Food sustainability is highly dependent on how we approach both animal and plant agriculture. This site has focused on how the factory farming model in the meat, dairy and fish industries is practiced and concluded that it is unsustainable as currently practiced. The rush to promote and establish genetically modified crops may also prove to be unsustainable as currently practiced.
The content of this site is drawn from numerous sources which adequately document the harmful effects that factory farms have on the community, local economies, health, environment and, of course, the inhumane treatment and confinement of the animals.
Nevertheless, the conclusion drawn from many different sources is that factory farming is here to stay but the food sustainability of genetically modified crops is not so certain.
The reason that factory farms will continue is simply that the volume of food produced provides a supply that is capable of keeping costs to the consumer at an affordable level. In addition there is a huge amount of apathy on the part of consumers as to where their food comes from as long as it is cheap. The linkage between the general health of a population and how their food is produced has not registered yet in the minds of most consumers.
Let's fervently hope that the experts are wrong and factory farming is on the way out and food sustainability on the way in. We need to take a giant step backwards, back to the start.
"Back to the Start" brings to mind our friends at Chipotle Mexican Grill who's business model may be the greatest hope for food sustainability in the restaurant business.
The video below from Chipotle is titled, Back to the Start, and is one of the most poignant arguments against factory farming and getting back to a more humane, sustainable way of growing our food. Of course, Coldplay's haunting classic 'The Scientist' as performed by country music legend Willie Nelson really brings it home.
Quoting from the video credits, "The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sensible approach to food sustainability.
Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a system more likely to insure our food sustainability." Get a couple of Kleenex handy and watch.
If you wish to view it on your browser, the share link is: http://youtu.be/aMfSGt6rHos.
Thank you Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle Mexcian Grill.
A Food Politico and Blogger Speaks Out
Marion Nestle is probably the most quoted food expert in the country today. A few of her credentials include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition from U.C. Berkeley, a stint at the Dept. of Health and Human Services as senior nutrition policy advisor, currently serves as the Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University and is a visiting professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell.
She is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety and numerous other related publications. Most relevant is that Dr. Nestle was also a commissioner in the 2-year study, "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America",a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
This renowned food authority believes factory farms will continue to occupy a place in the future of food. The reason is simple; people like their burgers, hot dogs, steaks and chops. They don't want to give it up and, more important, they don't want to have to pay a lot for it.
So the economies of scale and efficiencies of the factory farm appear to be the only way to provide a lot of meat at low cost. Never mind that the quality of the meat is questionable, contains antibiotics, hormones, fecal matter and infectious organisms. Most people don't give it a thought until they get sick.
Reflecting on her experience with the Pew Commission study, Ms. Nestle is of the opinion that for greater food sustainability, factory farming must be done better. The effects on the environment, communities and food safety are serious. Animal waste from factory farms is potentially dangerous as is the use of antibiotics for promoting growth.
The effects of factory farming on the animals are tragic but are not going to improve much. Her hope, but not a prediction, is that more environmentally friendly meat production will expand and factory farming's role in the future of food will contract.
Dr. Gary A. Sojka, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. He has M.S. and Ph.D. in biochemical genetics from Purdue University, has taught courses in microbiology, cell biology and conducted numerous seminars on the domestication of plants and animals and the security of the world's food supply.
He also teaches a course for the Great Courses company titled:
Understanding the Human Factor: Life and Its Impact
Besides teaching, Dr. Sojka is a hands-on gentleman farmer who has a genuine love for farm animals and a deep concern for food sustainability.
His concern is in context of the carrying capacity of the earth to feed our exploding population. He now breeds and raises endangered livestock and is active in agriculture, focusing on public policy relating to animal welfare and breed conservation.
Dr. Sojka has much to say on the subject of food sustainability. He points out that we are facing one crisis after another due to the aforementioned population growth, habitat destruction, water and air pollution, climate change and resource depletion and we must find ways to reverse the decline and create sustainable methods of food production.
If he hasn't done so already, Dr. Sojka must read Richard Oppenlander's remarkable book on food choice and sustainability. They seem to be of he same mind. This is a must read and can be done so by clicking on the book cover or the link below and buying it.
