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A m e r i c a s A g r i c u l t u r a l I n d u s t r y : C h e m i c a l C o n s e q u e n c e s a n d S u s t a i n a b l e A l t e r n a t i v e s By Jillian W alker A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Environmental Studies New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelors of Arts Under the Sponsorship of Dr Mar garet Lowman Sarasota, Florida February 1 1, 2009
i T able of Contents T able of Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Chapter One : Historical Origins of Modern Industrial Agriculture' s Chemical Dependence . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Mechanical Advancements in Agriculture. . . . . . . . . . 7 Elements of Early American Agriculture: Pressures, Problems, and Perspectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Mechanizing Agriculture . . . . . . . . . . . 10 The Chemicalization of Agriculture . . . . . . . . . . 13 Fertilizers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Pesticides . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Publicity and Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Farm Journals . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Government Endorsed Extension Services . . . . . . . 24 Chapter T w o: Chemical Consequences of Modern Industrial Agriculture: Public Health and Environmental Degradation . . . . . 27 Pesticides: Chemicals with Consequences . . . . . . . . . 28 Synthetic Fertilizers: Consequences of Over application . . . . . . 35 Chapter Thr ee: Sustainable Alternatives to Modern Industrial Agriculture . . 40 Crop Rotation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Pest and Disease Management . . . . . . . . . . 43 W eed Management . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Soil Quality Regulation . . . . . . . . . . . 45 The Pastoral Ideal in Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Making Sustainable Connections . . . . . . . . . 47 Grass Pow er . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Mimicking Nature: Rotational Grazing . . . . . . . . 49
ii The Birds of Polyface Farm . . . . . . . . . . 50 Or ganic Farming. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 The Four Principles of Or ganic . . . . . . . . . . 53 Principles in Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Converting to Or ganic . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
iii N E W C O L L E G E O F F L O R I D A A B S T R A C T A M E R I C A S A G R I C U L T U R A L I N D U S T R Y : C H E M I C A L C O N S E Q U E N C E S A N D S U S T A I N A B L E A L T E R N A T I V E S B y J i l l i a n W a l k e r Under the sponsorship of Dr Mar garet Lowman Department of Environmental Studies Due to a number of historical factors such as a constant influx of immigrants, new technology and socio political and environmental circumstances, America faced a number of agricultural challenges from the 18th to the 20th century These problems were met with innovative technological and scientific solutions, which, while producing initial bountiful yields, ultimately resulted in the simplification of land manag ement. This simplification was lar gely centered on chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The environmental and anthropogenic consequences resulting from widespread use of these substances has resulted in an economically and ecologically unsustaina ble method of food production in the United States. This thesis discusses such historical factors, examines the negative consequences, and presents three sustainable agricultural alternatives. ________________________________ Dr Mar garet Lowman Division of Environmental Studies
Pr eface In high school I learned of the multitude o f inef ficient and environmentally degrading practices compromising the health of humans and ecosystems alike. It infuriated me, I couldn' t comprehend how Americans had become so disconnected from the very elements upon which their life depends; their land, food, water and air Nearly five years have passed since this epiphany and I' ve learned that idealistic zealots are not very ef fective in changing peoples world views and ways of living. I have also learned what historical events and pieces of legislat ion have shaped the unsustainable consumer based American way of life. What I have realized, most importantly is that in order to truly make a positive change in people and the environment, you must help others understand the unbreakable connections betwe en them and their natural surroundings. My life is governed by an ingrained sense of moral responsibility to the world around me. If I can help someone on any level, I will, and I can' t imagine living any other way In some ways you could say I' m a tree hugger as I have been know to hug trees on occasion. However I am also a strict institutionalist who believes strongly in the power of educated individuals to or ganize and reform current unsustainable, environmentally destructive industry practices. I believe that the most people would be disturbed by the reality of industrial food production in the US and greatly unnerved by the consequences borne by land, plants, and humans alike. I feel strongly that my generation would demand a sustainable future for their children if they were privy to the gritty truth of modern industrial agriculture. I also feel that environmental zealots, idealists, and greenwashers can' t garner appropriate levels of support for sustainable change. Instead, we must objectively look to the facts, to our history to the present, and to the positive, if we as a country hope to establish a catalyst for positive, sustainable, agricultural change. I wrote this thesis in hopes that I could have the tools for inspiring some of this chan ge.
2 Intr oduction ". more than 40% of all world food production is being lost to insect, plant pathogens, and weeds, despite the application of more than 3 billion kilograms of pesticides to crops, plus other means of control." (Dimental, 2008, p. 171 ) Early American settlers began establishing what is now New England in the late 17 t h century As challenges to secure and sustain food, shelter and protection were met, settlers expanded their scope of inhabitable land. As settlement began to spread m ore rapidly throughout the US, settlers faced new environmental challenges in securing their basic needs, especially food, which required a reliable system of farming. These problems catalyzed the search and discovery of new innovative technological and scientific solutions that paved the way for modern industrial agriculture. As new agricultural methods emer ged, enabling greater productivity the landscape of the farm was modified to make these processes more ef ficient. As ef ficiency increased, the plan ts themselves began to be selected for their economic compatibility with improved agricultural tools. Farms once diverse in plant species increasingly focused on monoculture fields because it was easier to plant, cultivate, and harvest such fields with mod ern agricultural technology In the first chapter of this thesis, I focus on the agricultural, economic, environmental, and socio political circumstances of the 200 years leading to the 21 s t century that resulted in modern industrial agriculture. The 19 t h century was rife with political, military and economic struggle, and significant agricultural reform was dif ficult, compounded also by a continuously increasing population (Allen, 2007). During this time,
3 simple tools of agriculture, such as the scythe a nd sickle, were modified for ef ficiency while new tools such as the plow were developed, that greatly reduced the amount of human labor needed on a 19 t h century farm. Also during this period, scientific research on agriculture was setting the stage for th e first half of the 20 t h century which would transform agricultural businesses into corporations that produced and sold soil fertility and pest control in containers full of synthetic chemicals. In addition to lax legislation governing agricultural produ cts, the prevalence of advertising in farm journals emer ging from the 19 t h century onwards and the establishment of the governmentally endorsed agricultural extension service in the late 19 t h century all factored into farmers increasing dependence on synth etic fertilizers and pesticides. These mechanical, chemical, promotional, and governmentally endorsed factors were major drivers in the path towards industrial agriculture in America. In my second chapter I focus on the anthropogenic and environmental imp acts of widespread use of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides. These substances are at the heart of the agribusiness industrys promise to amplify crop production by enhancing soil fertility and defending crops from maladies such as pests and dis ease (EP A, 2000). According to the EP A (2000), current world population trends demand that agricultural yields increase accordingly The EP A also claims that this is not possible without utilizing known methods of crop enhancement. These "known methods" come in the form of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Although these two products serve dif ferent agricultural purposes, they share similar industrial characteristics. For example, both pesticides and fertilizers gained popularity as weaponry in the first two W orld W ars. Chemicals used as weapons in times of conflict also serve to suppress the enemies in agricultural fields: biological pests and soil infertility Pollan explains, "The same corporations -Dow and Monsanto -that manufactured pesticid es also made napalm and
4 Agent Orange, the herbicide with which the U.S. Military was waging war against nature in Southeast Asia." (2006, p. 216). Certain ingredients in synthetic fertilizers, such as nitrogen and potassium, are used in times of war for th eir explosive properties (Allen, 2007). Outside of warfare, fertilizers and pesticides continue to have negative ef fects on public health and wellbeing, in addition to disruptive ef fects on natural ecosystems such as the Gulf of Mexico. For example, sever al pesticides are known to disrupt the nervous system of an exposed individual, yet continue to be sprayed upon farmlands. Also, synthetic fertilizers, usually over applied on industrially managed land, that reach water systems by way of runof f result in e utrophication and mass fish kills. Confronting such consequences is necessary An important step in such confrontation is evaluating known methods of sustainable food production, and understanding the process of transitioning to such practices. Chapter t hree focuses on three types of sustainable land management that avoid the use of agricultural chemicals by focusing instead on the biological interactions between the sun, soil, and plants. There are multiple sustainable methods by which a farmer can man age pests, disease, weeds and soil fertility without using agricultural chemicals. Permaculture, intercropping, or ganic farming, use of cover crops, and crop rotation are just a few examples of the many alternatives. Three of these are discussed in the thi rd chapter Some of these methods are more integrated than others, incorporating several dif ferent management techniques, such as or ganic farming and pastoral land management. Such synthetic chemical free farming methods rely heavily on the biological heal th of the soil for agricultural success. This is achieved by utilizing multiple methods of land management, such as intercropping, crop rotation, and composting. However or ganic farming and crop rotation are discussed independently of each other Pastoral land management, focused around intensive pasture
5 management, is also dependent on regular composting operations. By isolating specific examples of sustainable alternatives, I illuminate the dif ference between small sustainable changes, and those requiri ng a complete revision in farm infrastructure.
