Our industrial food supply is killing us

Right here in the Miami Valley is dramatic, tragic evidence that our industrial food production system is threatening our lives and livelihoods in direct and dramatic ways.

First comes the toxic poisoning of Grand Lake-St. Marys by an algae bloom fed by farm run-off. The bloom is so bad–and so toxic–that the State of Ohio has issued a “no-contact ” order for the lake over the normally busy 4th of July holiday weekend. Meanwhile, officials report that protecting against farm runoff requires voluntary compliance and that making compliance mandatory is “a political mine field.”

Second comes the attack of head scab and its byproduct  vomitoxin against this year’s wheat crop, which renders the crop almost useless for human consumption. While most agriculture scientists will say that this issue is more one of bad luck and wet weather than bad agriculture, I believe it also reveals another flaw in the practices of industrial monoculture whereby farmers fail to use sustainable crop rotation methods, cultivation methods, and genetically diverse, open pollinated seed, all of which serve to help protect against these very kinds of threats to crops.

These two local events are just two in a far larger number of events in the growing body of evidence that industrial agriculture production as it is currently conceived is well on its way toward failing and killing us in the process. All of the decades of nonsense that industrialized agriculture was the only way to feed the world’s population has served only to obscure the incredible fragility of the system and its true costs.

I understand that fixing the problems that industrial agriculture has produced is going to be a difficult and complex task, but the solution must begin with individuals making conscious decisions to support agricultural production that is not part of the problem. Thousands of sustainable agriculture operations exist all over the United States and around the world, very often right in the middle of regions otherwise dominated by industrial production. If enough people make the choice to support sustainability over industry, then then entire industry will change.

And the changes industrial agriculture need to make are clear: more people need to be involved in the undertaking of producing food; those people need to use methods that take a holistic approach to preserving land, water, and air for generations of food producers; food production needs to be decentralized so that all of the food is not being produced by a few people in fewer and fewer places; diversity needs to be reintroduced into the kinds of crops and the varieties of each crop being grown.

Without these kinds of changes, disasters like the poisoning of Grand Lake-St. Marys and widespread crop disease will only become more widespread and more devastating in their effect. Each of us have the power to help make these changes a reality, but each of us must make our own choices first.