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The industrial revolution has affected almost every facet of our daily lives. One of the avenues impacted is the evolution of agriculture. It developed from simple farming to an intensive method using modern equipment, tools, structures and techniques intended for large-scale production. With this large-scale production comes certain advantages, but there are also drawbacks.
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Advantages of Industrial Agriculture
1) Cheaper Food: Most staple foods are cheap and prices tend to be predictable over time as a result of a larger food supply to meet the demands of the consumer. Industrialization has also increase the mobility of goods, making it inexpensive to ship food from miles away. Advancements in biotechnology have also developed new breeds of crops that are resistant to specific plant diseases. Pesticides and insecticides improve yields and quality of produce.
Due to a combination of the above factors, farming has become more lucrative, while at the same time lowering prices for consumers. More updated information can be found from United States Department of Agriculture website.
2) Greater Variety and Availability: Because food has become cheaper to produce, farmers can invest in growing or raising more types and varieties of plants and livestock than before. Advancements in biotechnology has also resulted in hybrid varieties or disease resistant plants that can be grown in more places. Finally, advancements in shipping and storing technology means we can still enjoy oranges grown in Florida during cold winters in the Northern states.
3) Longer Shelf-Life and Availability: Food shelf-life has been extended to increase its economic value. New techniques of food preservation, processing and packaging are being uncovered constantly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration website is a good place to browse if you want to learn more about food preservation.
4) Fewer Geographic Limitations: Farmers have greater access to water due to irrigation. They also have access to fertilizers and other technology such as greenhouses that reduce the impact of seasonal and weather changes. The growing season has become lengthened and places that were previously unable to grow crops can now be cultivated into farm land.
5) Less Dependence on Human Labor: Modern technology has freed farmers from labor constraints. Now they have their pick of willing laborers for tasks that require it, while being able to use machines to do more than human hands ever could. This means farmers are able to afford to hire better-quality workers to complete specialized tasks.
6) Decreased Time to Market: There have been great advancements in methods of food production, processing, packaging, preservation and delivery. This means goods are delievered to markets and grocery stores more quickly than ever. Access to food has never been a problem in highly industrialized or first world countries.
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Food Production Will Remain a Primary Undertaking
With the constant increase in human population, food production will remain one of our highest concerns. While industrialized agriculture has greatly aided the expansion and increase in the population of the planet, there are valid criticisms in the movement. Many question the sustainability of these practices, as overuse of pesticides and insecticides could create resistent "super weeds". Overusing cropland also strips the land of its nutrients that are vital to healthy plants. This could lead to overuse of fertilizers and other chemicals to encourage growth.
The organic movement has risen in response to many of these issues. This movement focuses on increasing the health of the soil and minimizes the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. However, even organic farmers may use some technology and machines that were developed for the use of industrial agriculture, such as tractors and other heavy machinery.
One hopes we are moving toward a future of more balance in food production, where the health of the land and environment is equally considered along with the price and convenience of goods. What are your thoughts about industrialized agriculture? Let us know in the comments.
- "Costs and Benefits of Industrial Agriculture" Alberni Environmental Coalition: http://www.portaec.net/library/food/costs_and_benefits_of_industrial.html
- United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=BiotechnologyFAQs.xml&navid=AGRICULTURE.
- "Advantages and Disadvantages of Organic Farming" Fantastic Farms: http://www.small-farm-permaculture-and-sustainable-living.com/advantages_and_disadvantages_organic_farming.html
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm261680.htm.