6 Chapter One: Historical Origins of Modern Industrial Agricultur e's Chemical Dependence Among the scientific advances of recent decades in the United States can be found a nearly complete mechanization of cultural and management practices for plant crops. (Ebeling, 1979, p. 39). A plethora of information exists regarding technological and mechanical advances in agriculture from the 18th into the 21st centu ry For this thesis, I will focus on only advancements that paved the way to the heavy reliance of industrial farms upon agrichemicals. This approach facilitates discussion on the negative environmental and health ef fects of synthetic agrochemicals, includ ing select alternatives which avoid these consequences. The stage is set in a chronological, summarized format, illustrating the path America has traversed to its current agricultural state. I will focus my range between the late 18th and the 21st century with particular emphasis on pesticides and fertilizers. Although I draw from a broad literature, this review synthesizes four major texts: T ed Steinber g, author of Down to Earth an in depth environmental history of the settling of America; Michael Poll en, author of The Omnivor e's Dilemma which explores how American citizens have developed their current relationship with food; W ill Allen, author of The W ar on Bugs a critical and chronological examination of the reasons behind modern industrial agricult ure' s heavy dependence on agrochemicals; and W alter Ebeling, author of The Fruited Plain: The Story of American Agricultur e, a text examining the technological, physical, and environmental aspect of American agriculture up to 1979, serve as the basis for this historical chapter
7 Mechanical Advancements in Agricultur e Elements of Early American Agriculture: Pressures, Problems, and Perspectives The mechanization of agriculture is essentially the simplification of land management. Pop ulation growth played a lar ge part in fueling this mechanization. As demand for food grew the need to cultivate greater yields and harvest them with greater security and ef ficiency also grew (Steingber g, 2002). In confronting the issue of how to provide a reliable food supply for its people, America' s agricultural philosophy and methodology underwent a great transformation, aided by science, technology and socio political circumstances, that resulted in the mechanized simplification of agriculture. Earl y colonial land practices were ridden with many calamities as the settlers adjusted to their new environmental surroundings. In addition to severe weather unfamiliar soil quality and a climate to which old world crops were not well suited, challenges of controlling pests, disease, and environmental damage to crops were major hurdles requiring constant attention. Subsequently early settlements often failed due to disease and famine (Steinber g, 2002). After the revolutionary war some American farmers be gan to search for more sustainable methods of farming, while others were becoming more interested in scientific farming methods being employed in Europe. Allen (2007) shows how these dif fering interests formed two types of farmers, those focused on the sus tainability of the land so as to ensure longevity and reliability of production, and those focused on how to most quickly ef ficiently and profitably extract high yields (pp. 5 15). The second class of farmer described above originated in the early 1600' s and continued through the 1850' s, into the 21 s t century V ast expanses of land along the east and west of North America were seized by a small number of colonial planters who established
8 lar ge plantations of tobacco, corn, hemp, and cotton along cleared land and depended primarily on enslaved or indentured workers for farm labor (Allen, 2007). Many of these men, the slaves, serfs and servants, would eventually join the ranks of small farmers focused on sustaining the fertility and longevity of agricultu ral land in America (Allen, 2007). Allen (2007) illustrates how from south Geor gia through V ir ginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts, lar ge scale colonial farms had devastated the land due to perpetual cultivation of such cash crops as corn, cotton, and tobac co. Owners of these lar ge scale agricultural operations were thus very much intrigued by the seemingly simple solutions, to be discussed shortly of fered by science, rather than spending years to re establish the fertility and health of their soil and refo rmulate their land management systems at a cost to their profits. Especially during the period leading up to the Civil W ar and after with the decline in cheap human labor plantation owners were forced to find solutions which did not place an economic or time constraint on cultivation of their land (Allen, 2007). As technology created better tools which replaced the work of many men (for example, the combine reaper achieved the same amount of work as 145 skilled farm hands) (Ebeling, 2007), and science d eveloped chemical formulas to replace good management practices (but which also, as time would reveal, place an even heavier environmental burden on farms than over planting), lar ge scale farms were able to continue intensive land management practices. Fa rmers concerned with soil fertility and sustainability found an advocate in John T aylor an early proponent of sustainable agriculture. Though still incorporating the element of slave labor John T aylor emphasized the need to move towards more or ganically minded agriculture in his book, Arator published in 1813. As Allen (2007) details, T aylor
9 emphasized the need for a four field rotational system utilizing the fertilizing properties of manure, and restoring worn out land by planting fallow crops which wer e not to be grazed. T aylor' s positions and views on land management were subsequently published in farmers almanacs of the time, which were America' s oldest rural publications. The role of these and future farm publications will be discussed later Othe r techniques employed by soil quality conscious farmers had been practiced long before early agricultural reform ef forts in America. Bean plants, certain grasses, mustards, buckwheat, Italian rye, barley and clovers were all known to contribute to healthy fertility of the soil. Through methods practiced and passed on through centuries, progressive farmers in American were able to take advantage of such knowledge as planting garlic and onions to stimulate following crops, and using tomatoes, which acidified the soil, to enable acid loving plants planted afterwards, such as beans, to produce higher yields (Allen, 2007, p. 14). Despite such knowledge, the dominance of lar ge economically powerful, and thus politically powerful farmers in the 19 t h century (due t o the ability to vote), ef forts to impose sustainable practices and reverse soil degradation and erosion were countered. A number of technological advances aided by political decisions emer ged as the 19 t h century came to an end that changed the face of Am erican agriculture. The US Public Land Survey was a major element of this change. Dividing the land was central to the expansion and mechanization of agriculture in the US. For example, new environmental conditions called for more powerful and ef ficient to ols, for without these tools, the need to produce food to feed a family as fast as possible would not be met. The public land survey enabled this division of land, and farmers were soon spreading across the United States. After the Continental Congress es tablished the rectangular public land survey system in 1785, agricultural expansion began to explode, and land management was to under go an
10 extreme transformation. Surveyors would continuously divide land measuring 6 square miles into 160 acre sized plots, which was considered the standard farm size (Steinber g, 2002). Once divided, land was parceled out to paying Americans who would then plow up the land and begin cultivation. From 1785 1832, the minimum acreage required for purchase was continuously reduce d, and fluctuated in price from a dollar per acre in 1785 to two dollars, then changed to $1.25 per acre in 1820 up until 1934 (Ebeling, 1979, p 28). Mechanizing Agricultur e The circumstances surrounding land management of these times was polar in compar ison to that of the later 20 t h century; natural resources and land were plentiful while labor and capital were lacking. Ebeling (1979) claimed that labor and capital were utilized sparingly and intensively whereas natural resources were utilized as lib erally and extensively as possible. Serious concerns of this era among some political leaders of the time were soil depletion and erosion although Ebeling (1979) explained such problems could always be abandoned as farmers left degraded land to move west. Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac recounts his sighting of one such abandoned farm: Higher up the creeklet I encounter an abandoned farm. I try to read, from the age of the young jackpines marching across an old field, how long ago the luckless farm er found out that sand plains were meant to grow solitude, not corn. [I find] an elm seedling that now blocks the barn door Its rings date back to the drought of 1930. Since that year no man has carried milk out of this barn. (p. 57) Steinber g (20 02) characterizes the agricultural conditions after the enactment of the Public land survey in 1785 in a dif ferent light, emphasizing the struggle of farmers managing the unfamiliar landscape. He explains that once farmers purchased this land they were fac ed with the task of plowing up existing vegetation. But plowing up the rich, deep
1 1 soil, laid down by the glaciers thousands of years earlier which cemented the prairie grass, was at first a major obstacle. The sickle and scythe, simple agricultural tools used for centuries, could not meet the demands of new American farmers. Cultivating this soil originally required great inputs of man power to use the simple tools of the time. W ooden plows of the late 18 t h and early 19 t h century with edges made of iron w ere essentially useless. Metal plows, however enabled the new land to be more easily and more rapidly cultivated. Steinber g (2002) emphasizes that only with the development and spread of the steel plow invented in 1837 by John Deere, did the soil succu mb to ef forts to cultivate the land. Once land was cultivated, farmers were faced with harvesting their crop as ef ficiently and quickly as possible, so as to secure the greatest profit. Steinber g (2002) explains that harvesting small grains in the late 18 t h and early 19 t h century had always been a precarious business, with no more than a two week window within which grain could be harvested; the only scythes available were primitive, and slowed the farm workers down considerably ultimately costing them a portion of their crop. Grain that couldnt be harvested in time was left in the fields to rot. Improvements to the scythe changed this. By adding wooden finger like pieces above the scythe blade, the grain cradle was invented at the time of the American R evolution. This cradle enabled farm workers to catch and bundle enough stalks for a sheaf, allowing greater ease when binding them by hand (Ebeling, 1979). The cradle required great care in its construction; to function properly it had to have perfect bala nce. Although the cradle demanded man power in farm work unimaginable in today' s industrial agricultural model, its operator demanded and received two or three times the pay of a common farm worker (Ebeling, 1975).
12 Ebeling (1979) also focuses on the evol ution of the iron plow A cast iron plow patented in 1797, worked well but was not accepted by the farmers, who believed that iron poisoned the soil and encouraged the proliferation of weeds. A significant disadvantage of this plow was that all parts were in one casting. When the share was dulled or broken, the whole plow had to be replaced. A cast iron plow patented in 1814, then improved in 1819, was comprised of interchangeable parts joined together and fastened by lugs and interlocking pieces, making repair and replacement much less expensive and far easier One other element in the technological advances of the early 18 t h century was the reaper which first emer ged in the 1830' s. One model was made by Oded Hussey in 1833, and a second version, McCor mick' s reaping machine, was patented in 1834 and then again in 1842 (Ebeling, 1979). McCormick' s reaping machine held an advantage over Hussey' s invention in that grain was raked from the side of the platform, negating the necessity of removing grain bef ore the next round of reaping, allowing for a more continuous and ef ficient function (Ebeling, 1979). The harvester was the next advancement in agriculture technology Ebeling (1979) describes how two men, riding on the machine, could bind and cut grain a s it was delivered onto the platform; this system could harvest eight to ten acres of grain in a day' s work. The mechanical binder soon replaced that element of man power and was followed by the reaper combine. The reaper combine displaced 170 unskilled or 145 skilled farm hands, by replacing the reaper harvester and the binder threshing machine through its multi purpose mechanical capabilities (Ebeling, 1979).
13 The Chemicalization of Agricultur e In 1840, America' s population had reached 17.1 millio n people, including 4.4 million farm workers (Ebeling, 1979). In the next 129 years, the number of people living in the US grew to 202.2 million, yet the number of farm workers increased by less than 5%, to 4.6 million. Ebeling demonstrated that the major dif ference between the two eras was productivity In 1840, each farm worker was supplying food for about 3.9 people, whereas in 1969, each farm worker was supplying enough food for 45.3 people. Ebeling ar gues that these changes in productivity per worker can be directly attributed to mechanical advances. The role of technology and science in agricultural practices was one which was paid greater and greater attention. The transition to fields devoted to the cultivation of a single species is another majo r element of the transition to modern industrial agriculture. Monoculture is the exclusive use of land to the cultivation of a single plant species, due to favorable climate and soil conditions (Ebeling, 1979). Although this practice initially maximizes pr oductivity initial economic gains are of f set by long term negative side ef fects (Ebeling, 1979). These side ef fects include erosion, loss of soil fertility and decline in soil productivity as well as increased disease and pest challenges. Ebeling (197 9) found that Pest and disease control provide some of the most severe challenges in the monoculture of the principle food crops of the world.(p. 39) The agricultural method of monoculture emer ged in relation to lar ge plantations and later became adopte d as common practice when technological and scientific discoveries proved to be more easily applicable on fields consisting of only one species. Fertilizers In 1804, Alexander von Humboldt, an adventurous natural scientist, was informed on
14 his trip to Sou th America of the agricultural potential of Peruvian guano; he subsequently brought a sample back to Europe and testified to its agricultural restorative properties (Allen, 2007). Humboldt' s promotions were followed by a lar ge degree of action from mining and shipping countries set out to profit from this resource. Guanos agricultural benefits were first promoted in an article published in 1824 by John Stuart Skinner in the American Farmer ( Allen, 2007) The American Farmer was one of the first agricultura l publications to achieve prominence and relative permanence, and was established in Baltimore in 1819 (Ebeling, 1979). Y et American farmers were, at this time, still extremely wary of any unproved, foreign methods of land management. By advertising guan o as a natural product, however companies selling guano eventually garnered the interest of American farmers, and by 1840, its use was more common in the eastern US. Due to increasing demand, Peruvian guano was soon mined to depletion in the 1870' s and wa s completely unavailable a decade later While the initial success of guano fertilizer increased farmer' s trust in agricultural advertising, after the depletion of guano, agricultural companies began to advertise inef fective low grade guano. Allen (2007) s hows how the low grade guanos, bone meals, and phosphates covered in sulfuric acid, misrepresented as pure Peruvian guano, became the first synthetic fertilizers sold in America. Justus and his NPK Mentality Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, was one of the most influential figures in the chemicalization of American agriculture. In 1840, Liebig published Chemistry and its Application to Agricultur e. W ithin this monograph, Liebig disseminated the concept of soil fertility as a complex and interwoven syste m, into a trilogy of simplicity (Pollan, 2006). Liebig identified three chemicals essential for growth -nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium
