Dear Industrial Agriculture…
May 16, 2013
Dear Industrial Agriculture,
It’s been a great experiment – a social, political, public health, and agricultural experiment, but I think it’s time for us to break up.
A lot has changed in the past 40 years and I don’t think we’re a good fit for each other anymore. We had our “Get big or get out” moment in time, that when in 1971 Earl Butz encouraged farmers to plant commodity crops, like corn “from fencerow to fencerow.” And yet all the while he was urging farmers to plant commodity crops and eliminate fencerows, the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s was just 40 years in the past. As a man in his twenties during the Dust Bowl where 8 years of dust and drought was caused by severe drought combined with farming methods that did not include crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques such as wind-breaking trees and hedgerows to prevent soil erosion. Industrial Agriculture, as I travel past your mega farms where monocultures of corn & soy have been harvested and I see bare land without cover crops and your topsoil blowing in the strong wind, I feel pain seeing a precious resource like soil being treated like dirt.
And then we brought technologies used for war to farms. Corporations who produced tons of nitrogen for bombs, found a new way to get paid, first through chemical fertilizers, then chemical weed killers all sold to you, Industrial Agriculture. In the early 1990’s corporations discovered that even more money, more profit could be made with a chemical weed killer that would kill all the plants in a field except the crop itself, this crop would have to be resistant to such a powerful poison, this crop would be made by scientists in a laboratory by splicing genes from viruses and bacteria, we now have GM (Genetically Modified) seeds, plants, and animals. This ain’t God’s country anymore, it’s a science experiment.
Industrial Agriculture, we don’t really know what the long term environmental and public health effects of GM crops are going to be. We know that poisons that kill insects and plants are being applied to our soil and food. We know that these same poisons enter our waterways. We know that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is a soil bacterium that produces insecticidal toxins can be inserted into GM crop plants, these GM crops can now kill insects that feed on them, the insects die after eating the crop when the Bt toxins enter their gut, their guts become paralyzed and their stomach’s explode from the inside out. The question is how does Bt and other Genetically Modified Organisms effect people and animals? If Bt toxins cause insects’ stomachs to explode, might it affect our guts and stomachs as well? Since 1996, when Bt crops began to be widely grown we have seen an increase in gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and childhood learning disorders. Industrial Agriculture, you are the majority of the food supply for the nation, how nice that your fields are weed and pest free, but what a terrible price the nation’s people are paying.
Industrial Agriculture, when you “got big” rural communities suffered. You see, the farms got bigger but no longer needed many people to work them. Bigger farms mean fewer farms and fewer farm families to support local communities, churches, schools, and businesses.
We need to return to small family farms. We need to return to a way of agriculture that respects people and animals, soil and water, community and life. We need to return to a form of agriculture that does not rely on toxic chemicals and Genetically Modified Organisms.
Industrial Agriculture, we are done, finished. Get small or get out. Reestablish hedgerows, return to a diversified system of agriculture, get rid of monocultures, protect your soil with cover crops, treat animals and humans with dignity, grow food from natural seeds that are found on this earth and not in a laboratory, treat your water as if your children needed to drink it, and eliminate poisons from our diet.
Welcome small family farmers, organic farmers, alternative agriculture, biodynamic farming, community supported agriculture, all grazers, local food systems, sustainable agriculture, permaculture, rooftop gardens, urban farmers, community gardeners, forest gardening, foraging, and perennial grains.
Welcome new employment opportunities; organic farms employ more people. Welcome revitalized communities; small family farms tend to support other small businesses.
Welcome healthy food systems, healthy animals and healthy people.
Welcome clean water. Welcome healthy soils.
Now is the Time