relations firms to try to clean up their tarnished public image. Their campaigns emphasize such issues as water quality, food safety, animal welfare, and “food prices and choices.”

Mounting public concerns in each of these areas are supported by a growing body of scientific evidence. For example, a 1998 EPA study found 35,000 miles of streams in 22 states polluted with biological wastes from concentrated animal feeding operations. The number of “impaired waters” in Iowa has tripled since the late 1980s, as industrial farming systems, such as factory farms, have replaced traditional family farms.

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