Industrial agricultures resource-intensive methods are bringing us closer to the limits of our ability to produce food and fiber for everyone in the future, according to a review of food production methods conducted by the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The review, appearing in the May 2002 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, outlines the environmental and human health problems associated with current food production practices, and discusses the emerging sustainable agriculture movement that offers a viable alternative to the dominant system.
The bad news is that the way we grow food now cannot be sustained into the future. Industrial agricultures damaging impacts on the environment and public health are becoming more apparent all the time, and will only intensify if we continue down this path, says lead author Leo Horrigan, senior research program coordinator at the Center for a Livable Future at the School. The good news, though, is that there are already a lot of success stories out there of people who are farming in a way that is both ecologically and economically viable.
Horrigan explains that todays conventional or industrial agriculture is considered unsustainable because it erodes natural resources faster than the environment can regenerate them, and because it depends heavily on resources that are nonrenewable, meaning fossil fuels.
Horrigan and his colleagues use examples from around the world to illustrate their points, but they place emphasis on the United States food system. Because of its focus on resource-intensive meat production, the U.S. system represents one of the worst-case examples of the pitfalls of industrial agriculture. The use of growth-promoting antibiotics in animal agriculture is thought to be one of the factors driving the increase in antibiotic resistance disease in humans. Animal crowding in factory farms and high-speed processing of food animals
Contact: Ming Tai or Tim Parsons
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health