Industrial agriculture is a system of producing and marketing food that has been developed over the last few centuries. The term refers to large-scale, heavily mechanized, and chemical-intensive farming operations. There are so many benefits of industrial farming but it is also a system of farming that has been criticized by many people for its negative impact on the environment. Industrial farming or factory farming has also been criticized for its treatment of animals. Factory farms raise large numbers of animals in cramped conditions where diseases spread easily. The conditions are so bad that many animals die before they reach slaughter age.
To prevent this, farmers in some countries inject hormones into cows and pigs to make them grow faster or produce more milk or eggs than they would naturally do. These hormones have been linked with an increased risk of cancer in humans who consume them through milk products or meat from hormone-injected animals.
In general, industrial agriculture is problematic because it relies on large amounts of fossil fuels, pesticides, and herbicides to produce food. These chemicals are harmful to the environment and can be detrimental to human health. For example, pesticides have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other health problems.
Industrial agriculture also contributes significantly to climate change. It’s responsible for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — more than all transportation combined. Industrial agricultural techniques also require large amounts of land and water resources. Industrialized farming requires more than half the world’s freshwater supply. It also requires vast amounts of pesticides, fertilizer, and other synthetic products that often end up polluting groundwater supplies or leaching into rivers and streams.
As a result, many farmers have turned towards more sustainable methods such as organic farming or agroecology — a science-based approach that combines traditional knowledge with modern farming practices — which has been shown to provide higher yields than conventional methods while reducing environmental impacts.
What is industrial farming?
Industrial farming is a term used to describe the large-scale, intensive, and highly mechanized production of animals, plants, fish, and other foods. Industrial farms are typically owned by corporations, and they generally focus on producing a single type of food for consumers.
Industrial farms are often located in rural areas where land is cheap and agricultural labor is scarce. They may be owned by small family farms or large corporations. The primary goal of an industrial farm is to maximize profits by producing as much food as possible with the least amount of overhead costs (including labor). Generally, industrial farming involves producing a single crop, such as corn or soybeans, using intensive methods that provide maximum yields for minimum cost. Industrial agriculture is considered an efficient way of producing food because it provides high yields per acre at a low cost.
It has been criticized by some as being unsustainable because it relies heavily on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers (increasing pollution), uses monocultures (reduces biodiversity), requires large-scale land ownership (leading to rural depopulation), consumes large quantities of water (which may be polluted with agricultural chemicals), destroys tropical rainforests (destroying local livelihoods), involves animal cruelty, and generates high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Characteristics of industrial farming
Industrial agriculture has some characteristics that are obvious and others that are less so. The characteristics of modern agriculture that are listed below have wide-ranging effects in both scenarios.
In most of rural America, fields with industrial monocrops are evident. Regularly, these enormous fields are planted with a single crop, such as maize, wheat, or soy. As 36% of all US corn is used to feed farmed animals, industrial grain and industrial animal farming go hand in hand.
The landscape of American agriculture has transformed as a result of corporate concentration, and consolidation is only getting stronger. Get big or get out refers to the maxim that extractive industrial farming is most profitable at scales large enough to be supported and encouraged by public funds and multilateral investments.
Corporate farms working for international companies like JBS and Tyson, who have enormous financial and political clout, are replacing small and medium-sized livestock farms. Since 1970, corporate dairy goliaths have acquired or forced out of business 93% of the US dairies engaged in animal production. Heirloom seeds and seed businesses once supported US farming in the field crops sector, but today, agribusiness firms like Bayer and DuPont — which in 2018 purchased seed and chemical tycoon Monsanto — control seeds globally.
Animals are raised in specialized animal feeding systems in industrial farming (CAFOs). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) divides CAFOs into different categories based on the severity of the pollution they produce as well as the number of animals that are kept in each facility (predominantly animal waste). More than 700 dairy cows, 10,000 pigs, or 125,000 broiler chickens are kept in large CAFOs. However, given that some farms house populations of 10,000 dairy cows, 17,500 pigs, or as many as 1,000,000 chickens, these figures do not represent the maximum size limit for CAFOs.
Without synthetic chemicals and medications that enable plants and animals to endure situations they otherwise could not endure, industrial agriculture would not be conceivable. To compensate for the lack of nutrients brought on by the widespread use of toxic chemicals to manage crop diseases and non-crop plants, industrial monocrops are fertilized with synthetic chemical substances. The strain monocrops place on soil fertility makes these fertilizers even more critical.
CAFOs feed their animals veterinary medications like antibiotics to stimulate weight gain and avoid the infections that would otherwise run rampant across herds housed in crowded and unhealthy circumstances that depress their immune systems to rear animals in severe confinement.
Gene editing is a technique used in biotechnology to create genetically altered organisms (GMOs). The riskiness of genetic change depends on the type of modification and is neither necessarily positive nor necessarily negative. Traditional selective breeding, which is a form of genetic manipulation, produces minor, gradual changes over many generations with a low likelihood of unfavorable effects. Direct laboratory alteration of genomes, however, has a larger risk of unexpected consequences because it can lead to significant changes in a single generation.
