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How Processed Food Contributes to Massive Rainforest Destruction and Environmental Damage

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Farm Issues page.

When considering the various factors that are most responsible for widespread environmental pollution and ecosystem destruction in today's world, most people probably envision things like industrial manufacturing facilities spilling chemicals into nearby waterways, coal-fired power plants billowing plumes of black smoke into the blue sky, and thousands of miles of major highways occupied by millions of gas-guzzling, fume-emitting vehicles. It turns out, though, that agriculture, at least the industrialized type, is actually one of the biggest contributors to the destruction of the planet in the modern times.

All across the globe, large swaths of otherwise pristine rainforests and jungles are literally being clear-cut and turned into mega-plantations for growing major cash crops like soy, corn, canola, and wheat, all of which are used to formulate various ingredients and additives used throughout the processed food supply. In other words, there is big money to be made in growing such crops precisely because their derivatives are added to almost every type of processed food available -- and in the eyes of the unscrupulous opportunist, rainforests and other natural habitats are merely inconvenient obstacles to be defeated, rather than natural treasures.

Cash crop plantations replacing native forests throughout Third World Many areas of South America, for instance, are experiencing great losses in rainforest acreage as corporate agriculture giants move in to replace them with soy and corn fields (http://www.greenpeace.org). Native forests throughout Asia are also being greatly damaged by the palm oil industry, which happens to produce one of the only relatively healthy cash crops being cultivated on a larger scale. (http://environment.yale.edu)

Whether it is the soybean oil and refined wheat flour added to processed cookies and crackers, or the corn syrup and soy lecithin added to processed chocolate bars and candies, the processed food industry as a whole is directly fueling demand for the very same crop plantations that are destroying the natural world at a devastatingly alarming pace. Even the fuel we put in our cars, a percentage of which comes in the form of "biofuel," is promoting rapid deforestation and the ruination of natural habitats worldwide.


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