15 which, in their periodic table representation, formed the acronym NPK (these three letters are now stamped on the b ag of every commercial fertilizer) (Pollan, 2006). Liebig' s research captured not only the attention of American industrialists, but also lar ge scale American farmers of the time, as well as researchers at Harvard and Y ale (Allen, 2007). Pollan (2007) ch aracterizes Liebig' s simplification of soil fertility as the NPK mentality This mentality aided in paving the road to modern industrial agriculture. Among such principles as the NPK mentality there was also the sterility principle. In terms of mechani zation of agriculture, Ebeling (1979) uses the example of the eradication of problematic pests as the screwworm and fruit flies to support the claim of the scholar Gall (1968) that it was one of the most original scientific ideas of the twentieth century As characterized by Allan (2007), Liebig' s work ushered in a new era of agricultural methods focused on science and chemistry in the mid 19 t h century Allan goes on to explain that Liebig' s development of the NPK mentality however ignored key compon ents of soil health and fertility such as texture, tilth, microor ganisms, soil type, or ganic matter [ef fects] of crop rotations, and, most importantly the uniqueness of place. (p. 35). Liebig believed that synthetic chemicals coupled with mineral additives could better more ef ficiently and more profitably supply the benefits of humus than the actual humus itself (Allen, 2007). Unfortunately as W alters and Fenzau (1995) explain, such a mentality does not take into account the extremely complex nature of soil fertility and nutrient needs of dif ferent plants, and in the long term establish problems which often incur increased agrichemical usage. A shortage and imbalance of plant nutrients will ultimately produce an imbalanced, unhealthy plant. Ma lnutrition, pest and disease attacks, chemical residue, weed infestation, and increased crop loss during dry periods are all consequences of this NPK mentality
16 More than 40 American students studied under Liebig and became instrumental in asserting the p erceived necessity of agricultural chemistry to one of widespread acceptance (Allen, 2007). Liebigs first American student, Eben Norton Horsford, wrote several articles for the agricultural publication the Cultivator and was a prominent proponent of Lieb ig. Y et Liebig was not immediately popular in American farm communities up until the 1890s, as farmers were still fairly wary of scientific solutions to agricultural problems. The causative factors behind the establishment of the thriving commercial ferti lizer industry originated in the discovery of mineral deposits and commercial waste by products. Chilian nitrate was the next important fertilizer discovery of the 1800' s, and the first boatload arrived in California in 1845 (Allen, 2007). The nitrate was actually a byproduct of South American ef forts to discover new salt sources. Allen (2007) explains that this fertilizer was not of any interest until the after the Civil W ar when farmers had returned from the battlefields and were searching for an easy quick fix fertilizer(p. 42), and was not a major element of the commercial fertilizer industry until the middle of the twentieth century comprising only 5% of nitrogen use at the beginning of the twentieth century Allen details that the commercial fer tilizers of prominence at the very end of the 19 t h century and the first few decades of the 20 t h century were phosphorous, potash, lime, gypsum, and sulfur Several discoveries which fueled America' s emer gence as a major force in the worldwide and nationa l fertilizer industry are: rock phosphate deposits in South Carolina, 1859, with mining and marketing starting in 1867; lar ge quantities of phosphorus discovered in Florida, 1888; and additional commercial fertilizer supplies in T ennessee, 1894 (Allen, 200 7). Mid eighteenth century synthetic fertilizers of crushed bone doused with sulfuric acid and low grade guano were thus replaced as phosphates began to be used as the basic ingredient of most mixed fertilizers. As coal and coke began to replace wood as he at sources
17 in the later 18 t h century their sulfur by products were made available as components of mixed fertilizers, in addition to the sulfur by products of oil exploitation (Allen, 2007). The major drivers of the agricultural expansion of the first ha lf of the eighteenth century -slave labor sodium nitrate, guano -were soon to be replaced by commercial agricultural endeavors. Allen (2007) explains that after the civil war the growing commercial fertilizer industry fueled by sodium nitrate, phosphate discoveries, and sulfur waste by products, temporarily compensated for soil fertility degradation, and aided in increasing the size of industrial farms as well as overall cultivated acreage in America. The processes by which a major element of modern agri culture, nitrogen, was acquired, first became established in America in 1907, by way of the Frank Caro nitrogen fixation process but was later replaced by the more popular nitrogen fixation process of Haber Bosch (Allen, 2007). The Haber Bosch process was a major turning point in agriculture, and, despite significant ener gy requirements, remains the most important process in nitrogen acquisition today; with out it, the amount of life on earth would be limited by how much nitrogen could be fixed by plants a lone (Pollan, 2006). The next major pressure placed upon American Farmers would come by way of The Great Depression and concurrent massive drought of the 1930' s. After the great depression policies were implemented in ef forts to give greater security to A mericans, especially farmers. The New Deal is one example. FDR established a system of subsidies aimed at stabilizing farmers seasonal, net profits (Pollan, 2006). Farmers were thus hard pressed to find solutions to their agricultural dif ficulties, and re placing soil fertility on any level, and in any form, was essential to their survival (Allen, 2007). During this time, several synthetic nitrogen producing factories were set up in the United States. T wo companies -Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation, and DuPont -
18 produced 87% of US synthetic nitrogen before WW II (Allen, 2007). But as the 20 t h century progressed, governmental sanctions indicted fertilizer companies on antitrust violations, and by 1958, most all of the lar ge potash and nitrogen producers had been parties to consent decree with the Department of Justice (Allen, 2007). Despite these challenges, the companies pushed on, as their supply was not meeting demand. In 1940, the 780,600 pounds of synthetic nitrogen that was produced in the US was only enough to fertilize a small amount of the then 200 million acres devoted to agriculture in the country (Allen, 2007). Because of these agricultural demands, today more than half of the planet' s usable nitrogen is man made (Pollan, 2006) In lar ge part due to WW II, and fertilizer ingredients such as nitrogen and sodium nitrate' s ability to act as explosives, by 1944 America' s production capacity increased more than threefold (Allen, 2007). During WW II, however agricultural and military demand for sy nthetic fertilizer ingredients outstripped production capacity which in response, upped production ef forts (Allen, 2007). Agricultural companies advertised their lar ge scale production of nitrogen, sulfur potash, and phosphorus during the 1940s (that ultimately exceeded WWII demand) as the cause behind the United States war victory (Allen, 2007). After WW II ended, the US government was in possession of the excess nitrogen as well as multiple nitrogen plants. These plants were subsequently sold back to agricultural companies, who quickly returned to their pre war supply and sale of fertilizers to American farmers. Agricultural chemical sales at this time occupied a significant part of the market, and were controlled by just a few major players. For e xample, by 1955, 72% of synthetic fertilizer plants were controlled by eight agricultural corporations, five of which controlled 55% of the entire market (Allen, 2007). Also during this time, nitrogen production was at a
19 5.7 million pounds production level a significant 730% increase from 1940 (Allen, 2007). During the second half of the 20 t h century there was a significant increase in synthetic nitrogen and superphosphate sales. From 1944 through 1993, for example, California alone used 83 billion tons of fertilizer; a stark contrast to the 4 billion tons used in the forty year period of 1903 1944 (Allen, 2007, p. 146). T oday more than half of currently produced synthetic nitrogen is applied to corn (Pollan, 2006). Nearly half the agricultural acreag e in the US was fertilized with synthetic nitrogen in the middle of the 20 t h century and by the 1990' s it was more than 90% (Allen, 2007). By the beginning of the 21 s t century in 2000, 70% of total fertilizer use in the United States was that of syntheti c nitrogen, with phosphorus, sulfur and potassium composing most of the remaining 30% (Allen, 2007). Lead and cadmium, known to be harmful in suf ficient quantities, are also substances used in commercial fertilizers (EP A, 2000). Pesticides Monitor is a deadly chemical [pesticide],' Forsyth told me; it is known to damage the human nervous system. I won' t go into a field for four or five days after it' s been sprayed not even to fix a broken pivot' That is, Forsyth would sooner loose a whole circle to dr ought than expose himself or an employee to this poison. (Pollan, 2001, p. 219). Commercial pesticides are part of a lar ge agribusiness industry producing a mosaic of products used to amplify crop production and defend crops from malady such as pests a nd disease (EP A, 2000). Pest problems began to exacerbate during the period after the Civil W ar plaguing such crops as tobacco, cotton, corn, potatoes, wheat, barley and oats (Allen, 2007).This was in part due to management pressures. For example, monoc ulture fields tend to increase pest and disease problems; food supply for pests and plant diseases is virtually
20 unlimited (Ebeling, 1979). Liebman and Dyck (1993) found that: Since the Second W orld W ar cropping systems in industrialized countries have b ecome increasingly simplified, with markedly less diverse vegetation patterns over time and across the landscape. Concomitantly there has been a lar ge increase in the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in these countries. (p.93) In order to cou nter the pest and disease problem, farmers turned to science for answers in the form of chemical pesticides. America' s original answer to these problems came in the form of Paris green, an arsenic mixture originally designed as a green paint pigment (Allen 2007). Lar ge scale synthetic pesticide use emer ged around 1860 with this use of arsenic, and paved the path for all subsequent synthetic, commercial pesticides, which were lar gely derived from the industrial waste products of that time (Allen, 2007). A rsenic was the dominant agricultural pesticide from 1880 1950 (Allen, 2007). As resistance to synthetic agricultural chemicals was diminished with the acceptance of arsenic, new pesticides began to emer ge. Carbon Bisulphide is one such product (Allen, 2 007). Although tests would later reveal this chemical to be a neuro and feto toxin, causing thyroid and adrenal changes in addition to damage to the heart, liver and kidneys, it was used as a soil fumigant for deep soil diseases, and for the eradication of soil worms on grapevines, fruit, and nut trees (Allen, 2007). Though carbon bisulphide is proven to cause bodily harm, as well as a history of frequently exploding when it hit buried rocks or chunks of buried metal in its early days of use, today it f umigates stored grain for insects, combined with carbon tetrachloride to help reduce the incidence of explosion (Allen, 2007). Use of arsenic continued throughout the 1990s, where it was used to defoliate cotton and kill weeds (Allen, 2007). Currently used
21 forms of arsenic are calcium, arsenare, arsenic acid, cacodylic acid, DSMA, MAMA, and MSMA; all except MAMA are used on agriculture producing food (Allen, 2007). One major dif ference between pesticides and fertilizers is that the pesticide industry is c onstantly faced with formulating more ef fective chemicals because of rapid biological adaptation of tar geted pests (EP A, 2000). Thus, a number of other pesticides were of importance to early twentieth century agriculture: cyanide in the form of cyanogas, popularized around 1909 and discontinued in 1978; sodium cyanide, a rodenticide still in use today; and paracide, widely used in the early 20 t h century (Allen, 2007). Fluoride began to be used as an alternative to arsenic after the 1930s, due to widespread criticism of arsenic' s safety; fluoride was a by product of plutonium production (Allen, 2007). Fluoride would soon be followed by carbamates and or ganophosphates, and shortly after around 1936, by methyl bromide (Allen, 2007). While not listing all chem icals of the synthetic agrichemical industry one other which deserves mention is that of DDT a pesticide which from 1946 1950 was eventually 100% inef fective on US houseflies (Allen, 2007). The Progression and Ef fects of Modern Industrial Agriculture W hile heavily advertised and aggressively campaigned, synthetic fertilizers took a back seat to animal manure and crop residues up to the 1940' s, as Allen (2007) explains. Pesticides, on the other hand, as was shown, were established agricultural practice m uch earlier W ith the advent of WW II however more American farmers began to look for solutions to fertility problems, which arrived in the form of already available synthetic fertilizers. Despite the environmental drawbacks of simplifying agriculture t hrough mechanization and science, the short term benefits are impressive. After remaining at 22 to 26 bushels per acre from about 1750 to 1930, corn, due to mechanization, increased to 80
22 bushels per acre by the year 1968 (Ebeling, 1979, p. 19). Potatoes y ields, in relation to this time scale, quadrupled, while wheat and soybean yields doubled (Ebeling, 1979). Ebeling explains that not only did increased use of fertilizers, micronutrients, insecticides, miticides, fungicides, herbicides, nematicides, antibi otics, and bioregulants play an important role in this increase in agricultural production, they also temporrily masked the adverse side ef fects. The remainder of the 20 t h century lar gely dealt with the emer gence of the adverse side ef fects resulting from increased reliance on agricultural synthetic chemicals. What follows is a chronological summation of important points that will set the stage for the second chapter of this thesis. The points discussed are significant specifically because they represent t he consequences of America' s agricultural struggle from the late 18 t h century through the middle of the first half of the 20 t h century and how the public, government, and agricultural companies were subsequently af fected. The agricultural industry became increasingly reliant on synthetic chemicals during the 1940' s (Pollan, 2006). T wenty years later in 1962, Rachael Carson published Silent Spring, warning of the detrimental environmental and public health ef fects of widespread synthetic agricultural chem ical application, which was followed by intense attacks on behalf of the of the companies selling these products (Allen, 2007). Allen goes on to explain that during the same year the Committee for Economic Development published An Adaptive Program for Agri culture, promoting lar ge corporate farms rather than small, family based operation, which subsequently guided governmental agricultural policy for the next decade. While the President' s Science Advisory Committee, in 1965 decrie[d] the excessive use of ag ricultural chemicals and in a statement, proclaimed: The corporation' s convenience has been allowed to rule national policy", it had little impact on reversing the rising tide of agrochemical use (Allen, 2007, p. 135).
