Peasant and industrialized agriculture facing each other — in China. Painting gifted to me by Ye Jingzhong, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China. Photo: E.G. Vallianatos.
Industrialized agriculture is threatening humanity with catastrophe. It feeds global warming and dissolves societies. In addition, its pesticides contaminate and poison drinking water and food.
Undoing rural America
I reached this conclusion from working for the US Environmental Protection Agency for twenty-five years. I summarized my experience in my 2014 book, Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA. This essay reflects my knowledge from that experience.
The industrialization of agriculture did massive damage to rural America, turning most of that beautiful land into medieval plantations. Instead of millions of small family farmers, we now have a few thousand large corporate farmers in charge of rural America and the growing of most food. Democracy and human and environmental health suffered a severe blow. Money and power triumphed.
Like many countries, China is trying to catch up with the agricultural superpower illusion of America. Yes, America produces huge amounts of food, but at unsustainable and catastrophic costs and consequences.
There are non-toxic alternatives to coaxing more from an acre of land.
In the United States, the alternative to chemical farming has the name of “organic” agriculture. In the European Union, the alternative is “biological” agriculture. These alternatives are sophisticated modifications of traditional agriculture. They produce and sell food without using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, sludge, and radiation. But like industrialized farming, the organic-biological alternatives ignore the size of farms, the plight of farm workers, the kind and size of farm machinery, the use of petroleum and petroleum products like plastics.
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