In the correct situations, genetic alteration may assist important social goals like increased crop disease resistance, enhanced human nutrition, or drought tolerance. GMO foods, as a technological cure, might fall short in addressing complicated societal issues like starvation. In addition, strong agribusiness businesses frequently adopt genetic modification because it is expensive to boost earnings from farmed animals and industrial commodity crops. Industrial field agriculture uses GMOs extensively; more than 90% of the corn, cotton, and soybeans grown in the US are GMOs. A few varieties of salmon and pigs are GMO animals, and new species are being developed.
The long-term effects of GMOs on ecology and human health are still uncertain. In the short term, modification increases industrial agriculture’s dominance, which includes harm to farm animals. It can also alter ecosystems outside of farms by contaminating wild species. The widespread use of agrichemicals, which continue to pose threats to human and environmental health, goes hand in hand with modern genetic manipulation of crops.
Why is industrial farming problematic?
The problems with industrial farming are many, but here are some of the most significant:
The enormous amounts of waste produced by industrial farms pollute the land and water supply. Many pesticides and herbicides used in industrial agriculture are toxic to humans as well as animals, and these chemicals run off into waterways and end up in our drinking water supplies.
Meat from industrial farms often contains dangerous bacteria like salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7, which can cause serious illness or even death. Factory-farmed meat is also likely to contain hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs that have been fed to the animals themselves — drugs that can be passed on to humans through meat consumption.
Animal welfare issues
Animals raised under industrial conditions are kept in cramped quarters that deprive them of their natural behaviors, such as grazing on grass or swimming in water. This leads to stress-related health problems for both chickens and pigs, who may develop lesions or abrasions from rubbing against their cages or each other; cattle may become lame from standing on hard surfaces for months at a time, and turkeys are prone to suffocation when they pile up on top of each other.
The food isn’t nutritious
Factory-farmed meat, eggs, and dairy are low in nutrients because animals don’t have access to fresh air or sunlight and aren’t eating their natural diets of grasses, fruits, nuts, and seeds. They’re fed a diet consisting mainly of corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified to increase crop yields (which means more profits for the industry). These unnatural diets also contain antibiotics that are used as growth enhancers and can lead to resistance in bacteria that cause disease in humans.
The amount of land used for growing food crops has increased dramatically over the last few centuries due to the spread of industrial agriculture. This has resulted in deforestation, which can lead to biodiversity loss and soil erosion.
Industrial farming is also highly water-intensive. It takes about 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of wheat or rice, compared with just 100 liters (26 gallons) per kilogram for some vegetables.
Benefits of industrial farming
Here are some of the benefits of industrial farming:
Greater diversity and availability
Because it is now less expensive to produce food, farmers may invest in raising or cultivating a wider range of plants and animals than in the past. The growth of hybrid variants or disease-resistant plants that can be produced in many locations is another benefit of biotechnology advancements. Also, thanks to developments in storage and shipping technologies, we may continue to enjoy oranges from Florida even during the chilly winters in the Northern states.
Because there is a larger supply of food to fulfill consumer demand, most crops are inexpensive, and their prices tend to stabilize over time. Due to increased product mobility brought about by industrialization, it is now affordable to send food long distances. New breeds of crops resistant to particular plant diseases have also been created because of biotechnology advancements. Insecticides and pesticides raise crop yields and quality.
Reduced time to market
Food production, processing, packaging, preservation, and delivery techniques have greatly improved. As a result, groceries and markets receive things more swiftly than previously. The availability of food has never been an issue in first-world or highly developed nations.
Less reliance on human labor
Farmers are no longer constrained by labor costs thanks to modern technology. For activities that call for labor, they can now choose from a pool of willing workers, and they can use machines to perform tasks that human hands could never complete. As a result, farms can afford to recruit people of a higher caliber to carry out specialized duties.
Less geographical restrictions
Irrigation gives farmers easier access to water. Additionally, they can employ greenhouses and other equipment, such as fertilizers, to lessen the effects of seasonal and weather variations. The lengthening of the growing season has made it possible to cultivate farmland in areas that were previously impractical for cultivating crops.
Longer storage life and availability
Food shelf-life has been extended to increase its economic value. New techniques of food preservation, processing, and packaging are being uncovered constantly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration website is a good place to browse if you want to learn more about food preservation.
The agriculture industry is facing several challenges, from climate change to food security and environmental degradation. But the good news is that some emerging technologies can help farmers address these issues. Smart agriculture is one such technology that has the potential to change the way we farm. What exactly is smart agriculture? It’s an umbrella term for technologies that can help farmers grow crops more efficiently and sustainably.
Smart agriculture uses technology to help farmers grow their crops in more sustainable ways. Smart farms use sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor crops 24/7 and detect problems before they become too large to be treated easily or economically.
Automated drones can be used for aerial surveys of fields or monitoring irrigation systems. This allows farmers to make better decisions about when to irrigate crops or spray pesticides. Smart agriculture keeps industrial farming safe and sustainable by improving soil health, reducing fertilizer runoff, and reducing pesticide use.
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