23 1970 marked the creation of the EP A, which took over pesticide regulation from the USDA. T wo years later DDT registration was halted in the US, yet its use continued in countries importing food into America (Allen, 2007). By 1984, 447 species of pests had developed known resistance to o ne or more pesticides, and 14 species of weeds were known to be resistant to one or more herbicides (Allen, 2007). In 1985 the US EP A found 74 dif ferent pesticides in the groundwater of thirty eight states. During 1990, farmers in the US sprayed over 800,0 00,000 pounds of pesticides on their crops. In 1997 it was known that more than 600 agricultural pests were resistant to one or more pesticides, and around 120 weeds resistant to one or more herbicides. In 2003, five major weeds developed resistance to Rou ndup herbicides and the chemicals arsenic, paraquat; 2, 4 D were recommended as control measures. In 2007, 12 weeds developed resistance to Roundup (Allen, 2007). Publicity and Education Farm Journals Agricultural periodicals and publications served as a forum for American farmers and agricultural companies from their initial inception in 1791 up to current date (Allen, 2007). Through this forum, companies advertised agricultural innovations as they emer ged. The transition to modern industrial agricultu re has been hallmarked by science' s role in replacing good management practices. For example, ideas such as the sterility principle (Ebeling, 1979, p. 19), and the NPK mentality (Pollan, 2006, p.146) broke down the practice of farming into a set limit of i nputs and outputs. Y et early American farmers were hesitant to accept these ideas; born into their farms, and raised to believe in intensive land management, much superstition revolved around any new technological advances (Ebeling, 1979, p. 91) Such resi stance began to be countered through publication of early agricultural periodicals such as The Agricultural Museum Plough Boy and American Farmer which all
24 gained popularity in the 19 t h century These periodicals provided an opportunity for science and technology to appeal to farmers and to emphasize that lore did not invalidate recent technological advances, like the plow for example. Initially perceived as a device that would poison the soil and cause weed infestations, the plows stigma was countered through advertising ef forts, causing farmers to eventually accept the paradigm change (Ebeling 1979, p. 91). After the successes of mixed fertilizers and early pesticides, the disposition of farm publications began to shift away from the wariness of ne w scientific advances of the 19 t h century to one more Liebig minded, during the start and progression of the twentieth century (Allen, 2007, p. 85). This provided an ample opportunity for agricultural companies to intensively advertise their new products, namely pesticides and fertilizers, to the American farmer Agricultural societies and periodicals eventually catalyzed the created of United States Department of Agriculture by providing a forum for famers to demand greater government involvement in agr iculture. This fueled the development of agricultural research stations, which paved the way for government endorsed extension services, set up within the counties of states. These stations transferred agricultural information from research stations to the individual farmer (Allen, 2007). As will be shown in the next section, the extension service provided a trustworthy framework through which technological and scientific advances could be rapidly applied on the farm. W ithout this framework, the spread of a grochemicals across America' s agricultural lands would have been less rapid, as farmers continued to be fairly wary of new agricultural practices (Ebeling, 1979).
25 Government Endorsed Extension Services W ith the advent of agricultural societies and fa rm journals, the need for agricultural education became a priority in late 19 t h century America, but would not have been possible without the base of the United States Department of Agriculture. The ur gings of northern based farm societies instigated, thro ugh presidential pleas, the establishment of the USDA in 1773. This was to serve as a launching point for the agricultural extension services of the latter half of the 19 t h century and the subsequent 20 t h century (Ebeling, 1979; Allen, 2007). The next maj or marking point leading up to the of the creation of the Extension Services, was the establishment of the first government supported agricultural experiment station in the US, set up by one of Justus von Liebig' s vocal critics James Johnson, also a chemis t, in 1865 (Allen, 2007). While many land grant colleges had been set up in agricultural states across the country no continuous governmentally sponsored support was garnered until the Hatch Act was passed in 1887 on March 2 n d (Allen, 2007, p.61). Once ap proved by congress and signed by the president, it provided yearly grants to each state to support an agricultural experiment station, and within a year after its ratification, every state had accepted its provisions; within a decade, each station' s staf f members were doing their own original research (Ebeling, 1979). Not only did these stations give direction to land grant colleges, they were most likely a principle factor in their ensured continuation. One of the major drivers behind the extension servic es was the need to bring to the attention of the farmer new and useful farming practices. Ebeling (1979) explains that through the USDA, state land grant institutions, and the extension service, as well as through provisions of the Smith Lever Act of 1914, the federal government, states and counties, all worked together to bring innovative research to the American farmer The extension service is set up in such a way that each county has its own director
26 and farm advisor who can be called upon for agricult ural counsel; this is solidified by county education programs and such services as direct contact farm calls, meetings, newsletters, and the use of mass media (Ebeling, 1979). Ebeling (1979) explains that at it' s inception, a county extension agent had di rect contact with technically trained specialists who carried their research results of the USDA to the research department of state agricultural colleges, where the extension agent could then conduct of f campus, non credit teaching programs on the incorpo ration of this research into farming practice (Ebeling, 1979). W ithout this streamlined flow of scientific and technological information, specifically governmentally supported, farmers would have been much more reluctant to accept modern industrial metho ds of farming. A mosaic of factors put increasing pressure on American farmers from the 19 t h century into the middle of the 20 t h century Due to environmental and socio economic challenges, military strife, insuf ficient legislation, in addition to fierce a dvertising on the part of agricultural corporations, the farming ethos of good management and intensive planning was broken down as the lar ge, monoculture plantation' s simplified and mechanized farming methods became standard. The consequences of this sta ndardization of agricultural chemical use in America initially provided great yield increases at little cost beyond the containers of fertilizers and pesticides. But as the twentieth century bore on, it soon became apparent that the ecological and public h ealth consequences of agrichemical use were of a severe nature.
27 Chapter T w o: Chemical Consequences of Modern Industrial Agricultur e: Public Health and Envir onmental Degradation "When used properly pesticides of fer a variety of benefits to so ciety They increase crop yields, preserve foodstuf fs, and combat pathogenic and nuisance insect infestations. However pesticides are also among the few chemicals that are specifically designed to kill and cause harm." (Calvert et al., 2003, p. 21). The proliferation of synthetic chemicals on America' s agricultural fields both benefits, through increased yields, and detriments, by way of public health and environmental consequences, farmers and consumers. While all synthetic pesticides and fertilize rs used in mass quantity can have negative environmental and health ef fects, specific substances in use prove especially harmful. After presenting data on these substances used as pesticides, the disruptive role of synthetic fertilizers on contaminated eco systems will be
28 discussed. The aim of the final section of this chapter is to outline the significantly negative consequences of agrichemical abuse on a national scale, as well as on an individual basis. As the twentieth century progressed, synthetic fert ilizer and pesticide production increased exponentially This was because farmers were increasingly turning to synthetic agricultural chemicals to meet the market' s demand for food after the Second W orld W ar While fertilizers artificially synthetically and temporarily provide soil nutrients, pesticides serve to prevent any insects from eating away at the physical manifestation of these nutrients: plant material. Thus, agrichemical production and yield increases were co dependent factors fueling the stead y proliferation of synthetic fertilizer and pesticide use on the industrialized farms of America. Pesticides: Chemicals w ith Consequences "The estimated environmental and health care costs of pesticide use at recommended levels in the United States run about $12 billion every year ." (Pimentel et al, 2005, p.573) Pesticides can be grouped according to three main categories: herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Insecticides are primarily responsible for the majority of acute pesticide related illn esses (Calvert et al., 2003). Other classes, such as biological pesticides and plant growth regulators, play a minor role in the pesticide industry Main types of commercial pesticides in the US are atrazine, metolachlot, metam sodium, methyl bromide, and dichloropropene. Pimentel (2005) found that atrazine, being one of the widely used herbicides in America, is also a pesticide commonly found in streams and groundwater While preventing insect infestation, thus preserving the economic viability of the cro p, pesticides are also combinations of toxic substances. Pesticides are also costly and
29 must be applied frequently (Dimental, 2008). Y et, the agribusiness industry is constantly faced with formulating more ef fective chemicals due to rapid biological adapt ation of tar geted pests (EP A, 2000). Because the bug itself is a more chemically resistant or ganism, these new chemical combinations are more heavily concentrated so as to be more ef fective than their predecessors. As the chemicals used in pesticides pose a greater threat to the bugs, they pose a greater risk to humans as well. W orldwide, more than 26 million people are poisoned every year by way of pesticide exposure, resulting in more than 220,000 deaths (Dimental, 2008). Pesticide exposure resultin g in acute illnesses among farmworkers is fairly consistent in the United States. There are several reasons for this. While testing protocol mandated by the US EP A is extensive, it does not always address the whole spectrum of various environmental conditi ons, chemical combinations, chronic exposure patterns, and anthropogenic susceptibility (Calvert et al., 2003). Thus, even when agrichemical products are used in accordance with EP A and label instructions, negative health ef fects can still result (Ciesiels ki et al., 1994). Calvert et al. found that the most commonly observed ef fects of pesticide poisonings involve the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system, the respiratory system, the eyes, and the skin. Calvert et al. (2003) discusses how ano ther reason for the high incidence of unforeseen pesticide illnesses may be the fact that while pesticides, consisting of several active ingredients, are classified by the EP A into one of four levels of toxicity the active ingredients themselves are not r equired to be classified according to their toxicity Also, a significant challenge in assessing the severity and prevalence of pesticide poisonings is addressing the mar ginality of agricultural workers. Usually non US citizens, with poor English verbal sk ills, and rarely any union to support them, farm workers are often reluctant
30 or unable to formally confront their precarious working conditions rife with health and safety concerns. Thus, studies examining the ef fects of agrichemical exposure are limited, but are nevertheless significant. Non compliance with pesticide regulations, as will be shown, is a significant issue in pesticide related illnesses, and, in addition to early identification of pesticide problems not predicted by manufacturer testi ng, consistent surveillance for acute pesticide related illnesses can confront such illegal usage. Identifying the magnitude and type of pesticide poisoning trends over time can also serve as an ef fective vehicle for successful interventions. By identifyin g and confronting challenges to responsible agricultural chemical usage, locating key factors af fecting susceptibility of farm workers to harmful exposure, and evaluating specific instances of the negative health ef fects of acute pesticide related illnesse s, incentives can be found to emphasize the need for agriculture that is less reliant on harmful chemicals, and more reliant on intensive planning and sustainable management of the land. Due to the challenges confronting ef ficient safety regulat ion of agricultural pesticides, there have been numerous reported and subsequently studied cases of pesticide poisoning, of varying degrees of intensity In addition to statistical documentation verifying the widespread negative ef fects of pesticide exposu re in America, it is important to note that such exposure is not only limited to workers in the agricultural industry; public health has been af fected as well. Some pesticides threaten specific regions of the human body For example, W axman (1998) explains that acetylcholinesterase is inhibited by pesticides such as or ganophosphates (Monitor Swat, and Bo Ana) and carbamates (T emik, Draza, Carzol). Acetylcholinesterase is a neurological transmitting enzyme which is critical to the normal control an d function of
31 nerve impulse transmission from nerve fibers to muscle and gland cells, in addition to other nerve cells in autonomic ganglia as well as in the brain. Suf ficiently inhibited levels of this enzyme allow the accumulation of acetlycholine (ACh), an impulse transmitting substance, at several locations within the nervous system: choliner gic nueroef fector junctions, skeletal nerve muscle junctions and autonomic ganglia, and the brain, although it is in no way limited to these areas; accumulation of ACh due to loss of acetylcholinesterase enzyme function af fects the entire nervous system. When highly concentrated in these areas due to pesticide exposure induced inhibition of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, ACh causes alteration of proper neuro logical functions. For example, at choliner gic nerve junctions composed of smooth muscle and gland cells, suf ficiently elevated levels of ACh cause muscle contraction and secretion; at skeletal muscle junctions, excessive ACh levels can cause muscle twitch ing, and also weaken or paralyze the cell due to de polarization of the end plate; high brain levels of ACh results in sensory and behavioral disturbances and severe loss of coordination, in addition to depressed motor function. Unless regeneration of new enzymes in all critical tissues occurs in people af fected by increased levels of ACh, depression of respiration and pulmonary edema are the most common morbidity causes of death from or ganophosphate and carbamate insecticides (W axman, 1998). Long term exp osure suf fered by farmworkers can result in the development of cancer teratogenic ef fects, sterility spontaneous abortion, and cognitive deficits. Ciesielski et al. (1994) found evidence that this type of pesticide exposure was in excess of those permitt ed by federal regulations and concluded that morbidity is more likely to result from routine pesticide exposure among farmworkers. These findings highlight the need for increased ef forts in extensive monitoring of exposure patterns among farmworkers in Ame rica.
