Industrial Farming Is Destroying Our Health and Environment
Dr. Mercola, Guest
Sometimes you read or hear someone in power say something so illogical and narrow-minded that it really crystallizes the reasons why the United States is in such dire straits when it comes to health.
Secretary of Agriculture, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack, recently made such a statement. As reported by Politico:1
“There’s been a lot of griping from some corners about the impact of large-scale industrial agriculture on the environment and its sustainability, and Vilsack is tired of it.
In remarks to the GreenGov Symposium … the secretary said critics of conventional farming should understand the role they play in that system as consumers.
Americans spend about 10 percent of their income on food, thanks to the U.S. agricultural system, while residents of other developed countries spend 20 percent. For those in developing countries, the outlay is 50 percent.
As a result of U.S. farmers and the efficiencies of large-scale farms, Americans have more money in their pockets for things like housing, education and luxuries like vacations, Vilsack said.”
In other words, shut up about sustainability and just be happy there’s plenty of cheap food to be had. What’s so crazy about a statement like this is the miniscule view it takes on a subject that has extraordinarily vast ramifications for human health and future generations.
The High Cost of Cheap Food
Our current agricultural model has an array of hidden costs. It takes a toll on workers and residents in farming areas, wildlife, soil, air and water supplies; it depletes natural resources that are non-renewable or slow to renew, and dumps toxins into what remains.
Ultimately, it takes a toll on the health of those who consume this denatured, contaminated and ultra-processed food, and it threatens the very ability to continue growing food in the future.
We’re not even talking about some far distant future that is easy to ignore. We’re talking about a mere 20 to 60 years in the future! According to various scientific predictions:
- Within 60 years, the world’s topsoil may be completely lost.2
- Potable water is quickly being depleted and becoming increasingly scarce.
- By 2050, antibiotic-resistant infections — a health crisis directly attributable to industrial farming — may kill 10 million people worldwide each year.3
- Phosphorus, needed for fertilizer, may soon be completely depleted.4 Modern fertilizer consists of varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Both phosphorus and potassium, neither of which can be synthesized, are becoming increasingly sparse.5
According to the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (GPRI),6 we could hit “peak phosphorus” as early as 2030. Without these fertilizer ingredients, the entire world would quickly be in trouble. Phosphorus in particular is critical for healthy plant growth.
The only way to do without these fertilizers is to radically alter the way we farm the land. Using regenerative farming methods, fertilizer use becomes less of a rate-limiting factor.
Yet Vilsack is “tired” of hearing about how industrial farming hurts the planet and its inhabitants, and he wants Americans to pipe down and thank the gods of efficiency we can afford to take vacations with the money we save on food.
Low Food Prices, High Medical Costs
Never mind the fact that Americans have the lowest health rating7 in the developed world thanks to this industrial, processed diet, and the fact that we have the most expensive health care system in the world, even though it ranks 37th in terms of quality.8
Cheap food is no bargain when it makes you and your children chronically ill. Nearly 38 percent of American adults9 and 17 percent of children and adolescents10 are obese, and this alone costs the U.S. health care system up to $210 billion each year.11
That could pay for a lot of organic veggies, yet using Vilsack’s reasoning, you should be happy that cheap food affords you to pay for your ill health.
Cheap food is no bargain when it leads to the permanent “vacation” that is premature death either, at least not for the surviving family members who have to bear the loss of a loved one.
Remarkably, while the global maternal mortality rate has improved, falling by more than one-third in the past 15 years, the U.S. is one of the few countries that buck that auspicious trend. Since 1990, the maternal death rate in the U.S. has actually RISEN by more than 50 percent, according to the latest statistics.12
Hidden Costs Abound
Vilsack also stays mum on the fact that your tax dollars are used to:
•Subsidize all this cheap corn, soy and wheat grown by industrial farms — the basic ingredients of cheap processed food — as well as meat and dairy from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Over the past 15 years, more than $96 billion in agricultural subsidies have been handed out to industrial farmers who pollute the environment and contribute to the destruction of the ecosystem,13 all in the name of efficiency.
