The Collapse of Industrial Farming
By Robert Hunziker
The most upending event of the past 10,000 years is the advent of engineered food as fermentation farms displace factory farms. “We are on the Cusp of the Fastest, Deepest, Most Consequential Disruption of Agriculture in History.” (RethinkX.com)
“Modern foods will bankrupt the cattle industry within a decade.” (RethinkX)
More on that to follow, but first: Industrial farming, alongside global warming, ranks at the top of the list of existential risks this century. And, similar to the dangers attendant to excessive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, industrial farming is dangerously out of control, but in contrast to global warming, it is not followed at all by corporate media, begging the Orwellian question whether media other than corporate media truly exist?
All of which serves to highlight George Orwell’s concerns as expressed in his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (Secker & Warburg Publishers, 1949) wherein he explained the primary consequences of “media manipulation” described as: (a) “loss of a critical thinking faculty” and (b) “diminished capacity for self-expression.”
More than 70 years post-Orwellian, his words ring true as corporate media skims over the tragic news of a world in such a dangerous state that only the collapse of industrial agriculture itself, along with cutting GHG emissions, can help to stop the pronounced ongoing collapse of ecosystems throughout the world, especially evident at the extreme latitudes, north and south.
According to Forest Trends, as of 2021, clear-cutting of forests for commercial agriculture purposes, principally for beef and soy production, within the past couple of years increased by a rip-snorting +50%, mostly illegal, to 27 million acres a year. (Source: Trees Fell Faster in the Years Since Companies and Governments Promised to Stop Cutting Them Down, Inside Climate News, May 19, 2021).
That huge acceleration of clear-cutting follows in the footsteps of the New York Declaration on Forests signed in 2014 by 200 endorsers to cut deforestation in half by 2020 (ahem!) and stop it altogether by 2030 (lol).
Industrial farming is destroying the planet’s resources with clear-cutting as well as spewing tons upon tons of toxic chemicals that subtly destroy major ecosystems throughout the world, including wetlands, floral meadowlands, and precious farmland as toxic chemicals turn rich black soils into useless dirt.
The Center for Biodiversity and the World Animal Protection-US orgs in February of 2022 released a major report “Collateral Damage” documenting the deadly harm of toxic chemicals used by factory farms. Clearly, humans are poisoning the planet, and in a mind-blowing “tip of the hat” to Orwell’s prognosis about human dullness, it is legal! Yes, poisoning the planet is legal! Which suggest that Orwell’s concern about “loss of a critical thinking faculty” is understated.
That amazing fact is underscored by the frightening knowledge that within only a few decades industrial farming, assuming it can be called “farming,” displaced thousands of years of family farming that husbanded nature, displaced by rapacious corporate models of stern-minded profit-oriented callous mass slaughter to satisfy the gluttonous fast-food craze that’s unique to the decadent 21st century.
This sudden emergence of CAFOs or concentrated animal feed operations is so gruesome and so powerful and so outlandishly disparate from traditional family farming that only a fantasy comparison can approximate its oddity via the passing of a magical wand that morphs Tinker Bell into Hannibal Lecter.
On the other hand, a turning point may be at hand. Factory farming is about to be disrupted via better foods, tastier foods, cheaper foods, healthier foods, and a much healthier environment. That future, sans institutional slaughterhouses and sans widespread use of chemicals and the end of clear-cutting has been theorized in detail by the independent think tank RethinkX.
The not-so-secret formula to better, tastier, cheaper, healthier, more prevalent food is the production of microorganisms. Already over past centuries humanity has shown the value of controlling microorganisms through fermentation, producing bread, cheese, alcohol, as well as preserving fruit and vegetables.
“Moving food production to the molecular level promises a more efficient means of feeding ourselves and the delivery of superior, cleaner nutrients without the unhealthy chemical/antibiotic/insecticide additives required by current industrial means of production.” (RethinkX)
The capability to create foods with exact attributes of nutrition, structure, taste, and texture is advancing whereby ordering food will be similar to installing software on your phone but via databases of engineered molecules, as fermentation farms displace factory farms.
Impossible Foods is an example that utilizes fermented (heme) to create a higher-performing product. (Source: A Rainbow of Opportunity: How Fermentation Biotech is Creating “Agricultural 2.0”, Food Navigator, March 25, 2021)
According to RethinkX: “By 2035, 60% of the area currently allocated to livestock and food production will be freed for other uses. This is enough land that if it were dedicated to the planting of trees for carbon sequestration, it could completely offset U.S. greenhouse emissions.”
