In Defense of Modern Industrial Agriculture, Agribusiness and Our Food Supply: Appendices

In the following Appendices, we provide a selection of authors and their data including some used in the text that reinforce the argument being made here.

Appendix  I – Dairy production – Capper and

The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007 by Jude Capper, Journal of Animal Science, Vol. 87, March, 2009, pp.2160-2167.


A common perception is that pasture-based, low-input dairy systems characteristic of the1940s were more conducive to environmental steward-ship than modern milk production systems. The objective of this study was to compare the environmental impact of modern (2007) US dairy production with historical production practices as exemplified by the US dairy system in 1944. A deterministic model based on the metabolism and nutrient requirements of the dairy herd was used to estimate resource inputs and waste outputs per billion kg of milk. Both the modern and historical production systems were modeled using characteristic management practices, herd population dynamics, and production data from US dairy farms. Modern dairy practices require considerably fewer re-sources than dairying in 1944 with 21% of animals, 23%of feedstuffs, 35% of the water, and only 10% of the land required to produce the same 1 billion kg of milk. Waste outputs were similarly reduced, with modern dairy systems producing 24% of the manure, 43% of CH 4, and 56% of N2O per billion kg of milk compared with equivalent milk from historical dairying. The car-bon footprint per billion kilograms of milk produced in2007 was 37% of equivalent milk production in 1944. To fulfill the increasing requirements of the US population for dairy products, it is essential to adopt management practices and technologies that

improve productive efficiency, allowing milk production to be increased while reducing resource use and mitigating environmental impact.

See Figures 1 & 2 – Page 2163 and Figure 3 – Page 2165 for some revealing data – the entire article is essential reading.

Figure 1. Changes in total US milk production, cow numbers, and individual cow milk yield between 1944 and 2007.

Figure 2. The dilution of maintenance effect conferred by increasing milk production in a lactating dairy cow (650 kg of BW, 3.69%milk fat).

Figure 3. Carbon footprint per cow and per kilogram of milk for1944 and 2007 US dairy production systems. The carbon footprint per kilogram of milk includes all sources of greenhouse gas emissions from milk production including animals, cropping, fertilizer, and manure.

Appendix II – Dairy and Beef production and

The environmental impact of beef production in the United States: 1977 compared with 2007 by Jude. L. Capper, Journal of Animal Science, Vol. 89  July, 2011, pp. 4249-4261


Consumers often perceive that the modern beef production system has an environmental impact far greater than that of historical systems, with improved efficiency being achieved at the expense of greenhouse gas emissions. The objective of this study was to compare the environmental impact of modern(2007) US beef production with production practices characteristic of the US beef system in 1977. A deterministic model based on the metabolism and nutrient requirements of the beef population was used to quantify resource inputs and waste outputs per billion kilograms of beef. Both the modern and historical production systems were modeled using characteristic management practices, population dynamics, and production data from US beef systems. Modern beef production requires considerably fewer resources than the equivalent system in 1977, with 69.9% of animals, 81.4% of feedstuffs, 87.9% of the water, and only 67.0% of the land required to produce 1 billion kg of beef. Waste outputs were similarly reduced, with modern beef systems producing 81.9% of the manure, 82.3% CH4, and 88.0% N2O per billion kilograms of beef compared with production systems in 1977. The C footprint per billion kilograms of beef produced in 2007 was reduced by 16.3% com-pared with equivalent beef production in 1977. As the US population increases, it is crucial to continue the improvements in efficiency demonstrated over the past30 yr to supply the market demand for safe, affordable beef while reducing resource use and mitigating environmental impact.

See Figure 2  Page 4255 and Figure 3 – page 4256 for more detail

Figure 2 – The “dilution of maintenance” effect conferred by increasing growth rate in steers within the 2007 US beef production system when compared with the 1977 US beef system. Energy values represent the average maintenance and growth requirements for steers destined for slaughter within the beef system. Requirements were weighted according to the number of days spent within the cow-calf, stocker, and feedlot system, and in the case of the 2007 system, to account for the proportion of yearling-fed beef, calf-fed beef, and calf-fed dairy steers within the slaughter population

Is a Cow Still Eating My Lunch? CAST Presents New Video Regarding Animal Agriculture

Blayney, D. P., 2002. The changing Landscape of U.S. Milk Production, USDA/ERS, Stat. Bull. 978, June,

Brown, C. A., P. T. Chandler, and J. B. Holter. 1977. Development of predictive equations for milk yield and dry matter intake in lactating cows. J. Dairy Sci. 60: 1739-1754

The dairy industry has been especially successful in improving the efficiency of milk production through the selection of superior performing cows and bulls from summaries of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. In 1950, the U.S. had 22 million head of dairy cows producing an average of 2,415 kg of milk per year. In 2,000, the U.S. dairy industry had 9.2 million cows averaging 8,275 kg milk per year. Total U.S. milk production in 1950 was 53 MT, compared to 76.2 MT in 2000. The dairy industry produced 44% more milk in 2000 with 58 percent fewer cows than in 1950 (Blayney, 2002). Dry matter intake per dairy cow was about 12.3 kg per day in 1950 and had risen to about 20.9 kg per day in 2000 (from DART Ration program of the Dairy Records Management System, based on Brown et al., 1977). Again, these changes are largely the result of genetic selection applying the science of quantitative genetics.

