Industrial Agriculture

– [Narrator] Let’s talk about this thing that we call industrial agriculture, or industrial farming is
another way of saying it. And let’s look at what that really means. … Culture, there we go. This is the most prevalent kind of farming that we see today in developed countries like the United States of America. So most of our food comes
from this kind of farming. It’s basically a way of
producing lots of food cheaply. So most of the meat, milk, eggs, and even most of the fruits and vegetables that we would buy in
a typical supermarket, most of them would have
been produced in this way. Industrial agriculture is kind of like … We can see it as the
child of three parents. Or, maybe we could think of it as the product of innovations in three separate fields. The first is science and technology, and innovations in this
field include things like improved farming methods, let’s say, or better agricultural technology, and those sorts of things. Also in this circle, I would put things like
genetic modification. So I’ll just write here
“gene modification.” And we’ll look at what the
upside and the downside of each of these innovations has been with regard to this kind of farming. The second parent or contributing field is the field of economics, and
this includes, for example, techniques for achieving something called economies of scale, and that basically means if you produce a lot of something, you can usually sell it more cheaply. So I might put in here, in
brackets, “mass production”, so that you remember what that means. Mass production. Also in this field is the
creation of new markets. That’s identifying new
consumers for your products, and then actively selling
or advertising to them to get them to buy the products. The third parent or responsible party for industrial agriculture
is the field of politics. The government regulates,
or has the duty to regulate, things like global trade, food labeling, and especially food safety regulations. These are regulated by the FDA. Now, while the government is supposed to make regulatory decisions to benefit the people of our nation, or any other country which has
a government regulatory body, in reality, it’s not
quite as simple as that. The decisions made by the government are actually influenced
quite significantly by food lobbyists. And the food lobbyists represent the companies that are
mass-producing all of these goods for consumption by the general population. And because these companies
are wealthy, very wealthy, they can actually influence many of the decisions that the government makes via these food lobbyists. So I’ll just draw on our red tape here. That’s the red tape of the lobbyists. Things like, you can’t say
“limit red meat consumption,” because the beef lobbyists
would fight against that. And so you would have to say, “Limit your intake of saturated fat” in a health warning
issued by the government. Those sorts of things are
controlled by food lobbyists. So let’s go back now and define
some of these innovations. In the 1800s, elements like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium
were identified as stimulating growth in plants. And so these elements
were then the beginning of what we know as fertilizer. Secondly, in the 1900s,
vitamins were discovered, or isolated, and they were
then found to be responsible for growth and maintenance
of health in animals. At the same time, in the mid-1900s, antibiotics were being
discovered, and this led to the ability to take
animals from the outdoors, where they’re used to living, and bring them in to the indoors, or to what they call CAFOs, or confined animal feeding operations. These animals, like, for example, cows, chickens, even fish, are raised in farms because they can be raised more
efficiently in that way, in very overcrowded and dark settings, in order to maximize
the production of meat. So where a cow might actually in nature be grass-fed, and roaming
around in a pasture, in a CAFO, the grass is replaced with
something that we have a lot of: you guessed it … Corn. And the cows are then kept in very close quarters,
actually quite still, so that they can’t graze and walk around, and instead they’re fed
at these feeding troughs, and it makes them get fatter quicker. And that of course means more money for the companies that are selling this product. Because cows aren’t meant
to be fed on diets of corn, they are kept healthy
with vitamin supplements, and also with the use of antibiotics, because the conditions in
which they’re being kept are often unsanitary. They’re often standing in their own waste while they are almost force-fed
these large amounts of corn in order for them to get fat and ready for slaughter at a younger age. Genetic modification
involves taking the genome, or the genetic material, of a plant, like, for example, corn,
and then changing it so that the plant is no
longer susceptible to a pathogen or a bug that once
used to attack that plant. And that increases the yield. Other kinds of genetic
modification are things like altering the genes so that the quality or the quantity of the product improves. I’m sure you’ve seen
those massive strawberries in supermarkets, and
many of those have been genetically modified to yield
bigger fruits on the plants. Cows, even, can be genetically modified to produce more protein in
their milk to make cheese. And even things like potatoes … I’ll just draw these in purple, ’cause I don’t have more
colors than that … There’s something called an amflora potato that is genetically modified because the starch that comes out of that potato is more useful for industrial
uses, for processed foods. Now, the downside of this
kind of genetic technology is that it decreases
something called biodiversity. And biodiversity is the natural variation that exists among species. And biodiversity is a measure
of the health of an ecosystem, and you can see why that would be reduced if the genes are modified
to make a plant more uniform and more uniformly resistant. The other thing that
genetic technology does is that it harms beneficial organisms. So, for example, organisms that are responsible for
things like pollination, or pest control, can also be harmed by
genetic modification. The downside to these farming
improvements or innovations is that pesticides and fertilizers can filter into the ground
and pollute the groundwater. And then that polluted groundwater can damage fisheries downstream. So I’m just gonna write here “fisheries.” The other downside is the fact that the methane
byproducts from these CAFOs, or confined animal feeding operations, can damage the ozone as well. So that’s another potential side effect of this kind of industrial agriculture. If we look at the economics, we see here that, yes,
it has been successful to produce large amounts of food. We have achieved more available goods, and if you measure quality of life in terms of available goods, then yes, our quality of life
has improved in that regard. But then, if we also look
at the aggressive marketing that’s going on to consumers, and the kind of increase in
portion sizes that we’ve seen, one of the biggest consequences
is the obesity epidemic that is plaguing not
just the United States, although we are probably world leaders in the obesity epidemic, but around the world, in developed countries where industrial agriculture is being employed, obesity is one of the side
effects that follows quickly. So while this has generated a lot of income for someone, probably someone living in these buildings or working in these buildings over there, the problem is that this obesity epidemic is going to cost society a
lot in terms of medical care, and that is going to in some ways undo what we’ve seen here in
terms of the profits, if we look on a societal level. So the take-home message is that, while industrial agriculture
has been successful in producing more food for
a growing number of people, at the same time, the side effects of this kind
of mass amount of cheap food has been environmental effects, societal effects, health effects such as obesity,
and all of these problems are problems that we are going
to be paying for later on. And this is why we need
to start thinking now about potential solutions
to these kinds of issues.


  1. Thank for your Industrial Agriculture Video.

    So the moral of the story is that "We the people" need to eliminate the money flow from food lobbyists.

  2. Nice Video.
    Side Note: CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, not Confined Animal Feeding Operation
    Although one document dose define CAFO in this manner.

  3. If people use more effort to seek out the truth, they will make more rational decisions, and the effects of of lobbyist money will be a smaller part of our life choices. Knowledge is power, just sayin.

  4. Industrial agricultural companies have controlled laws to protect them from ANY public investigation into their wrong doings. They are horrific.

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