32 Methyl bromide is another example of a pesticide with documented environmental and health consequences. Headaches, nervousness, and memory loss all constitute documented ef fects of exposure to methyl bromide (Swartz Nobel, 2007). If inhale d in significant amounts, methyl bromide causes convulsions, neuromuscular dif ficulties, cognitive problems, coma, and even death (Swartz Nobel, 2007). Despite such negative anthropogenic side ef fects, the United States continued to allow its use due to lo bbying from the agricultural industry (Swartz Nobel, 2007). The US signed an international treaty that banned all use of the chemical by 2005, with the exception of a "critical use" clause (Swartz Nobel, 2007). This clause has recently been exploited by th e second Bush administration. Despite the specifications of the treaty explicating discontinued use of methyl bromide by 2005, the Bush administration responded to the ur gings of the agricultural industry In 2006, the administration put into ef fect plans that ensured the harmful chemical remained available in the US until at least 2008 (Swartz Nobel, 2007). Not all chemical pesticides are as equally disruptive as methyl bromide and acetlycholinesterase inhibiting or ganophosphates, but all chemical pesti cides usually do have some negative ef fect on human health. For example: Pyrethrins and pyrethroids. Fishel (2005) explains that these chemicals are a category of insecticides widely used in America, and were originally derived from an East African chrysa nthemum flower but proved to be naturally unstable and broke down rapidly when exposed to air and sunlight. It wasn' t until the 1970' s when a petroleum derivative of pyrethrins was developed that it began to be used for agricultural purposes. This type of pesticide interferes with transmission of nerve impulses and is ef fective against a lar ge span of insect and mite pests. While pyrethroids are quickly deactivated by metabolic processes, rats fed high doses of the chemical experienced liver damage; pyreth rins are also highly toxic to fish and tadpoles, af fecting skin touch
33 receptors and balance or gans. Sensitization can also occur in some human individuals. After their first exposure they experience either asthmatic conditions, or skin rash or inflammation After this initial contact, lower doses can trigger similar bodily reactions. Pollan (2001) spoke with a farmer first hand who understood the dangerous implications of the agricultural chemicals used on his field." Monitor is a deadly chemical,' Forsy th told me; it is known to damage the human nervous system. I won' t go into a field for four or five days after it' s been sprayed not even to fix a broken pivot.' That is, Forsyth would sooner loose a whole circle to drought than expose himself or an empl oyee to this poison." (p. 219). One study the most comprehensive at its inception, surveyed seven states with considerable agricultural activity between 1998 1999, in order to calculate the incidence of acute occupational pesticide associated il lnesses. The SENSOR (Sentinal Event Notification System for Occupational Risks) evaluated and analyzed survey data collected by California, T exas, Oregon, New Y ork, Florida, Louisiana, and Arizona, of acute occupational pesticide related illnesses in a sta ndardized manner Frequency severity overall incidence, and fatalities were main focuses of the analysis. The SENSOR program found that the pesticides most commonly responsible for acute illnesses were or ganophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids, a nd pyrethrins. It was also concluded that sulfur an active ingredient in many pesticide formulations, is responsible for the lar gest number of pesticide illnesses. Identifying and eradicating other active ingredients posing serious threats to human health and safety is dif ficult, however For one, active ingredients are not required to be categorized according to toxicity and when acute pesticide illnesses occur it is dif ficult to determine which ingredient in the culprit formulation caused the resulting illness. This is because biological markers which can identify toxic chemicals
34 in the body either unchanged or metabolically altered, have either not been developed or are not readily available. This poses serious problems for health care professionals, as rapid identification of a toxic agent is critical to the diagnosis and treatment of acute pesticide poisoning (Calvert et al., 2003). The true extent of the negative human health ef fects of pesticide poisonings is unknown. This is because the st atistical data of annual pesticide related illnesses is skewed. SENSOR found that due to the limited resources of state surveillance systems in identifying cases of pesticide related illnesses, and the highly objective method of identification of these ill nesses (148 variables exist for evaluating each individual case), the rates of acute pesticide related illnesses is likely to be underestimated. Klein Swartz and Smith (1997) concur with these findings, stating that "the magnitude of the problem is not wel l defined and has not been evaluated systematically on a national scale." (p. 233). Optimization of the use of workers compensation data, poison control center data, and data from any other state agency with enforcing jurisdiction over pesticides is needed to confront this problem. Exposure to pesticides can result in moderate to high severity and sometimes death. Of the 1,009 cases which met SENSOR' s criteria for inclusion in the study most were of low severity but many were also of high severity; thr ee deaths were identified. The three deaths resulted from the use of sodium metabisulfite. Three V ietnamese shrimpers were found dead on their ship of f the coast of Florida, because they had attempted to use this chemical to preserve their catch. When sodi um metabisulfite interacts with water sodium dioxide gas is liberated. Acutely toxic to the respiratory tract, sodium dioxide was ultimately responsible for these deaths. The SENSOR program also identified high severity cases that involved a hos pital housekeeper a pesticide applicator a bus driver and a pesticide salesman. The hospital
35 worker entered a recently treated sur gical unit and was exposed to an or ganophosphate (propetamphos) as well as a pyrethroid (cyfluthrin); she spent four days i n the hospital vomiting, dizzy and with fasiculations and dyspnea. While driving her bus, a 26 year old female was exposed to sulfur drifting by a nearby field being sprayed at the time, and experienced dyspnea and hypoxemia requiring a 4 day hospitalizat ion. As manager of a store selling pesticides, and also having been exposed to pyrethrins and pyrethroids at home, a 47 year old man developed hypersensitivity pneumonitis requiring a 13 day stay in the hospital. This focus on the various elements of pest icides and the resulting anthropogenic health ef fects of exposure illustrate the need for greater control, restraint, and monitoring of their use in agriculture. When these findings are considered along side the fact that tar geted pests rapidly develop res istance to pesticides, it is pertinent that American farmers need to begin transitioning towards methods of farming that are non reliant on chemical pest control. The next section focuses on synthetic fertilizers, their uses, benefits, and ecological conse quences. Synthetic Fertilizers: Consequences of Over Application Since Fritz Haber' s invention in 1909, nitrogen fixation production has evolved mainly in scale (Allen, 2007). From the 1950' s onwards the fertilizer industry has expanded exponentially al ong with the human population. Pollan (2006), explains: "Before Fritz Haber' s invention the sheer amount of life the earth could support -the size of crops and therefore the number of human bodies -was limited by the amount of nitrogen that bacteria and li ghtning could fix. .two out of every five humans would not be alive if not for Fritz Haber' s invention." (pp. 42 43). Farmers used to be dependent on animal manure and a pastoral system of livestock
36 and agriculture; their yield was reflected in how well they managed their land (Pollan, 2006). This is now a mostly foreign scenario to current agricultural practices in the United States. While these chemicals provide incredible assets in increasing agricultural yields on American farms, they are often over applied due to overestimated industry recommendations and standards; such over application creates a path for the excess nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to leak into surrounding ecological systems; this resulting runof f can result in significant ecolo gical disruption, such as eutrophication (Matson et al., 1997). Eutrophication is a serious problem in aquatic systems such as lakes, rivers, estuaries, and coastal oceans due to agricultural activity producing high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrog en rich fertilizer runof f, primarily due to excess fertilization which leaches downstream into aquatic ecosystems (Carpenter et al., 1998). Surplus levels of nitrogen due to over application of agricultural fertilizers can also volatize the atmosphere, con tributing to the greenhouse ef fect. In addition to water system detriments, excessive use of synthetic nitrogen in agriculture seriously degrades the land. Or ganic matter critical to both managed and natural ecosystems, as it provides the or ganic substra te for nutrient release and maintenance of soil structure and water holding capacity is rapidly lost during the first 25 years of industrial cultivation if proper land management measures are not taken; this results in erosion. As modern industrialized a griculture in America has been on the rise since the mid 20th century elevated levels of erosion, loss of soil structure, and loss of water holding capacity have all aided in the manifestation of serious fertilizer runof f issues (Matson et al., 1997). Unfortunately modern industrial agriculture is a high yield and intensive practice which depends on this high input of fertilizers (despite its ecological costs) specifically synthetic nitrogen, as Matson et al. (1997) found. Due to this dependence the vast quantities
37 of synthetic fertilizer produced each year continues to rise; in 1990 alone, 80 million metric tons of synthetic nitrogen were produced industrially Not all of this nitrogen was used by crops however nitrogen concentrations in the maj or rivers of the northeastern US have increased three to ten fold since the early 1990s (Matson et al., 1997). Such agricultural chemical dependence developed over the past 200 years in America. Family farms once diverse in plant and animal species alike have been transformed into lar ge monoculture fields requiring vast quantities of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers the farmer subsequently spends a major portion of his profit on. Pollan (2006) illustrates this scenario in the model of Geor ge Naylor a n Iowa corn farmer descended from his coal miner grandfather who originally used the land not only to help feed his community but to feed his family Y et Naylor' s current agricultural state of af fairs is a highly dependent one, dependent on agribusiness. "Synthetic fertilizer opens the way to monoculture," and Naylor' s 500 acres of corn uses quite a lot of synthetic fertilizer (Pollan, 2007, p. 45). Faced with the seasonal task of applying suf ficient nutrient for his corn franchise, Naylor takes e xtra precaution to ensure his plants have access to nutrients: "They say you only need a hundred pound per acre. I don' t know I' m putting closer to one hundred eighty Y ou don' t want to err on the side of too little. It' s a form of yield insurance"(p. 46 ). Such yield insurance results in the cost of 90,000 pounds of fertilizer not all of which is taken up by the 500 acres of corn, and results in runof f. Many studies have examined the negative ef fects agricultural runof f has on aquatic ecosyste ms; these ef fects are not limited to eutrophication. Carpenter et al. (1998) found that nitrogen and/or phosphorous rich run of f can result in toxic algal blooms, loss of dissolved oxygen, fish kills as a result, loss of biodiversity (including economicall y and recreational
38 important species), reduction in aquatic plant beds and coral reefs. Such low or no oxygen conditions ultimately lead to stratified waters; agricultural sources of phosphorous dominate such processes (Matson et al., 1997).These impairmen ts can render a water supply undrinkable, eradicate the possibility of profitable marine industry and eliminate any safe anthropogenic recreation. The fate of the excess ammonium nitrate from farms such as Geor ge Naylors' lies in the atmosphere a nd surrounding water systems. When evaporated, ammonium nitrate transforms into nitrous oxide, acidifying the rain, and contributing to the process of global warming. When washed away by rain on Naylor' s fields, it runs through drainage ditches leading to the Raccoon River which flows into the Des Moines River to the city of Des Moines, which relies on that river for drinking water During spring, when nitrogen runof f is at its highest, Des Moines issues its citizens "blue baby alerts". Children who drink water from the tap during these alerts compromise their blood' s ability to carry oxygen to their brain; nitrates in the water convert to nitrite, which binds to hemoglobin (Pollan, 2006, p. 47). Naylor' s runof f, which, along with the majority of America n agricultural runof f, eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico, home to one of the lar gest dead zones in the world (Pollan, 2007). Beman (2005) discusses how ocean ecosystems are at a significant risk for disruption due to nitrogen and phosphorous rich runof f, contributing to a variety of toxic algae blooms. In particular nitrogen deficient areas of the tropical and subtropical oceans are at a significantly high vulnerability to nitrogen pollution, such as the Gulf of California (GOC). W ithin the GOC, runof f strongly af fects and influences biological process. W ithin a few days of fertilization and irrigation of industrially managed agricultural fields whose