•Promote biotech propaganda that falsely assures you genetically engineered (GE) foods are a boon to farmers and the food system and pose no safety concern.14,15,16
•Provide industry farmers with crop insurance. Last year, this price tag came to a whopping $14 billion. Virtually all U.S. corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton crops are insured under this program, and as noted by Bloomberg:17
“The arrangement is a good deal for everyone but taxpayers. The government pays 18 approved insurance companies to run the program, pays farmers to buy coverage and pays the bills if losses exceed predetermined limits …
Unlike direct farm aid payments, which are capped at $40,000 per farm, there is no limit on crop insurance subsidies … The heavily-discounted insurance incentivizes farmers to cultivate marginal acres that may or may not be fertile. And the program’s been vulnerable to fraud …”
Pay Now or Pay Later
By using your tax dollars to prop up the industrial farming system, it falsely makes the food appear inexpensive when in reality you’re paying for it in other ways and in other places than your grocery store.
Agricultural subsidies are just one portion of the hidden costs you pay. There’s alsoenvironmental cleanups, such as the removal of nitrates from drinking water, lakes and rivers. And then, of course, there are health care costs.
Thanks to policies that oversupply our markets with GE corn and soy, the federal government has greatly contributed to the creation of health issues that can be directly attributed to ingredients like corn syrup and soybean oil, including obesity, diabetes, immune dysfunction and autoimmune diseases, reproductive problems, heart disease, dementia and cancer.
Glyphosate, which is used in particularly high amounts on GE crops like corn and soy, and on conventional wheat, makes these basic processed food ingredients even more hazardous. In addition to being a probable human carcinogen, glyphosatepromotes nutritional deficiencies by immobilizing certain nutrients.
It also enhances systemic toxicity by disrupting microbial function throughout our body and raises the damaging effects of other food-borne chemicals and environmental toxins by shutting down detoxifying enzymes. It also decimates cellular communication by damaging cellular tight junctions.
In Vilsack’s eyes, none of these factors are worthy of attention, apparently. It’s really a travesty when you consider that this “shut up and be grateful” rhetoric is coming from one of our top agricultural leaders. Vilsack was even in the running for vice president as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.18,19
Imagine, a man with this simplistically one-sided view on something as holistic as food was under consideration for the second most powerful position in the United States.
Who Does Vilsack Work for, Really?
Unfortunately, Vilsack is in a position to do plenty of damage as is. The former Biotech Governor of the Year wants the White House to create an administrator-level food council to “coordinate the activities of the 15 different federal agencies that address agricultural and food issues.”20 The problem with this idea should be obvious to anyone familiar with the shortcomings and failings of these food- and agricultural-related agencies.
What we really need is a system that weeds out conflicts of interest and prevents private corporations from running our federal agencies. Vilsack is but one in a long list of people who are working both sides.
As a food and agricultural leader, his endorsement of an ultra-processed diet is sickening in more ways than one. These subsidized junk foods are a primary driver of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. These potent killers are all related to a nutrition-poor, processed food diet.
The fact of the matter is, if taxpayer dollars were used to subsidize healthy whole foods like organic fruits and vegetables, more people would be able to afford them, people would be healthier in general, and health care costs would plummet. And that gets to the heart of the matter, because many of the same corporations that profit from toxic agriculture also profit from your ill health.
Take Syngenta, for example. Up until the year 2000, Syngenta not only produced atrazine — a toxic pesticide that triggers overproduction of estrogen, thereby raising your risk of breast cancer — but also letrozol, a chemical that blocks estrogen production and is used as a treatment for breast cancer. So, simultaneously, Syngenta was selling an agricultural chemical that promotes cancer, and a drug that treats it.
Now, drug and chemical giant Bayer stands poised to merge with leading GE seed and chemical company Monsanto, creating a corporate behemoth that will have everything to gain from perpetuating a toxic food system. And based on Vilsack’s history as a staunch defender and promoter of GE crops,21 he’s unlikely to do anything to so much as slow it down.
