Organic Consumers Association

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Undesired Consequences of the Industrial Food Complex

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

Rainforest Destruction in Our Shopping Cart

For years, forward-looking thinkers like Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry have warned us about the unsustainability of modern industrial agriculture. Vandana Shiva, in her book Stolen Harvest, notes that:

  "The right of corporations to force-feed citizens of the world with culturally inappropriate and hazardous foods has been made absolute. The right to food, the right to safety, the right to culture, are all being treated as trade barriers that need to be dismantled we have to reclaim our right to nutrition and food safety. Food democracy is the new agenda for ecological sustainability and social justice."
The connection between deforestation-related emissions and agricultural expansion is well documented. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture and deforestation account for roughly one third of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Take for example, the rapid expansion of three globally-traded agricultural commodities into tropical rainforests: soy, palm oil and cattle.

The mad-cow outbreaks and the resulting law passed by the EU in 1994, increased global demand for soy as animal feed, which resulted in a dramatic increase in carbon emissions from the clearing of the Amazon rainforest to make room for soy fields.

Global demand for cheap beef has pushed the Brazilian cattle sector deeper into the Amazon where rainforest is burned to make further room for a herd that has grown to 75 million cows. Industrial cattle expansion into the Amazon is the largest driver of deforestation there. This, in turn, is the largest single source of Brazil's massive carbon emissions, helping to make Brazil the fourth largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting country in the world.
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