39 runof f reaches the body of water algal blooms are stimulated. When the level of dissolved o xygen concentration in a marine ecosystem is depleted due to the upset of the nutrient balance due to agricultural runof f, phytoplankton blooms can be stimulated and have devastating ef fects on the system as a whole; such blooms can eventually lead to a de ad zone, as in the Gulf of Mexico. This problem is a serious one, and continues to grow; the consequences of nitrogen pollution in marine systems can be directly traced back to the global proliferation of modern industrial agriculture, in addition to the i ndustrial intensification of current farming practices (Beman, 2005). While pesticides and synthetic fertilizers have many economic benefits for the agricultural industry as a whole, the adverse environmental ef fects of agrichemical use pose many thre ats to human and ecosystem health. Local and non local (due to distribution of contaminated elements -air water soil) drinking water and water system contamination to the point of health hazards (' blue baby alert' Swartz Nobel, 2007), worker safety conce rns, increased exposure to nearby residents, farm hands, and families, pressure on exposed endangered and threatened species, and loss of biodiversity are all consequences of the enormity of the agribusiness industry' s presence in modern industrial agricul ture (Matson et al., 1997). T ransitioning away from this method of land management which is highly dependent on agribusiness and chemical inputs is essential, as it is not in the interest of public health or ecosystems. There are many solutions available w hich can eliminate the dependence of American farmers to agribusiness and the health risks associated with modern industrial agriculture. Some of these solutions will be discussed in the next chapter
40 Chapter Thr ee: Sustainable Alt ernatives to Modern Industrial Agricultur e A l o t o f f a r m i n g n o w a d a y s i s l i t t l e m o r e t h a n m i n i n g F a r m e r s w h o f o l l o w t h e a d v i c e o f E x t e n s i o n U S D A a n d t h e l a n d g r a n t c o l l e g e s o u g h t t o g e t d e p l e t i o n a l l o w a n c e s j u s t a s d o c o p p e r m i n e r s a n d o i l c o m p a n i e s E v e n w i t h f e r t i l i z a t i o n a n d c o n s e r v a t i o n p r a c t i c e s m o s t f a r m e r s t a k e a n d t a k e a n d s e l d o m r e t u r n o n b a l a n c e w i t h t h e t a k i n g ( W a l t e r s & F e n z a u 1 9 9 5 ) In this third and final chapter I discuss a variety of measures by which modern industrial agr iculture can reduce their dependence on environmentally destructive agricultural chemicals, and, in turn, the incidence of negative agrichemical related consequences involving public health and the environment. Beginning with an overview of crop rotation, the regular planned, seasonal rotation of dif ferent types of crops so as to maintain soil fertility and stability prevent infestation of pests and disease, and enable maximum health and profitability of the land and resulting yields; this chapter proceed s to land management embodying the pastoral ideal, a complex interplay between pasture,
41 garden, woods and the animals, plants, and insects which inhabit it that mimics patterns which occur naturally but on a much smaller scale; and then to the currently cu lturally trendy method of or ganic farming, an agricultural scheme which works to sustain and take advantage of soil microbial activity through composting, intercropping, and crop rotation so that pests, disease, and weeds can be controlled. W ithin the or ga nic farming section, specific emphasis is placed on explaining the defining values of or ganic agriculture and the process of conversion from an industrial to an or ganic farm. Cr op Rotation "There are economic and mechanical and managerial reasons for sound rotations that run beyond the vision -or lack thereof -of monocultures." (W alters & Fenzau, 1995, p. 248) Industrial farming relies on continuous monoculture because it is easier to harvest and apply the necessary amounts of yield sustaining agricul tural chemicals to lar ge, uniform, consolidated fields. Y et this practice continuously exposes the soil to the elements. Rain, wind, and sun have a more detrimental ef fect upon intensively utilized land. Such exposure is compounded by the traversing of lar ge vehicles necessary to manage the enormity of the field, further destroying the integrity of the soil. Crop rotation, an ordered sequence of alternating crops on the same land in addition to the use of cover crops within row crop systems, is an alternat ive method by which these agricultural detriments can be controlled and avoided, without incurring the many costs of agricultural chemical usage (Lal, 2005). Synthetic agricultural chemicals consume a lar ge portion of the industrial farmer' s profit. Such costs could be significantly reduced and/or eliminated by implementing more
42 intensive agricultural management, such as crop rotation. The allure of this particular alternative to modern industrial agriculture is due to its relative simplicity compared to complete farm infrastructure conversion to more integrated and management intensive agricultural practices, such as or ganic farming or pastoral land management. T ransitioning to a greater reliance on crop rotation for pest, weed, and soil fertility control versus agricultural chemicals would not require a complete renovation of farm infrastructure, yet can provide economic and environmentally positive benefits. When planned correctly crop rotation can maintain and improve soil quality and fertility reduc e soil erosion, control pests and disease, better protect the crop from weather reduce and/or eliminate the need for agricultural chemicals and ultimately increase the farmers net profit (Lal, 2005).Y et the need for proper planning and farm management ski lls often acts as a deterrent to a farmer set in their industrialized ways, despite the obvious economic and environmental benefits. Regular rotation of crops used to be a common agricultural practice used to control pests, weeds, soil fertility and erosi on. But as the size of farms increased with the production and use of agricultural chemicals, the practice was replaced by use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers (Allen, 2007). A farm is complex composition of interacting elements which a ll must be taken into consideration if long term profitability is to be expected. Soil can be used intensively but to do so it must be consistently preserved and maintained. If managed correctly soil quality can be utilized intensively and even improved, while providing the necessary environment for profitable crop yields containing excellent nutrient loads (W alters & Fenzau, 1995) without the excessive use of agrichemicals. Crop rotation can achieve this possibility; when an appropriate balance between "row crops, small grains, hay and meadows" is reached, the overall health of the farm can be
43 easily managed and sustained (W alters & Fenzau, 1995). By taking into consideration the biotic geography of a farm, its terrain and potential, such management cat ers to the variety of an individual farm ecosystem. Continuously planted row crops such as corn on corn or soybeans on soybeans season after season methodically and reliably degrades the land, putting enormous strain on the soil system, hummus supply fert ility load and balance, the tilth, and the crop structure (W alters & Fenzau, 1995). When the same species of plant is continuously grown in the same location with high inputs of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, it becomes a highly desirable and easil y accessible meal for pests; as the monoculture persists the insect problem does as well (Pollan, 2006). W ith properly planned crop rotation, however the need for synthetic pesticides declines with the decreased pest problem, freeing up a lar ge portion of the farmer' s profits. Disease is also prevalent in monoculture for the same reason pest problems are: accessibility ease of infestation, and extremely opportunistic or ganisms. Alternating crops in the same field has enormous potential in reduction and pr evention of disease transmission. Threatening conditions such as blight, er got, and common root rot can all be controlled with proper management of crop rotation. Pest and Disease Management Rotational systems can be an important tool in averting potentia lly disastrous disease and pest issues. There are several methods by which such suppression can be achieved. In The Pesticide Detox, contributing author David Dent explains that catch cropping, cover cropping, and use of green manure are all aspects of cro p rotation practices. Specifically the length of a particular rotation is often a key factor in determining the possibility of a pest or pathogen infestation in the next crop species; the length of a rotation must extend beyond that of the time a pathogen can survive without a host, for the rotational management to
44 succeed in averting infestation. A two to four year break usually suf ficiently reduces the inoculum to a level which will allow a healthy crop (pp. 76 77, 2005). Crop rotation can alter the co mposition of soil microbial communities, as well as the competitive balance that occurs between beneficial and pathogenic micro or ganisms. For example, when annual rye grasses or various wheat cultivars were planted prior to the establishment of an apple o rchard, the incidence of root infection to the apple seedlings was reduced, apparently due to the increase of pseudomonad populations in the soil (Pretty et al., 2005). Long balanced rotations can be coupled with or ganic amendments and reduced tillage aim ed at maintaining soil or ganic content and fertility is a farmers best bet for controlling pests and disease without the cost of chemical pesticides (Pretty et al., 2005). W eed Management One of the greatest values of regular crop rotations is the contro l of weeds. Duane Isely (1960) explains that while most weeds are fairly tolerant of various growing conditions, the vast majority thrive at highest capacity when growing alongside specific crops or management practices. W eed species are especially success fully invasive and disruptive when growing next to crops with whom they share similar life cycles. W eeds in such situations tend to become progressively worse with each succeeding season that the particular crop is planted. Rotations break this detrimental cycle by altering the habitat beyond the tolerance of the invasive weed. Out of around 1200 plant species commonly referred to as weeds in North America, only about twenty of them can successfully flourish under common rotations that involve a cultivated crop, a small grain, and either a grass or legume sequence (p.323). Herbicides need not unnecessarily take up a valuable portion of the farmers profit,
45 yet due to decades of unsustainable practices that are governmentally and industry supported and endors ed, the farmers of America are not equipped with the knowledge that can enable them to better protect their crop and land without the use of chemicals. W alters and Fenzau (1995) illustrate how annual and perennial weeds can be controlled. Annual crops nece ssitate planting seeds, which means root bed cultivation for crops such as corn and beans is cultivation for weeds too. But annual weed seeds are hard pressed to proliferate in well established hay meadows. Perennial weeds such as quackgrass, thistles, bin dweed, and horse nettles can pose a problem because not only do they grow with a rotation of a hay crop, they can at times crowd it out. However such situations can be controlled when a switch is made to row crop production (p. 247). Soil Quality Regulati on Good soil quality can be summed up as the correct functioning of a soil, and one of the main cause of improper soil functioning is the use of land for agricultural purposes (T asar Cepeda et. al, 2008). Crop rotation can solve a variety of soil quality issues, by employing the use of beneficial plant characteristics. For example, soil compaction, a limiting factor of soil quality can be addressed by planting crops with strong deep roots, such as clover The roots break up the compacted soil in addition to bringing up deeply embedded nutrients. Left over foliage and roots of these crops can also be worked into the soil to provide or ganic matter and nutrients for future crops. Karlen et. al (2006), found that in 3 northern corn/soybean belt locations, the lowest soil quality values were associated with continuous corn, while the highest soil quality values were in fields that practiced extended rotations involving three years of forage crops. This practice can be especially beneficial after a nutrient dema nding crop such as squash or corn has been harvested (McClure, 1994). W alters and Fenzau (1995) explain that depending on the region, specific rotations
46 are especially beneficial to maintaining and improving nutrient loads within the soil. In Eastern Kans as for example, planting legumes two out of every five years will provide the essential service of the maintenance of the natural nitrogen cycle. W ithin the corn belt, rotations of corn, soybeans, wheat or winter barley and clover are a good example of an other rotational system utilizing the nitrogen fixing properties of legumes. The soybeans have proved to be a sustaining cash crop by adding some nitrogen to the soil and especially in improving tilth. Synthetic fertilizers are costly environmentally har mful, and easily accessible to pests. Because dif ferent plants have dif ferent nutrient needs, the agriculture industry NPK mentality is not suf ficient in meeting the various nutrient needs of the wide variety of crops grown in the United States. But by alt ering the dif ferent kinds of crops in a concentrated area, the amount of nutrients recycled in the soil can be balanced. For example, leafy crops such as lettuce and spinach require high levels of nitrogen for proper growth rate and taste, while roots crop s depend more heavily on phosphorous and potassium, and less on nitrogen, for suf ficient root growth. A voiding continuous cropping of one plant in a single area can thus serve to avoid the need for high inputs of synthetic fertilizer and also help to mai ntain soil quality Properly managed crop rotations distribute labor help to stabilize a farmers generated profit, and help farmers to avoid placing all their eggs in one basket (such as corn on corn on corn), in addition to providing numberless environ mental benefits by replacing chemicals with sound agricultural management (W alters & Fenzau, 1995). The benefits of more intensive planning far outweigh the cost of extra time. The Pastoral Ideal in Practice