Crop Subsidies Feed CAFO Industry — and Drug Resistance
The same corn and soy subsidies that plague our health are the foundation for the CAFO production of meat and dairy. By feeding cattle this species-inappropriate diet, they promote disease in the animals, and to counteract that, they routinely feed the cattle antibiotics. This in turn promotes drug-resistant bacteria, which now threatens human health like never before. The antibiotic “apocalypse” is nearing, yet no affirmative action is being taken to stop it. Why?
Nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in agriculture, yet many in the CAFO industry still quibble about lack of evidence. In the meantime, conservative estimates suggest 2 million Americans contract drug-resistant infections each year and at least 23,000 die as a result.22 Yet Vilsack wants to remind you that, thanks to industrial farming, you “only” have to spend 10 percent of your paycheck on food, and for that, you should be grateful!
Medical researchers have issued warnings about rising antibiotic resistance for decades, but it wasn’t until economists began crunching the numbers that world leaders really began taking notice. Facing an estimated global cost of $100 trillion by 2050, the United Nations (UN) is now stepping in to fight antibiotic resistance in a historic declaration. As reported by NPR:23
“The U.N.’s declaration requires countries to come up with a two-year plan to protect the potency of antibiotics. Countries need to create ways to monitor the use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, start curbing that use and begin developing new antibiotics that work. After two years, the U.N.’s secretary-general will assess each country’s plan and check to make sure each is making progress.”
Can You Afford Eating a Factory Farmed Diet?
What price can you place on all these various forms of destruction, really? By the time you add up farm subsidies, crop insurance subsidies, biotech promotion paid by taxes, environmental cleanups and water treatment, health care costs for chronic disease and antibiotic resistance, you’re definitely looking at far more than 10 percent of your income.
Consider this: As of 2013, health care spending averaged out to nearly $9,100 per capita in the U.S.24 What percentage of your income does that amount to? I believe it is crucial to understand that this cost is heavily influenced by diet, so when calculating what you can and cannot “afford,” you really should include an estimate of future health care costs.
Could you still afford to eat junk food today if you knew with a fair amount of certainty that you will get diabetes from it? Diabetics incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year.25 How does that figure fit into your current food budget? Vilsack’s obnoxious statement does not take this into account, but you’d be wise not to fall for his simplistic view of the matter.
What Value Do We Place on Our Environment?
Agricultural chemicals like pesticides are responsible for ecocide, killing soil microbes, bees, butterflies, amphibians and birds. Synthetic fertilizers like anhydrous ammonia, and mined fertilizer like phosphorus from Morocco and Florida, spawn algae blooms and pollute waterways, destroying tropical fresh waters and estuaries into the ocean.
Overusing weed killers like Roundup (the active ingredient of which is glyphosate) on Roundup-resistant GE crops has led to resistant weeds and serious environmental damage. According to the largest study26 of pesticide use on GE crops to date, farmers who plant herbicide-resistant GE crops use 28 percent more herbicides than non-GE farmers. The main reason for the increase is to control weeds that have developed resistance to the herbicide. According to Sustainable Pulse:27
“Ciliberto and his colleagues measured the overall environmental impact of the changes in chemical use that have resulted from the adoption of genetically modified crops, using a measure called the environmental impact quotient, or EIQ, to account for chemicals’ impact on farmworkers, consumers and the environment …
[T]he adoption of genetically modified soybeans correlated with a massive negative impact on the environment as increased herbicide use also increased contamination of local ecosystems.”
How can we justify this kind of environmental destruction in the name of efficient food production? In the end, we cannot survive without a thriving ecosystem, as we are part of it. If the ecosystem falls apart, humanity goes down with it, so environmental activism is really a call to self-preservation.
It’s not about hugging trees and placing plants and animals over humans. It’s understanding that we cannot survive very long without them, and the quicker plants and animals die, the quicker we’re destined to follow in their tracks.
Besides environmental destruction, increased pesticide use also has financial ramifications for farmers. Some say the cost of GE seeds and pesticides have gotten so high, they’re now operating at or near a loss.28,29 Who benefits from this toxic system? Primarily the makers of GE seeds and pesticides. And this is the system Vilsack defends, while being “annoyed” with those who point out the obvious dangers of letting the industrial farming business continue as usual.
