Hidden Costs of Industrial Agriculture
Much of the agriculture practiced in the United States today is industrial-style agriculture. That is, farms are often very large, highly specialized, and run like factories with large inputs of fossil fuels, pesticides and other chemicals, and synthetic fertilizers derived from oil. This industrial agriculture is sometimes considered a great success. But is it? It has had large, complex effects on our environment, our economy, and our urban and rural social fabric. A new awareness of the costs is beginning to suggest that the benefits are not as great as they formerly appeared.
Many of the costs of industrial agriculture have been hidden and ignored in short-term calculations of profit and productivity, as practices have been developed with a narrow focus on increased production. The research establishment that underpins modern industrial agriculture has until recently paid little heed to the unintended and long-term consequences of these systems.