Increase in Food production and its Impact on the Environment and Food Safety:
In the United States, we are fortunate to have an abundant supply of food. However, this abundance is largely due to the advances in agricultural technology, which have in turn created numerous concerns surrounding our food sources. The first example of an increase of food production within the United States is the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) also known as Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) (EPA, 2015) where animals such as swine, chickens, and cows, are confined in small quarters for a short amount of time before being slaughtered for consumption. While the time it takes for the animal to grow to capacity has decreased due to hormone injections and the genetically modified organisms that are fed to them, the impact of CAFO’s across the U.S. on our environment is substantial.
Because all of these animals are confined and unable to roam freely they are forced to stand in manure and urine all day, every day. Not only do CAFO’s produce nitrogen and phosphorus but it is also a breeding ground for other pollutants such as pathogens, heavy metals, organic matter, sediments, hormones, and ammonia, which all have a negative impact on human health and health of our environment. (EPA, 2015)
Not only is the United States a breeder of CAFO’s but China is as well, according to Turk and Bensel (2014). The largest CAFO in China is located in Guangdong Province where white hog houses are sprinkled across the valley. Because the demand for meat has increased along with middle class income, the Chinese have to import soybeans from the United States and Brazil in order to feed the animals that will eventually be consumed. Unfortunately, due to China’s importation of soybeans, Brazil is decimating Amazonian forests at record speeds in order to clear the way for additional soybean acreage. (Turk and Bensel, 2014) As a result, the Amazon is losing terrestrial species because their tropical forests no longer exist, which also effects the environment.
The second example of an increase in food production in the United States is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) which is a living organism whose genetic composition has been altered through gene technology in crops and animals. (Khan, Muafia, Nasreen, Salariya, 2012) The GM crop for example allows farmers to produce an abundance of food in less time than it would if it were not genetically modified. This is made possible through genetic engineering which is a deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material. In other words, scientists take the best qualities from one specie of plant or animal and insert it into another. (Turks and Bensel, 2014)
While there are positive impacts with GM crops like being able to sustain food supply for the billions of people living on Earth, there is a negative impact as well. Many countries do not have the infrastructure to build and maintain the monocultures needed in order to grow the GM crops and those who do have environmental issues to contend with. (Turks, Bensel, 2014) According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), our Earth’s temperature is rising due to an increase in greenhouse gasses which is a result of the chemicals used, and the human response to managing those chemicals. (2012) With the amount of pesticides and herbicides used to combat insects and weeds, the runoff of these toxins is absorbed into the aquifier and waterways which is hazardous to both humans and wildlife.
Lastly, the impact that Controlled Animal Farming Operations and Genetically Modified Organisms has on food safety is on the rise as there are a number of recorded deaths, near-deaths from allergic reactions, cancer and degenerative diseases, linked to GMO’s. (Khan, Muafia, Nasreen, Salariya, 2012) Whether you are eating a piece of meat from a CAFO or crops from a monoculture or drinking water from the tap, these chemically treated organisms are fed directly to the livestock which in turn are consumed by humans, who are washing down their food with water that is contaminated with these toxins. It is no wonder why more people across the United States are becoming locavores and moving away from grocery store food that has accumulated thousands of food miles and produced enough fossil fuels to disrupt the hydrological cycle of the biosphere.
Environmental Protection Agency. (2015, May 11). How Do CAFOs Impact the Environment? EPA.Gov. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/region07/water/cafo/cafo_impact_environment.htm
Environmental Protection Agency. (2015, May 11). What is a CAFO? EPA.Gov. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/region07/water/cafo/index.htm
Khan, S. J., Muafia, S., Nasreen, Z., & Salariya, A. M. (2012). GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOs): FOOD SECURITY OR THREAT TO FOOD SAFETY. Pakistan Journal of Science, 64(2), 6-12. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&sid=0fb4e3d1-594e-4ca9-a69f-5d75ecfc3d9c%40sessionmgr110&hid=110
Turk, J., & Bensel, T. (2014). Contemporary environmental issues (2nd Ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
United States Department of Agriculture. (2012, May 26). Natural Resources & Environment. USDA.Gov. Retrieved from http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment.aspx