What Really Matters in Commercial Agriculture

What Really Matters in Commercial Agriculture

According to the U.S. Census, the world’s population reached 6,761,657,535 in 2008. The population is now at its largest and is still growing with two hundred and forty-five babies being born every minute (“[How Many Babies]”). As the population grows, so does the demand for food. In “The Politics of Hunger,” by Paul Collier, he states “The solution must come from dramatically increasing world food supply” (Collier 2). As a result of the high demand, commercial agriculture was introduced globally back in 1996 (Collier 4).This involves genetically modifying crops by infusing them with chemicals and using fertilizers in their growth. Doing this enables crops to produce a greater supply of larger crops and in a short period of time. Commercial agriculture is the only solution to the food crisis and must be increased.

“Today, fewer farmers feed more people than ever before in the history of food production” (“Commercial Agriculture: Facts and Figures”). Mass production would make food less scarce, therefore lowering the costs of food. This makes food easier to buy for low-income communities. Commercial agriculture is large scale farming, with the use of pesticides being a necessity. Pesticides such as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides kill the pests which pose a harmful threat to crops.

Some people who oppose commercial agriculture argue that many livestock are living under unsanitary and unnatural conditions. Pigs are often trapped in filthy, crowded feedlots where movement is not necessarily an option. During the recent decades, grain production has been greater than the population; because of this much of the grain is fed to livestock (Vocke 2). Cows normally eat grass, but instead are fed corn, protein and fat supplements and antibiotics to fatten them up quicker so that they could be slaughtered sooner (Pollan71). Since these foods are not normally meant to be in their diets, it causes them to sicken. “Between 15 percent and 30 percent of feedlot cows are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers; […] in some pens the figure runs as high as 70 percent” (Pollan78).

On the other hand, those in favor of commercial agriculture argue that not all livestock are living under these conditions. There are some organic farms, in which cows, chicken and pigs are not given hormones and antibiotics. They are fed the natural grass, soybeans and corn. They are put in environments where they have access to pasture and are not confined to cages or crowded dens.

It is often said that “you are what you eat.” If we are the consumers who are purchasing beef and dairy products then we are also the infected cow. Cattle, pigs and poultry have been given small doses of penicillin, tetracycline, and other antibiotics to make them grow fatter quicker. “Scientists worldwide have decried the use of antibiotics to promote animal growth because it increases the prevalence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics’ effects and jeopardizes human health” (“Commercial Agriculture: Facts and Figures”). Humans are being affected greatly by the health of these animals. The pesticides from fertilizers being used in crop fields are finding their way through our water systems. Sandra LaBlanc, a communications director at the National Catholic Rural Life Conference argues that the industrial model of food production is the right thing to do only when certain factors are hidden from consumers. These factors include people and farmers being sickened, underground water systems being poisoned and the land being degraded by chemicals put into the soils.

It is argued that farmers are being negatively affected by the use of commercial agriculture. These small-scale farmers cannot compete with these large-scale industries producing much more in a faster way. However, now the government is organizing programs in which farmers can be trained with specific skills that will help them keep their farms and have more effective products. One of the greatest advantages that large industries have is funding, and these organizations help small-scale farmers have access to funds for advertising (Board).

Commercial agriculture has been a controversial issue ever since people were able to weigh the advantages and disadvantages that it creates. “Commercial agriculture is not perfect. But allowing commercial organizations to replace peasant agriculture gradually would raise global food supply in the medium term” (Collier 4). If we look at the advantages and disadvantages, then the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages only by the fact that there are more of them. What is most important is that the growing population can be fed and this can only be done by commercial agriculture.

Works Cited
Board, Wayne. “USDA programs give farmers help in reaching World Markets.” Ag News April 2000. 1 March 2009
Clarke, Kevin. “The high price of cheap food.” U.S. Catholic 63.4:37.
Collier, Paul. “The Politics of Hunger.” Foreign Affairs November-December 2008. 15 Feb 2009 .
Hatherill Robert, J. “Commercial Agriculture: Facts and Figures.” In the News. 15 Feb 2009 .
“U.S. and World Population Clocks Popclock.” U.S. Census Bureau. 15 Feb 2009
Vocke, Gary. “The changing nature of world agriculture.” National Food Review 13.2:13