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Impact of Industrial Farming on the Environment
Environmental pollution by fertilizers
Environmental Contamination by Genetically Modified Seeds
Agricultural production has over the years transformed from subsistence farming to more intensive commercial farming. It is apparent that industrial agriculture has been epitomized as an important way of promoting farming efficiency, as well as increasing agricultural production. This has led to increased food sustainability in developed countries. It has also played a significant role in addressing food shortages in developing countries. Although industrial farming has helped to feed more people around the world, it has brought harm to both people and the planet as a whole. Thankfully, biotechnology has begun to make industrial farming more environmentally friendly, and as a nation we need to more fully embrace the revolution it is bringing to agriculture. It is apparent that industrial farming has immense consequences on the environment ranging from environmental pollution to the phenomenon of climate change. Therefore, this paper will provide an aesthetic analysis of the harmful impact of industrial farming on the environment.
Industrial farming involves all aspects of feeding, breeding, raising, and processing animals and crop products for the consumption by humans (Winson, 2014). This is a complex subject that involves individuals, private enterprises, large and small corporate consumers, the community, the state and federal regulators, and the general public. Its systems involve the consumption of fossil fuels, topsoil, and water at very unsustainable rates. It has been found to contribute to several forms of environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, depletion of soils, fish die-offs, and diminishing biodiversity. For instance, the production of meat significantly contributes to these problems (Winson, 2014). Producing grains for animals’ consumption instead of the direct consumption by humans involves loss of energy and destruction of resources.
It is also argued that the proliferation of the industry-style livestock production has created environmental, as well as public health concerns, including pollution from the large animal wastes and extensive use of antibiotics (Winson, 2014). The extensive use antibiotics make animal fat to contain higher levels of antibiotics and other chemicals that are believed to contribute to the severity of diseases in humans.
Foremost, the use of inorganic fertilizers for crop production has been found to increase food production. According to Altieri (1998), an ecological expert, the amounts of nitrogen applied to the most arable lands fluctuate between 120-550 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare. However, the bountiful harvests that are realized as a result of fertilizer application have also been associated with devastating environmental consequences. According to Winson (2014), the increased application of fertilizers leads to high incidences of pests and diseases. It is apparent that crops grown under fertilizer have been found to be susceptible to pests because they have higher foliage levels. As such, they serve as pest harbors for pests that destroy foliage; thus increasing environmental degradation.
Moreover, the wasteful and inappropriate application and utilization of fertilizers by crops lead to environmental pollution. Significant amounts of fertilizers that are not used by crops are normally washed into the surfaces water and groundwater. It is estimated that about 25 percent of groundwater sources such as wells, in America contain high level of nitrate (Winson, 2014). This is attributed to the intensive use of fertilizers in crop production. The high nitrate levels in water are dangerous to human health. According to Heagle et al. (1973), nitrates lower oxygen levels in the children’s bloodstream and causes gastric, esophageal, and bladder cancers in adults.
Fertilizers have also been found to destroy aquatic habitats. For instance, excessive use of fertilizers has led to the growth of algal glooms in water bodies such as lakes. When fertilizer residues are washed into lakes by rainfall, phosphorous and nitrogen in these residues favor a phenomenon referred to as eutrophication. In this case, aquatic plants grow rapidly to cause overcrowding and competition for nutrients and sunlight. It is apparent that eutrophication has devastating consequences. Some of these consequences include degradation of recreational opportunities, tainted drinking water supplies and suffocation of aquatic animals including fish. It is reported that eutrophication related damages cost the US about $2.2 billion each year (Chislock, Doster, Zitomer & Wilson, 2013).
Winson (2014) suggests that though some forms of biotechnology have improved crop farming, they still have a potential of being misused if left under the control of multinational corporations. The intrusion of private interest in biotechnology has resulted into devastating environmental and health implications. For instance, there is evidence that some genetically modified seeds are harmful to the environment. Currently, industrial farming has adopted genetically modified crops to increase agricultural production. Therefore, it has facilitated the harmful environmental consequences. Genetically modified seeds have been reported to cause devastating harm to the environment. An outstanding example is the destruction of monarch butterflies by pollen from genetically modified corn that was engineered by Monsanto (Friedlander, 1999).
Industrial agriculture has led to several public health concerns such as antimicrobial resistance, impacts on occupational and community health, and transfer of zoonotic diseases to humans (Marshall & Levy, 2011). Zoonotic diseases are those diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. It has also been found to cause significant disruptions to ecological balances. Of particular concerns are the industrial farming concentration and its juxtaposition with the general human population. The environmental impacts of industrial farming can be assessed in light of its potential impacts on individuals and the general population. The effects of industrial farming include diseases and disease transmission, with an increased potential for pathogens spreading from the animals to humans.
In some incidences, cases of mental and social health have also been recorded. Many animals are confined in farm structures, which increased the likelihood of animal diseases being easily transmitted to humans as a result of the accumulation of wastes. Animal waste often contains several pathogens when left untreated or when minimally treated. These wastes are usually swept into water bodies when they are applied as fertilizers on farms with poor land management practices. For example, in 2006, animal waste runoff was suspected to have caused Escherichia coli outbreak that killed three people and left two hundred sick (Winson, 2014).
Industrial farming has also led to increased food-borne infections. According to Winson (2014), farm produce has a high likelihood of microbial contamination. It has been found to increase microbial contamination of food. Marshall and Levy (2011) explain that meat, dairy, and poultry production, as well as manure handling processes, can lead to food contamination and zoonotic diseases. The occurrence of zoonotic diseases is worsened by industrial farm houses that house livestock. Zoonotic diseases are diseases caused by microbial agents and normally exist in animals, but can be transmitted to human beings (Winson, 2014). According to Gürlük, Uzel, and Turan (2015), of the 1400 documented human pathogens, it is estimated that 64 percent of them are zoonotic. When individuals come into contact with the zoonotic pathogens, they can spread the pathogens to the entire community, thereby leading to adverse effects on the human population.
Moreover, industrial farming also impacts on occupational health. According to Winson (2014), toxic gasses and dust are produced in industrial farm facilities. These substances can cause chronic or temporary respiratory irritation to the farm workers. Many sickness symptoms that grain handlers experience have also been attributed to industrial farming. Such of these health conditions include chronic and acute bronchitis, mucous membrane irritation, non-allergic asthma-like syndrome, and infectious sinusitis. In most cases, these conditions are more severe among smokers than in nonsmokers. It is also worth noting that there is an emerging health condition associated with industrial farming known as Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS). This is one of the common infections that are reported among industrial farm workers.
According to Gürlük, Uzel, and Turan (2015), experts in health, industrial agriculture has strong relationships with asthma. In a study carried out by Altieri (2011), it was found out that there was a higher prevalence of asthma, 41%, among children of swine farmers who lived on their farms. It was also found out that there was a higher prevalence of asthma in children who lived on farms that used antibiotics as additives in animal feeds. These results are important because they show that children who live in industrial farms are more vulnerable to asthma as compared to those children who live away from industrialized farms. Therefore, public health professionals and environmentalists in rural areas have the responsibility to pursue environmental measures that seek to eliminate or minimize the risk of asthma among children.
From an ecological perspective, it is apparent that industrial farming has led to immense ecological imbalance in the ecosystem. Foremost, destruction of wetlands during farming activities has led to loss of habitat for aquatic animal and plant species. Ordinarily, wetlands serve as ecological sites within which organisms that are suited to that environment interact. These interactions enhance energy flow in the ecosystem. Therefore, destruction of wetlands has led to an unprecedented disruption of energy flow in the ecosystem. This implies that some animal and plant species are likely to get extinct.
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