He highlights how the hallmark of industrial agriculture -- to maximize production and keep food as cheap as possible -- is pushing natural systems and organisms to their limit, forcing these living creatures to function as machines.
Of course, “whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience,” he says.
Case in point, a new and more virulent strain of MRSA -- an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus bacteria that once only existed in hospitals -- is showing up in the community, and killing otherwise healthy people.
No one knows for sure how this strain evolved, but both common sense and scientific studies are pointing to the vast amounts of antibiotics fed to animals living on factory farms. Recent studies have found that confinement pig operations in Europe and Canada have become “reservoirs of MRSA,” and since these Canadian pigs move freely to the United States, MRSA may also be present on American pig farms.
Also indicative of the downfall of our food system is the massive decline of honeybees. Bees, which are responsible for pollinating a vast amount of the food you eat, have been stricken with a strange illness known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Nobody knows how or why honeybees are disappearing in record numbers, but again experts have pointed out that the way the bees are raised was a disaster waiting to happen.
Honeybees are trucked across the country, and in some cases flown in from Australia, to pollinate almond trees in California. This direct assault to the bees’ natural, cyclical lifestyle is known to leave them stressed and vulnerable to any new infectious agents that come along.
Both of these stories illustrate the unexpected consequences of a truly unsustainable food system.
As Pollan says, “The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how …” If you aren’t familiar with New York Times author Michael Pollan, you can count on him to really tell it like it is. This is the same author who wrote about the E. coli spinach scare and the perils of factory-farmed beef (both excellent articles worth reading).
Those of you who are new to this newsletter, or are not used to reading between the lines, may be surprised that our entire food supply is in very real danger. But you will find that when you look a little deeper, all of the pieces of the puzzle fall disturbingly into place.
The food system began its dramatic decline the second the world turned away from the farming practices of our ancestors, and began to attempt to outdo nature with technology. The problematic decisions that followed are too numerous to discuss here, but are not hard to understand. For instance:
- Factory farms replaced family farms. These corporations produce food on a massive scale, using massive amounts of antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals, and producing unprecedented amounts of waste.
- Circa the 1950s, Americans began to view food in a box that could be cooked quickly (TV dinners) as superior to home-cooked meals.
- We routinely purchase food that is flown in from around the world in favor of locally grown alternatives produced in our own figurative backyard.
- Our produce is lacking in essential nutrients because it is grown in nutrient-depleted, overused soil, and picked prior to peak ripeness for transportation purposes.
- Biotech companies have created terminator seeds, which actually prevent themselves from reproducing unless a certain chemical is applied to the crop. If terminator seeds are used on a large-scale basis, it will likely inevitably lead to famine and starvation on a worldwide basis.
The problem, as Pollan points out, is that when you begin to treat living organisms, like animals, honeybees and even bacteria, like machines, they will inevitably remind you that they are not machines.
The animals, and consequently your food supply, become unhealthy. The honeybees begin to get sick and die off. The bacteria prove that they can outwit man-made antibiotics, and create super-versions of themselves. And as nature has shown us many times before, when you take away one part of this integrated, living system, things begin to crumble.
If you value your health and your right to healthy, real food, please join to fight for true sustainability in agriculture. You can speak volumes simply by boycotting factory-made food and instead purchasing locally grown varieties that are still grown with integrity.