Moreover, it is anticipated that rapid uptake of engineered foods means water consumption for cattle will drop by 50% within a decade. And destruction of rainforests for cattle-raising and soy oil production will plummet.
And most importantly for human health concerns, toxic chemicals will be unnecessary. The current industrial food supply chain, from A to Z, is loaded with chemicals. For starters, pesticides used to grow food and livestock end up in human bodies one way or another, and in high enough concentrations proven to influence cancers, brain, nerve, genetic and hormonal disorders, kidney and liver damage, asthma and allergies. (Source: Julian Cribb: Earth Detox, Cambridge University Press, August 2021)
In addition to pesticides, some 3,000 chemical ingredients added to food are permitted by the FDA to enhance freshness, taste, and texture. Preservatives, for example, which extend shelf life, are chemicals that poison the bacteria and moulds that cause food to rot: “Common chemical preservatives such as sodium nitrate and nitrite, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sodium benzoate, parabens, formaldehyde and antioxidant preservatives, if over-consumed in the modern processed food diet, may also lead to cancers, heart disease, allergies, digestive, lung, kidney and other diseases and constitute a further reason for avoiding or reducing one’s intake of industrial food.” (Earth Detox, pg 70)
Two hundred million (200,000,000) or more than 50% of Americans have at least one chronic disease. (Rand Corporation, 2017) Prompting the query, what causes chronic disease? Answer: Mainstream medical sites blames tobacco, secondhand smoke, poor nutrition, alcohol and lack of exercise, sinful-related stuff. Yet, there are several books and science papers published that point the finger at toxic chemicals in our environment as the cause of chronic diseases. Here’s one recent publication: Stephanie Seneff, PhD: Toxic Legacy: How the Weedkiller Glyphosate Is Destroying Our Health and the Environment, Chelsea Green Publishing, London, UK, 2021)
“Interestingly enough, Europe only permits the use of 400 out of the 3000 food additives permitted in the US (ed.- the EU has only one-half the US rate of chronic diseases). Essentially, Europe has banned 4/5ths of the chemicals allowed in the US food chain. Europe outlaws any chemicals that do not meet its criteria for ‘non-harm to humans or the environment.” (Earth Detox, pg. 73)
The Center for Biological Diversity in conjunction with World Animal Protection-US report Collateral Damage (February 4, 2022) studied the impact of an estimated 235 million pounds annually of herbicides and insecticides applied to feed crops for factory farms. The chemicals are applied to corn and soybeans for farmed animal feed in the US. Roughly 50% of toxic pesticide use on a global basis is for corn and soy for factory farms… hundreds of millions of pounds of chemicals are applied to corn and soy crops as pesticides in the US.
If only two out of the thousands of toxic chemicals could be eliminated, i.e., glyphosate (herbicide) and atrazine (pesticide); it would be a major health benefit to complex life and ecosystems.
Glyphosate, the king of toxic chemicals, is the most widely used herbicide worldwide. Already 13,000 lawsuits have been filed claiming it causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. WHO claims it is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Atrazine is one of the most widely used pesticides, especially in the US. To date, thirty-five (35) countries have banned its use, including the EU because of persistent groundwater contamination and dangerous levels of toxicity.
“Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor and is linked to a variety of human health issues, including different types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and harm to the reproductive system. After just six hours of exposure an increase in cell death and DNA damage were observed. The same level of damage from exposure to Gamma radiation would take a full 15 minutes. Atrazine also alters the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and decreases the electrical activity of certain cells in the cerebellum (the region of the brain that controls motor function). As an endocrine disruptor it can interfere with the balance of hormones in the body, significantly impacting overall physiology and development.” (Source: Collateral Damage: How Factory Farming Drives Up the Use of Toxic Agricultural Pesticides by World Animal Protection, New York, NY, February 2022).
It’s not at all surprising that 35 countries, including the EU, banned atrazine. But, it’s enormously popular in the US.
Time after time, the brilliance of Orwell’s mass media prognosis of “loss of a critical thinking faculty” shows up on the shores of the United States.
It’s probably a good idea to reread Nineteen Eighty-Four:
“IT WAS a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind… at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week… On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” (1984, pg. 1)
Based in Los Angeles, Robert Hunziker is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and published in over 50 journals, magazines and sites worldwide.
Robert Hunziker can be reached at [email protected].
This article was originally published on April 22, 2022 © Counterpunch