Why Industrial Agriculture is Unsustainable

Fresh: Sustainable Food Production in America

Directed by Ana Sofia Joanes (2009)

Film Review

This documentary examines why industrial agriculture is inevitably doomed to failure. After detailing numerous financial, environmental, and human health crises linked to factory farm systems, the filmmakers explore the growing family farm movement. The latter seeks, above all, to re-localize US food production. The issue of local food production is especially relevant in 2020 with the current breakdown (thanks to COVID19 lockdowns) in globalized industrial food production.

In addition to profiling various family farmers who have abandoned factory farming, the film features Michael Pollan (author of The Botany of Desire and the The Omnivore’s Dilemma); the 2009 president of the National Family Farm Coalition; the manager of an independent farmer-supported supermarket in Kansas City; and Will Allen, former pro basketball star and founder of Growing Power (a community-supported urban farm and training center in Milwaukee).

The film explodes a number of corporate myths about industrial agriculture. First and foremost is the claim that we can’t feed a global population of seven billion without factory farming. There are now three decades of yield research revealing that traditional multi-species farming methods (still practiced by 80% of the world) are far more productive (in calories per acre) than industrialized monoculture. As several farmers in the film reveal, traditional farming methods are also more financially sustainable. Farmers employing traditional methods spend far less on pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and vet bills because their soils, plants, and animals are much healthier.*

The second major myth the film debunks is that factory farming lowers the cost of food by replacing human labor with technology. While Food Inc CEOs and shareholders pocket their profits, society as a a whole pays the cost of industrial agriculture with increased unemployment, environmental degradation, and health care costs. The latter stems from an epidemic of food contamination (with toxins and harmful pathogens) and chronic illness (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer).


*Two distinct effects are described: 1) The avoidance of herbicides and pesticides allows soil organisms essential for plant health to thrive and 2) Ruminant livestock thrive on the natural grasses their digestive systems evolved for, in contrast to the grains they are fed on factory farms.

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/fresh

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