Another surprising responsibility Vilsack shoulders is to oversee the White House administration’s response to the opioid addiction epidemic. In a recent Washington Post article,30 Vilsack shares his “four-pillar plan to revitalize struggling rural economies” that have been hard-hit not just by agricultural woes but drug addiction as well.
To get rural economies back on track, he suggests investing in organic farming, eco-tourism, biofuels and bio-based manufacturing. However, while that may sound like an endorsement of organic agriculture, it’s likely little more than a token gesture, and it’s interesting how this comment is showing up in an article about his response to drug addiction, while his agricultural agenda is so heavily biased toward biotech and chemical agriculture.
Meanwhile, there’s no mention of the real cause of the opioid epidemic — prescription narcotics that have been falsely marketed as safe with low addiction potential.
Florida Groundwater Contaminated With Radioactive Fertilizer
According to a recent report by Mother Jones,31 a fertilizer company mining for phosphate in central Florida caused a 45-foot-wide sinkhole, depositing an estimated 215 million gallons of radioactive water into the aquifer below. This is just one example of the devastating side effects of our chemical-dependent farming system.
“This strange event has everything to do with your food,” Tom Philpott points out. “That’s because the breach occurred in … Bone Valley, one of the world’s most productive and valuable stores of phosphate rock,32 the feedstock for phosphate fertilizer … Florida’s phosphate deposits … provide about 75 percent of the nation’s supply of phosphate fertilizer and about 25 percent of the world supply.
They’re essentially ecological sacrifice zones … For every ton of product, the process generates five tons of a waste product called phosphogypsum, which contains low levels of radiation as well as a range of toxic heavy metals … In Florida … it has been accumulating in huge piles known as gyp stacks …
And it was on one of the gyp stacks that the sinkhole formed, unleashing that vast pond of tainted water … The sinkhole just east of Tampa Bay is a spectacular reminder of phosphate mining’s high ecological price tag.”
The public was not notified of the contamination until two weeks after the event, and Robert Brinkmann, a professor of geology and environmental sustainability at Hofstra University, suspects removing the contaminated water from the aquifer will be a significant challenge.33 It can spread through the subterranean water system, shaped much like Swiss cheese, very quickly. Moreover, the Florida aquifer system also stretches into Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina.
Radioactive Fertilizer Implicated in Lung Cancer
The radioactive compound found in calcium phosphate fertilizers is polonium-210 — a chemically toxic34 and highly radioactive element35 that releases alpha particles as it decays. While alpha particles cannot penetrate deeply into your body, they can cause serious damage to cells they do come into contact with.
Calcium phosphate fertilizers are commonly used on food crops and tobacco fields, and it was actually research into the toxicity of tobacco that led to the finding that this low-grade radioactivity may be contributing to cancer.
It’s well-recognized that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer. However, while it may seem obvious that added chemicals would be prime culprits, research suggests polonium may be a much bigger contributor. In turn, this suggests radioactive fertilizer could potentially pose a hazard within our food supply as well.
Research suggests radiation from these fertilizers are what causes the most lung damage and is the primary cause of cancer in smokers.36,37,38 In fact, polonium is the only component of cigarette smoke shown to produce cancer in laboratory animals.39According to a 2009 study,40 a person who smokes 1.5 packs of cigarettes per day receives an 8,000 millirem (mrem) radiation dose to the bronchial epithelium each year, which equals a radiation dose to the skin from 300 chest x-rays.
Radioactive Phosphates May Cause More Harm Than Previously Suspected
According to a 2011 report in Nicotine and Tobacco Research,41 radioactivity in tobacco comes from two sources: the atmosphere and uptake through soil rich in calcium phosphate fertilizer contaminated with polonium phosphates. Phosphate fertilizer ore contains 50 to 150 parts per million (ppm) of natural uranium.42 Secret internal documents obtained from the major tobacco industries in 1998 reveal the industry was well aware of the presence of this radioactive element in cigarettes as early as 1959:
“Acid wash was discovered in 1980 to be highly effectively in removing polonium-210 from the tobacco leaves; however, the industry avoided its use for concerns that acid media would ionize nicotine converting it into a poorly absorbable form into the brain of smokers thus depriving them of the much sought after instant ‘nicotine kick’ sensation,” the researchers noted.