His somber and rather depressing conclusions are:
All in all, it is not a very optimistic outlook for either humans or animals. Dr. Sojka opines that the animals are the big losers in the symbiotic relationship between themselves and man. Undoubtedly true but one thing is sure, namely that nature will eventually set things right. In the meantime, welcome to "Brave New World".
I have to believe that all the experts featured on this page would heartily approve of Burpee Seeds as a starting place for the home gardener to get started on the road to sustainability. Visit their site on the link shown above.
Another educator who has much to say about genetics, farming and food sustainability is Dr. David Sadava, Ph.D. He teaches a course for the Great Courses Company titled:
Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications
You can access the course by clicking on the Great Courses button below and using the landing page search box.
Dr. Sadava has written over 55 peer-reviewed scientific research papers and is the Pritzker Family Foundation Professor of Biology at The Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges.
He believes that the race between the human population and food production is a major contest for the outcome of food sustainability. Like Dr. Sojka above, Dr. Savada acknowledges that to increase food production, we have to find more land and/or use what land we have more intensely. Since most arable land has long been taken, the future of increased crop yields will depend on more advanced use of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs).
Past efforts in agriculture were focused on adapting the environment to the plant. With the advances made in biotechnology, the prime focus going forward will be to adapt the plant to the environment.
Genetic engineering is able to overcome most of the problems associated with cross-breeding and hybridization. It is faster, there are no hidden genes, any species can be genetically manipulated with genes from other species and it allows the plant or animal to be genetically modified to the environment.
Current examples include the development of tomato plants that are tolerant of salty soils; inserting carrot genes into rice to produce a rice rich in beta carotene; corn, soybeans, cotton and tomato plants that produce their own insecticide; and corn, cotton, rice and sugar beets that are resistant to herbicides.
In spite of the increases in crop and animal yields through genetic engineering, Dr. Savada opines that objections to biotech in Agriculture are likely to grow due to the unnaturalness of it. Considering the food sustainability, that's probably a good thing.
The idea is spreading that it may be unsafe to eat food containing foreign proteins which could be a limiting factor for food sustainability. This introduction of foreign proteins may cause allergies or other health challenges, endanger the environment and contaminate neighboring fields and wild land with genetic modifications and the proliferation of super weeds and bacteria.
To remove any doubt whatsoever about the dangers of GMO foods to health and the environment, read Jeffrey Smith's book "Seeds of Deception". Click on the book cover above and get the book and DVD bundle. It is a well documented eye-opener.
In this area, it would be wise to follow the precautionary principle; namely that if you can’t prove that something will never cause a problem, don’t do it.
Dr. Sadava's concerns seem to be validated by items found in various journals and news reports such as genetic experiments resulting in the creation of chickens without feathers.
How about hogs impervious to the stress of confinement in animal factories? Then there are the chickens engineered to lay eggs so rapidly that their skeletal bones are severely depleted of calcium causing frequent breakage.
Similarly, genetically modifying dairy cows into milk producing machines to the extent that mastitis and early death are the norm and calves that must be delivered via c-section because they were engineered to have double the muscle volume resulting in a grotesque birth weight.
For a look at the horror show that the mad scientists are subjecting animals to in the interest of science, take a look at Emily Anthes' book "Frankensteins Cat: Cuddling up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts". It makes one wonder how they get away with this madness. Click the book cover above to go there.
Our Brave New World could hold some real surprises for the food sustainability, health and the environment. How do you like it so far?
One obvious way to address food sustainability is to buy real pastured grass fed beef, pork and poultry. To see one such online seller of such food, visit the good people at Fossil Farms below. Click their link or banner below and help support the movement.
When you visit the Fossil Farms website be sure to watch the videos as well. It is quite an eye-opener what they have accomplished and how they care for their animals.
Now is the time to wrap up this multi-page look at the future of food by proposing a series of actions and baby steps that all consumers can take.
To read more about food sustainability, you are invited to visit a wonderful site on the subject from the Sustainable Table.