47 The pastoral land management system is based o n the embodiment of an ideal stressing the replication of natural processes on a more domestic scale (Pollan, 2006). Through planned and controlled symbiotic interactions between plants and animals, the greatest possible productivity of the land being mana ged is incurred. The basis for this method of land management is found in the catalyst of photosynthesis: our sun. The basic principle of the Pastoral system can be expressed through a simplified version of sun plant animal interactions. Through photosynth esis plants capture solar ener gy and manifest this ener gy in the form of plant material; animals eating the plants receive and utilize this ener gy; after they excrete this plant material their manure is used to fertilize the land; and the meat, milk, eggs and vegetables nourished by the land is used to nourished our bodies; and on and on and on. This simplified version aims to outline that farmers in fact can rely on the renewable ener gy of the sun captured continuously by photosynthesis, rather than on the non renewable fossilized sun ener gy present in a petroleum driven agricultural system. Making Sustainable Connections This purpose of this section, which does focus on land management revolving around animal care, is to illustrate the incredible power o f photosynthesis to serve as the base of an extremely productive and low cost 550 acre operation. Land once abused by tenant farmers for a century and a half was nourished back to health by Joel Salatin' s father who went against the grain of common agricu ltural advice of the 1960s. Instead of growing corn, building silos, grazing the forest and commodifying the land, Salatin senior chose to practice rotation grazing, replace the cost of fertilizer by starting his own compost operation, and letting the stee per land of his 550 acres return to forest. Land once destroyed by unsustainable farming and erosion, is now land that produces 30,000 eggs; 12,000 broilers; 800 stewing hens; 25,000 lbs of beef; 50,000 lbs of pork, 800 turkeys, and 500 rabbits every
48 seas on (Pollan, 2006, pp. 222). By applying the right number of cattle at the correct time, pastures can prove far more profitable than if left unattended. Instead of focusing on yield and profit, Polyface Farm focuses on the health and longevity of land by re lying on the free ener gy of the sun. This was a radical concept at its inception and continues to be polar in comparison the majority of agriculturally managed land in America. What is most important about this section is the profitable potential agricultu rally degraded lands can hope to have if a change can be made from monoculture to intensive management. Though it would be a lengthy process, the fact is that severely degraded land can transition to an operation relying on the sun versus chemically based agribusiness, in ef fect, improving the quality of the environment and reducing the agrichemical risks posed to human health. Focusing on Polyface Farm as a successful embodiment of pastoral land management, this section traverses the path of sun ener gy to food ener gy without incurring the common costs of industrial agriculture: land degradation, environmental pollution, and precarious animal welfare. Michael Pollan, in his book The Omnivor e's Dilema: A Natural History of Four Meals visited and worked on Polyface Farm, and provides this section with the majority of its material. At Polyface, every species, plant and animal alike has a purpose and connective function. Through intensive management and an understanding of the pastoral ideal, Polyface farm successfully utilizes over 500 acres of land without waste, excessive fossil fuel use, or industrialized animal management (Pollan, 2006). By focusing on a few select Polyface Farm processes, the feasibility and rewards of land management embodying the pas toral ideal will be shown. Grass Power Grass is the ultimate source of usable sun ener gy and Polyface Farm utilizes it to the
49 highest degree. By constantly tracking the various elements of the farm and having a deep understanding of growth patterns, pro per observation and or ganization allow Polyface Farm to arrange the daily meeting of animal and grass so that both receive the maximum benefit of the encounter (Pollan, 2006). Grass follows a sigmoid curve of growth, starting out slow but after a few day s rocketing into what is know as the blaze of growth, when the grass has recovered from the first grazing, rebuilt its root mass, and under gone an extreme growth spurt (Pollan, 2007, pp. 189). About four days after the blaze, growth slows down once more as the grass prepares to flower and seed, and becomes woodier in texture and taste. Polyface must ensure that a pasture is grazed at the height of this blaze of growth, but no earlier or else recovery from the first graze will not occur and no later bec ause the woodier state of the grass is not palatable to the cows. Mimicking Nature: Rotational Grazing Polyface attempts to imitate on a domestic scale what ruminant populations do in nature: follow the growth pattern of grass. Rotational grazing allow s for such replication, and the cattle are moved onto fresh grass everyday Pasture at Polyface is separated into paddocks by highly portable electric fencing. This fencing is used to herd the animals, allowing for easier transition to a new paddock each d ay After one pasture has been grazed, the cows are moved to another area, at the height of the blaze of growth, to ensure the cycle continues at maximum ef ficiency (Pollan, 2006). Deciding when and where to move a heard of cattle at Polyface Farm is base d on cow days: the average amount of forage a cow will eat in one day The ability to judge the number of cow days in a given pasture is essential. Grazing the optimal number of cattle at the optimal moment will yield a remarkable amount of grass. Polyfa ce Farm has boosted its
50 pastures cow days to as much as four hundred per acre; the county average in this western edge of the Shenandoah V alley is 70 (Pollan, 2006, pp. 191 205). Native grasses depend on this system for reproductive success. Proper grazin g techniques call into play complex and integrated ecological activity When the grass is grazed, it sheds as much root mass as it has just lost in leaf mass to grazing. When these discarded roots die, the microbiological soil activity bacteria, fungi, ear thworms break down this material into rich, brown humus (Pollan, 2006, pp.196). What had been the grass' s root system then become channels, through which worms, air and rainwater will move through the earth, stimulating the process by which new topsoil is formed. In addition, cattle spread and fertilize seed with their manure, and their hoof prints provide shade pockets of exposed soil where water can collect, providing ideal conditions for seed germination. This system enables greater diversity of grass s pecies in the pasture, which results in a hardier pasture able to withstand sudden shocks such as severe weather (Pollan, 2006, pp. 197). Another element of the Pastoral system is the management of cattle during the winter season. During this time cattle spend three months in an open sided barn where they consumer twenty five pounds of hay and produce fifty pounds of manure each day with water making up the dif ference (Pollan, 2006). Instead of regularly mucking out the barn, everyday Polyface Farm adds a layer of woodchips or hay and some bucketfuls of corn on top of the manure. This layered bedding (which accumulates underneath the cattle' s hooves, gradually raising their stance) composts all winter generating heat which warms the cattle, and can accum ulate in mass to a height of three feet by winters end. When the cows head out to pasture in the spring, Polyface Farm brings in several dozen pigs. This is when the corn added during the winter comes into play as there is nothing a pig enjoys more than forty proof corn (Pollan, 2006). As the pigs root out the fermented corn, they systematically turn
51 and aerate the compost, transforming a formally anaerobic process into an oxygenated one, greatly speeding up the composting. After some weeks of this pig a ctivity rich textured compost is ready to nourish the pastures (Pollan, 2006). The Birds of Polyface Farm Birds also play a major role at Polyface Farm, chickens in particular Broiler hens are housed in lar ge pens, which are moved daily Each day they a re re located to a fresh patch of grass which they have 24 hours to eat and fertilize with their manure. While their diet is supplemented with a feed corn, toasted soybeans, and kelp the worms, grasshoppers, and crickets they pick out of the grass provide as much as twenty percent of their diet. If the hens were not moved daily they would peck the grass down to its roots and poison the soil with their highly nitrogenous droppings. But because of Polyface' s rotational system, they utilize the hen' s manure, and, as a result, the farm is completely self suf ficient in nitrogen, requiring no additional nitrogen inputs such as synthetic AC' s. Each chicken pays a visit to practically every square foot of Polyface Farm at some point during the season (Pollan, 2006, pp. 210). Laying hens also play a special role. Housed in a portable structure called an eggmobile, the chickens follow the cattle in their rotation. While cow patties left undisturbed are nesting places for infectious parasites and insects, chickens fi nd the grubs of these bugs quite appetizing. Polyface Farm waits no longer than three to four days to bring in laying hens to a cow grazed paddock, giving the grubby insect larvae in the cow manure a chance to fatten up but not fully mature. This provides the ultimate amount of protein for the hens: the grubs supply as much as one third of their total diet, and additionally breaks the cycle of infestation and disease. These chicken do a more ef fective job at sanitizing a pasture than any man made synthetic fertilizer all while producing eggs rich in or ganic protein and plant material. Because of these rotational systems, Polyface Farm doesn' t have to run their
52 cattle through a head gate to apply ivomectrin, a systematic parasiticide, on their hides (Pollan, 2006). Polyface Farm has a comprehensive understanding of the necessary inputs and resulting out puts of their farm; without the appropriate balance of animal and plant interaction, the quality and health of their product would diminish. For example, whi le Polyface Farm knows that by buying more chicks and chicken feed, they could produce and sell more chickens, they also know that doing this would be detrimental to every other species on the farm. T oo many chickens would produce excess nitrogen that the grass would be unable to metabolize; this would create nitrogen runof f and result in a pollution problem. Additionally extra chickens would limit the amount of grubs in the cow patties per chicken, thus a lower quality chicken. More cows would have to be added, as well as more pasture (Pollan, 2006).This attention to input output relations on a farm is polar in comparison to modern industrial agricultural management practices, the repercussions of which include agricultural run of f issues resulting in eutr ophication that creates dead zones in bodies of water such as the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to industrialized farming methods, Polyface farm receives an economically profitable yield of crops without relying on agricultural chemicals. Utilizing the free en er gy of the sun and the natural tendencies of animals is a radical concept in modern industrial agriculture. Industrialists believed they could replicate nature by simplifying and mechanizing nutrient exchange, all for the sole purpose of increased yield a nd profit without the added input of actual management and planning yet nature cannot be so simplified without incurring severe consequences. Such methods, however have extremely high overhead costs because nature does not in fact proceed at the speed eco nomists would like; therefore, massive inputs of externally sourced ener gy must be added
53 (Pollan, 2006). Organic Farming The or ganic farming industry spawned from a movement rejecting the use of agricultural chemicals in food production. This m ethod of land management focuses on working within existing ecosystems. For example, instead of layering fields with pesticides and fertilizers, or ganic agriculture aims to eliminate the need for synthetic inputs of nutrients, and instead relies on intensi ve multi species management to sustain the quality and health of the soil and plants (Pimentel et al, 2005). Or ganic practices are similar to pastoral land management in the respect that intensive planning is essential to a profitable farming enterprise, t hus conversion to or ganic is a radical and dramatic process, much more intensive than the singular act of alternating crop species, but on the whole, more environmentally beneficial and sustainable. Successfully converting however takes a great amount of personal commitment, fostering of new human relationships, and a complete revision from a conventional mindset to an or ganic worldview The Four Principles of Or ganic Using the term or ganic in conjuncture with food and farming characterized the subvers ion from an agricultural industry increasingly reliant on synthetic chemicals during the 1940' s. The term evolved during the 19 t h century; Pollan, 2006, explains: the word or ganic had enjoyed a currency among nineteenth century English social crit ics, who contrasted the social fragmentation and atomism wrought by the Industrial Revolution with the idea of a lost or ganic society one where the bonds of af fection and cooperation still held. (p. 142.) One major event in the history of the or ganic mo vement was the establishment of the
