Human and environmental effects of 'mass-produced agriculture'

12 September 2011   |   by Ajay Jaiman   |    comment

I must confess that I was not entirely surprised to read that the results of ‘mass-produced agriculture’ can sometimes be less than satisfactory. Allow me to summaries some of the human and environmental effects of using using ‘modern industrial production systems’ to grow tomatoes :

  • Hundreds of herbicides and pesticides are sprayed on the fields. Many of these are known to have negative health impact. There are known documented cases of birth defects among the farm hands.
  • Tomatoes are picked hard and green and then they are artificially ‘ripened’ by spraying ethylene gas.
  • The fruit is bred for volume and not taste or nutritional value. Which has led to yields tripling while the amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C has dramatically reduced.
  • Perhaps one of the key cost-saving device being employed is modern-day slave labour. Yes, they are bought and sold. They work horrendously long hours and can not negotiate their terms of ‘employment’. If they escape they are tracked down. There are many known cases of children being used a slave labour.

What I was surprised by however, is that this description is not from some small village, in some third-world country. This story is unfolding just a couple of hundred miles south of Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Now guess what this ‘modern industrial production systems’ can achieve in some far-flung district of a poor third-world country.

Consider reading this book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit By James Beard who originally wrote the award-winning article, “The Price of Tomatoes,”