The report concluded that “the evidence of lung cancer risk caused by cigarette smoke radioactivity is compelling enough to warrant its removal.” Now, if tobacco leaves become a source of cancer-causing radioactivity due to the fertilizers used, what about food grown with these phosphate fertilizers?
Polonium may also be present in fluoridated water, courtesy of the fluorosilicic acid commonly used. Uranium and radium are two known carcinogens found in fluorosilicic acid used for water fluoridation, and polonium-210 is 1 of 2 decay products of uranium. Furthermore, polonium decays into stable lead-206, which also has significant health risks — especially in children — and research has indeed shown that drinking fluoridated water increases lead absorption in your body.
Meat and Dairy — Sources of Mild Radiation?
A CNN article43 from 2012 addressed the health effects of polonium when the radioactive element was being investigated as a potential cause in the death of Yasser Arafat, the former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization. According to their report:
“If you ingest polonium-210, about 50 percent to 90 percent of the substance will exit the body through feces, according to a fact sheet from Argonne National Laboratory. What is left will enter the bloodstream. About 45 percent of polonium ingested gets into the spleen, kidneys and liver, and 10 percent is deposited in the bone marrow.
Granted, food-borne polonium may be absorbed and react differently in your body than that in tobacco smoke. Still, as stated by the International Atomic Energy Agency,44 internal exposure, which is more or less the only dangerous form, occurs primarily through food, water and inhaling contaminated air. So it’s quite possible you might be exposed to greater levels of this (and other) radioactive elements than was previously thought, through the aggressive use of phosphate fertilizers in food production.
There is in fact some research suggesting this may be the case. According to a report by the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research,45 American meat products and dairy may expose your organs to radiation doses equivalent to the dose received by smokers via cigarette smoke!
Phosphate Fertilizers Also Impact Gut Health
While we may not be able to estimate the potential cancer risk from foods grown with contaminated phosphate fertilizers, research has shown that dietary calcium phosphate has a detrimental effect on your gut health. According to a 2002 study in the Journal of Nutrition:46
“Most Gram-positive bacteria are susceptible to the bactericidal action of fatty acids and bile acids. Because dietary calcium phosphate (CaP(i)) lowers the intestinal concentration of these antimicrobial agents, high CaP(i) intake may enhance intestinal colonization of Gram-positive pathogens and the subsequent pathogenesis.”
Interestingly, the adverse effect of dietary calcium phosphate was found to be dependent on the type of dietary fat consumed. In rats given diets containing corn oil (a staple in processed foods), the calcium phosphate stimulated colonization of pathogenic bacteria, whereas this adverse effect was not found in animals given a diet with milk fat.
There are many drawbacks to conventional fertilizers, and radioactive food can perhaps be added to that list (with or without radioactive fallout from Japan, which is a whole other story). While modern agricultural methods may appear to be the most cost effective and efficient strategy at first glance, it quickly becomes one of the costliest ways to produce food once you take into account the environmental and human health consequences.
Vilsack — A Major Promoter and Defender of Toxic Agriculture
It takes a special kind of person to endorse such obvious human and environmental destruction (and I haven’t even touched on how pesticides decimate bee and butterfly populations, upon which one-third of our food supply depend for their crucial pollination services47). Vilsack’s history, and recent comments, show he’s just that kind of person.
Not surprisingly, in 2001, when Vilsack was Governor of Iowa, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) named him Governor of the Year to honor his contributions to and promotion of the industry.”48
The fact of the matter is the cheap foods Vilsack promotes and defends have very real costs. The U.S. farm bill promotes obesity, and by 2030, the CDC predicts HALF of all Americans will be obese, costing the health care system $550 billion over the following two decades.49 Based on the evidence, it seems clear that Vilsack is just another puppet of the masters that are corrupting Congress.