54 International Federation for Or ganic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM). This helped to set international standards for the use of the term or ganic' and its embodiment in practice (W atson, 2008). The IFOAM established four principles essential to or ganic agriculture: the principle of health, the ecological principle, the principle of fairness, and the principle of care (W atson, 2008). The concept that the health of the soil, plants, animals, and humans are one in the same p ermeates throughout these four principles. Of the Four IFOAM principles, the first, that of health, specifically references the interconnectedness of the health of soil, plants, animals, humankind, and the environment; one element cannot be af fected ne gatively without negatively impacting the others. The root of this principle lies in the belief that if or ganic agriculture is to produce food that is high in nutritious quality it can serve to sustain the health and well being of the individual, by sustai ning and fostering the health of the soil. Thus, synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides should be avoided. The second principle, the ecological principle, states that or ganic agriculture should be based upon sustaining and working with the biologi cal activity of ecosystems. This principle is very much aligned to the mindset of a pastoral land management farmer such as Joel Salatin, and roots the practice of or ganic farming within living ecosystems. For example, the various natural cycles of ecologi cal systems are unique to dif ferent farm environments. Maintaining these systems requires an understanding of local conditions and habitat, as well as maintaining an appropriate level of ecological diversity This principle stresses that "those who produce process, trade, or consume or ganic products should protect and benefit the common environment including landscapes, climate, habitats, biodiversity air and water" (IFOAM website). The third and fourth principles, those of fairness and care, respectivel y discuss the
55 common human stake in the sustainable care of the environment. W ithout human relationships that foster community and common prosperity long term health of the environment and the well being of generations to come is compromised. The IFOAM c haracterizes fairness in terms of "equity respect, justice, and stewardship of the planet as a whole, and in its third principle stresses that the human relationships created through or ganic agricultural management can only be sustained if such qualities are present and fostered. The chain of people -the farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders, and consumers -must work together to manage ecological resources in a socially and environmentally sound manner keeping in mind the needs of future gen erations. The principle of care relates more so to the technological aspect of or ganic land management and the assessment and possible adoption of new technology in addition to incorporating time tested wisdom with scientific knowledge. For example, gene tically modified or ganisms are rejected by this principle, on the basis that is it is an unpredictable and non transparent technology This interconnectedness of land, plant, and human relations is at the core of or ganic agriculture. Comprehensive researc h incorporating economic, ecological and social values is thus essential for the expansion of or ganic farming and decreasing reliance on environmentally harmful agricultural chemicals. For example, W atson, 2008, found: W orking within the principles of or g anic agriculture and thus acknowledging the values of the system is also an important context for research. Agricultural research clearly integrates ecological technical, and social components and therefore cannot be independent of human values. (p.4) Th e Four Principles in Practice For nearly 6000 years or ganic practices have been utilized in sustainable agriculture,
56 conserving soil, water ener gy and natural resources. When put into practice, following a system of or ganic land management results in ma ny biological and economical benefits to the farmer by negating the need for external inputs such as agrochemicals. Pimentel et al. (2005) found that or ganic farming systems have higher levels of or ganic matter and nitrogen, helping in the conservation of soil and water; this is especially beneficial in times of drought. Economically on a per hectare basis, or ganic agricultural yields can match those of a conventional farm, without the added cost of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This fact added to the higher price of or ganic produce spells out profitability to the or ganic farmer Or ganic farms usually also have less pest problems and avoid issues of soil erosion. Converting to Or ganic Because or ganic agriculture depends on a symbiotic relationshi p with the land, and operates within a strict set of values, world views, and standards, farmers face many transition costs: methodological, economic, and time wise. Conversion indeed in no easy process, and in relies heavily on human relationships comprom ising a support system during the conversion process in addition to scientific evidence for success (Lampkin, 1998). Enough emphasis cannot be placed on the important role of detailed planning before the conversion begins that allows both changes in produc tion methods and the financial ef fects of the conversion to be comprehensively considered (Lampkin, 1998). Farmers hoping to successfully convert to an or ganic operation must be prepared to make management, lifestyle, financial, and methodological changes over a period of several years. The farm has to be seen as a "whole farm", integrating both crop and pasture enterprises, rather than focusing on individual isolated cash crops. Every farm is unique in terms of environment, climate conditions, as well as resources such as land, labor and capitol
57 available to the farmer Lampkin (1998), elaborates: The greater the degree of specialization and intensification which has taken place, the greater the change which will be required to re introduce diversity and scale down the intensity of the individual enterprise. (p.527) Thus, every conversion process should be expected to a challenging, continual learning process, that cannot be adopted to any pre formatted plan. This starts out by developing a unique and fl exible plan. Conversion planning allows many of the possible challenges such as reduced yields, unexpected workloads in peak periods, and financial dif ficulties, to be considered, and potentially avoided. In farms where this has been done, many of the mor e serious complications have been avoided, with the conversion ultimately achieving encouraging results (Lampkin, 1998). Normally an advisor with experience in or ganic farming and conventional farm conversion is consulted. The first stage involves assessi ng important agricultural characteristics such as the size and layout of the farm, soil quality and texture, yearly rainfall, and growing season length. Any limiting factors are considered during this stage as well. Once these steps have been taken, a tar g et plan and system can be developed for the transition between the current conventional system and the or ganic endpoint (Lampkin, 1998). When farmers are considering which cash crops to produce, they must select species which align not only with their pre ferences, but especially to the physical and financial constraints of the farm itself. After this stage the most important element, a crop rotation scheme, can be developed. Rotation systems are so important because they not only sustain the yield of cash crops from which a farmer obtains a suf ficient income, but also because rotation directly af fects weed, disease, and pest problem control; soil or ganic matter level
58 and structure maintenance; and sustains soil nitrogen and other nutrients content by minimi zing nutrient losses. Due to issues that may be encountered due to unequal field sizes, various soil types, or previous cropping of a specific field, farmers may have to develop more than once system of rotation (Lampkin, 1998). Another reason for this may be that because or ganic farming functions without the use of insecticides, herbacides, and synthetic fertilizers, it is more dependent upon a more diverse system of crop rotation, as found by Bengtsson et al. (2005). The element of rotational schemes in or ganic agriculture cannot be understated. Smith and Gross (2007) conducted one of the first comprehensive experiments on crop rotation in the absence of agrichemicals, specifically to determine its ef fect on the abundance, composition, and structure of we ed communities. The results showed that out of 6 crop diversity treatments; one continuous monoculture, one continuous monoculture with one annual cover crop, two crop rotation, three crop rotation, three crop rotation with one annul cover crop, and a thre e crop rotation with two cover crop species annually; weed abundance and diversity were lowest in the two highest crop diversity treatments. Cover crops were shown to be especially ef fective element for controlling weed populations, "in general, the ef fect s of crop diversity on weed communities were mainly the result of the presence of cover crops, which had a strong ef fect on soil resources" and light levels. After rotational schemes have been decided compost/manure operations and technological concerns c an be next addressed. Whether or not a farmer manages livestock will determine what type of nutrient rich, or ganic material will be applied to the most appropriate places in a field during a season, and whether or not a compost operation is necessary Issu es of labor distribution and allocating capital in terms of changes in tillage practices, weed control and harvesting are technological and mechanical aspects that are also
59 an important step in the conversion process (Lampkin, 1998). Once these steps have been taken and a systematic tar get plan within an agricultural and ecological context has been developed, should the financial implications of conventional to or ganic agriculture be considered. Lampkin (1998) explains: The primary objective consideration should be a system which works agriculturally and is ecologically sustainable with as few compromises imposed by economic constraints as possible.(p. 530) Reaching a satisfactory level of income which ensures the financial survival of a farm business is a more appropriate goal than profit maximization, a goal which often conflicts with environmental considerations and sound agricultural practices. One of the most important considerations when developing a time line during the planning stages of conversi on, is to start slowly (Lampkin, 1998).Experience needs to be gained with new crops, new techniques, and the potential yields from the system. This is why starting with just one or two fields is extremely helpful. Once a small area has a functional crop ro tation system that has proved fruitful over a one or two season period, additional fields can start conversion with a fair degree of confidence. Should later fields encounter severe problems with financial repercussions; the original fields can serve as in surance. Agricultural conversion from a conventional, monoculture farm to an or ganic farm which relies on intensive management rather than agricultural chemical for yield insurance is a long and complicated process, often with the end result barely resemb ling the original plan of agricultural action (Lampkin, 1998). Farmers should expect to consistently modify and change their conversion plan every year as they gain experience with the addition of new fields. Crops originally perceived as profitable can be revealed as draining economic
60 ventures, while trial species prove to be more ecologically and financially attractive. Ultimately it is possible for farms to convert without a significant decrease in income in the long term, and, additionally with the poss ibility of increasing a farmers ultimate profit by "producing for a market which is prepared to pay higher prices." (p.543) W ithin the past decade, or ganic food has gained increasing popularity due to rising environmental consciousness. But because of t he predominance of the agrichemical industry (for example, Pimentel et al (2005) found that "more than 90% of US corn farmers rely on herbicides for weed control"), the future of or ganic farming faces many challenges if it is to uphold the original ecologi cal and social values of the or ganic movement. While challenges are present, there is recent research suggesting that due to the rising concern of economic and ecological sustainability of industrial agriculture, that greater interest is being garnered in developing alternative farming systems less dependent on agrichemicals (Smith and Gross, 2007). The future evolution of this niche depends upon suf ficient and comprehensive research explicating the economic and ecological benefits, in addition to consumer s understanding that or ganic produce shipped from halfway across the country is not a sustainable meal. While consumer demand has tempted this practice from many or ganic farm operations, such as Horizon Farms and Cascade Farms (Pollan, 2006), it goes again st the IFOAM second principle, the ecological principle, which states that anyone involved in the production or consumption process of or ganic agriculture should protect and benefit the common environment "including landscapes, climate, habitats, biodive rsity air and water", by encouraging an increase in fossil fuel use and production, a known pollutant.
61 Conclusion Understanding where your food originates is essential to forming a cohesive world view (Pollan, 2006). But this understanding is lar gely lacking in modern society Grocery stores and mega supermarkets have superseded local farmers markets, and toxic chemicals have taken the place of natural soil ecosystems in providing our food' s essential nutrients. Until an ef fort is made to comp rehensively address how we arrived at our current state of af fairs, to understand and take responsibility for modern industrial agricultural practice' s health and environmental repercussions, and then transition to a sustainable food production future, we will continue to live in food ignorance, consuming as we please with no evident slowdown in sight. The consequences of industrial agriculture predict a disastrous end. Poisoning the people and ecosystems involved in this chemical dependent method of land m anagement, and sustaining an economically demanding relationship between farmers and agribusiness, industrial food production will eventually collapse on itself. Alternatives to modern industrial agriculture do exist; however transitioning from a
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