The American Farm Bureau
Just like the USDA, the American Farm Bureau, which has positioned itself as a grassroots organization that supports farmers, is another faction of the Big Ag system. When small farmers are pitted against CAFOs, the Farm Bureau typically sides with the industrial farmers, leaving family farmers to fend for themselves. As previously reported by The Nation:50
“From California to New York, the Farm Bureau leads the charge for industrial-scale food production. It opposes the labeling of genetically engineered food, animal welfare reform and environmental regulation. In Washington, its well-funded team of lobbyists and lawyers seeks to undermine the federal Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, opposing pesticide restrictions and increased scrutiny of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from CAFOs …”
How the Meat Lobby Beefs Up Your Dinner
Americans love beef, and the meat industry admits it has worked long and hard to create and maintain Americas love affair with juicy steaks. As a side effect, other industries benefit as well, including fertilizer companies, pesticide producers, seed companies and drug companies, the latter of which provide veterinary drugs and antibiotics. As recently noted by Salon Magazine:51
“According to the American Meat Institute, the industry’s primary trade organization: ‘Meat and poultry industry impacts firms in all 509 sectors of the U.S. economy … The meat and poultry industry’s economic ripple effect generates $864.2 billion annually to the U.S. economy, or roughly 6 percent of the entire GDP’ …
To make certain you keep eating meat, the industry levies almost a tax on products sold, known as beef and pork checkoffs. In the U.S. each beef producer pays $1 per bovine head at the time the animal is sold … Between 1987 and 2013, the U.S. beef checkoff collected $1.2 billion … money that is used ‘to increase domestic and/or international demand for beef’ — in the words of the industry itself …
When Americans ask, ‘What’s for dinner?’ most will automatically reply: ‘Beef.’ That’s hardly a surprise. Back in 1992 the industry spent $42 million of beef checkoff money spreading the slogan ‘Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.’
As for its effectiveness, consider this quote from the industry’s own website: ‘In the minds of the many consumers hearing that question [‘What’s for dinner?’], a dominant answer has been planted: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Not just planted, in fact. Watered, nourished and cared for over the past two decades.'”
Beef May Be Inexpensive, But You’re Paying for It Elsewhere
Between 1995 and 2012, American taxpayers supported the beef industry with $4.1 billion in farm subsidies. When you add in feed grain subsidies and other indirect costs, the total cost to subsidize meat, fish, eggs and dairy balloons to $38 billion ANNUALLY.52 As stated before, while the food APPEARS inexpensive, it really isn’t, because you’re paying for it through subsidies generated by taxes.
The crux of the problem is that if subsidies are reduced, prices in the store go up and consumption goes down. As noted by Salon: “Studies show that on average, a 10 percent increase in beef ‘s price means about a 7.5 percent decrease in consumption.” So in essence, this toxic and destructive farming system is kept in place primarily because of greed.
Industrial farming is all about selling high quantities, and by subsidizing CAFOs with your tax dollars, you’re fooled into thinking you’re getting a great deal, when in fact you’re paying hidden costs and supporting a system that is destroying your health at the same time. In my book, that’s no cause for celebration, and contrary to what Vilsack says, it’s nothing to be grateful for.
CAFO Lobby Combats All Attempts to Minimize Destructive Impact of Factory Farms
What’s worse, the CAFO lobby has successfully fought off virtually all attempts to reduce their destructive impact.53 In short, they don’t care that industrial farms pollute soil and water, reduce air quality, or promote drug-resistant disease. But they’re clinging to an unsustainable model, and unsustainable models can never last. The question is, will it change before or after a massive crisis has been reached?
According to Robert Martin, executive director of the Pew Commission’s 2008 report, “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America” — which raised serious concerns about the way livestock farming is done in the U.S., noting that things are getting WORSE, not better — believes that in order for true reform to occur, the people must demand it.54
U.S. taxpayers are funding a fake low price to keep us drowning in soy and corn, much of which isn’t even used as food, but for “green” fuel,55 and when this lobbyist-blown bubble finally bursts, farmers are bound to suffer, as the value of their farmland will drop as well.
Signs of trouble are already brewing. According to a recent article in Equities,56 the price of corn has dropped 62 percent since 2012, and a 70 percent crash is expected. Wheat and soybeans have also dropped by 61 and 52 percent respectively. So far, the value of farmland has dropped by about 12 percent, but is predicted to fall by more than 60 percent sometime in the early 2020s.57
The Real Cost of Cheap Food Is Immeasurable
So what is the real cost of cheap food? If you take both human and environmental health into account, it’s immeasurable, because what price can you put, really, on premature death due to poor health? What dollar amount can you place on the destruction of farmland and pollution of water? What’s the cost of killing a large percentage of the pollinators that are such an integral part of our food system?
Most family farms have been lost to industrial-scale facilities and government mandates have consolidated food processing, ostensibly to ensure food safety. In reality, all this consolidation RAISES the risk of foodborne illness. By shipping animals hundreds of miles to industrial processing lines, local economies have also been eliminated.
Politicians and industry lobbyists love to talk about how this industrialized, consolidated system has made food safer and less expensive, when in reality it’s all about controlling the food system through price fixing, and by controlling the food, they control the people, and that includes you and me.
Holistic systems of inputs and outputs have been turned into industrial disintegration sites. Farms mine the land and water, taking until it’s gone. As a result, we have less wildlife, less soil abundance, more monocultures, more pollution and more illness. Truly, you cannot separate food production from health and medicine, because they are so intricately intertwined. Lack of investment in high quality food leads to higher medical expenditures, both on an individual and global scale.
Reclaim Your Health and Food Independence
Big Ag is acting just like Big Tobacco did back in its heyday, corrupting Congress to allow them to continue business as usual, which includes prematurely killing people and causing completely unnecessary suffering in more ways than one. Retired federal judge H. Lee Sarokin presided over tobacco litigation for 10 years. He recently commented on the up-and-coming e-cigarette industry, restating his former position on the tobacco industry that led to his being removed from such cases:58
“All too often in the choice between the physical health of consumers and the financial well-being of business, concealment is chosen over disclosure, sales over safety, and money over morality. Who are these persons who knowingly and secretly decide to put the buying public at risk solely for the purpose of making profits and who believe that illness and death of consumers is an appropriate cost of their own prosperity!”
His comments ring true for industrial farming as well. Just like the tobacco industry, Big Ag is an industry- and federal agency-created system that does not support environmental and human health. It is built on greed and control, and Vilsack is nothing but a hired “hitman” for industrial pharming — a conglomerate of chemical, biotech and pharmaceutical interests.
Boycott the System
It is time for disobedience. It is time to boycott the system. Stop aiding their stranglehold on our food by supporting regenerative agriculture, grass-fed and organic farming instead. Buy local. Even better, get to know your farmers and buy directly from them. We have to end the subsidizing of overproduction of junk food ingredients like corn and soy, which feed this degenerative, consolidated system and promotes waste, pollution and ill health.
Vilsack, as a leader of nutrition and agriculture, has a moral and ethical responsibility to do right by the people he serves — you. Yet his entire career has been spent promoting and covering for purveyors of disease. He is not a true leader of the agricultural industry. He’s a puppet of the chemical and biotechnology industries, which have no regard for health aside from the health of their own bottom lines.
According to Vilsack, consolidated, industrial-scale farming is what allows Americans to afford other necessities like housing and education, along with “luxuries like vacations.” In this article, I’ve highlighted a number of issues that expose just how flawed his position is.
Not only are you paying exorbitant hidden costs for low grocery store prices, what little money you save on groceries today, you’ll end up paying in healthcare costs later on. A food system set up to support a for-profit healthcare system is not a source for gratitude, and as head of the USDA, Vilsack really should understand this truth.
Where to Find Healthy Food
In these times, it’s really important to realize that how and where you buy your food matters. Not just for your own health, but for the health of your local community and the world at large as well. Regenerative farming can only flourish if there’s enough demand for their products. Conversely, the industrial system can only survive as long as people keep buying theirs.
While many grocery stores now carry organic foods, it’s preferable to source yours from local growers whenever possible, as much of the organic food sold in grocery stores is imported. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “organic” production from authentic organic practices.
If you’re still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk- Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund59 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.60 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available atwww.OrganicPastures.com.
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