Blayney, D. P., 2002. The Changing Landscape of U.S. Milk Production, USDA/ERS, Stat. Bull. 978, June,

Brown, C. A., P. T. Chandler, and J. B. Holter. 1977. Development of predictive equations for milk yield and dry matterintake in lactating cows. J. Dairy Sci. 60: 1739-1754

The dairy industry has been especially successful in improving the efficiency of milk production through the selection of superior performing cows and bulls from summaries of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. In 1950, the U.S. had 22 million head of dairy cows producing an average of 2,415 kg of milk per year. In 2,000, the U.S. dairy industry had 9.2 million cows averaging 8,275 kg milk per year. Total U.S. milk production in 1950 was 53 MT, compared to 76.2 MT in 2000. The dairy industry produced 44% more milk in 2000 with 58 percent fewer cows than in 1950 (Blayney, 2002). Dry matter intake per dairy cow was about 12.3 kg per day in 1950 and had risen to about 20.9 kg per day in 2000 (from DART Ration program of the Dairy Records Management System, based on Brown et al., 1977). Again, these changes are largely the result of genetic selection applying the science of quantitative genetics.

Blayney, D. P., 2002. The Changing Landscape of U.S. Milk Production, USDA/ERS, Stat. Bull. 978, June,

Brown, C. A., P. T. Chandler, and J. B. Holter. 1977. Development of predictive equations for milk yield and dry matterintake in lactating cows. J. Dairy Sci. 60: 1739-1754

February 6, 2014

Is a Cow Still Eating My Lunch?

New CAST Video (click here) Examines Debatable Information Regarding Sustainability of Animal Agriculture

Consumers have questions about the effects of animal agriculture. Many are concerned that it takes away human food supplies and wastes resources. CAST wants to help consumers learn about the role animals can have in a healthy diet and a sustainable environment.

Re-defining efficiency of feed use by livestock by J. M. Wilkinson, animal/ Volume 5 / Issue 07 / May 2011, pp 1014-1022, The Animal Consortium 2011  03 February 2011


Livestock, particularly ruminants, can eat a wider range of biomass than humans. In the drive for greater efficiency, intensive systems of livestock production have evolved to compete with humans for high-energy crops such as cereals. Feeds consumed by livestock were analysed in terms of the quantities used and efficiency of conversion of grassland, human-edible (‘edible’) crops and crop by-products into milk, meat and eggs, using the United Kingdom as an example of a developed livestock industry. Some 42 million tonnes of forage dry matter were consumed from 2008 to 2009 by the UK ruminant livestock population of which 0.7 was grazed pasture and 0.3 million tonnes was conserved forage. In addition, almost 13 million tonnes of raw material concentrate feeds were used in the UK animal feed industry from 2008 to 2009 of which cereal grains comprised 5.3 and soyabean meal 1.9 million tonnes. The proportion of edible feed in typical UK concentrate formulations ranged from 0.36 for milk production to 0.75 for poultry meat production. Example systems of livestock production were used to calculate feed conversion ratios (FCR – feed input per unit of fresh product). FCR for concentrate feeds was lowest for milk at 0.27 and for the meat systems ranged from 2.3 for poultry meat to 8.8 for cereal beef. Differences in FCR between systems of meat production were smaller when efficiency was calculated on an edible input/output basis, where spring-calving/grass finishing upland suckler beef and lowland lamb production were more efficient than pig and poultry meat production. With the exception of milk and upland suckler beef, FCR for edible feed protein into edible

Appendix III – Poultry and eggs  Performance Changes in Poultry and Livestock following 50 years of Genetic Selection by Gerald B. Havenstein,  Lohmann Information, Vol. 41 December 2006

This publication is extremely rich in data, charts and tables. Particularly striking are the pictures of Chickens and Turkeys showing the change in size on page 34, the changes in Beef Industry on page 35. Figure 2 on page 32 “summarizes the numbers of broilers produced in the U.S. from 1940 through 2000. Broiler production has increased from about 280,000 in 1950 to over 8.2 billion in 2000”

Figure 2: U.S. Broiler Production, 1940-2000 (Source, USDA).

Figure 3: Broiler carcasses from the Ross 308 and the Control (ACRBC) broilers in the 2001 study (Havenstein et al., 2003a,b) ACRBC Males –

Figure 4: Turkey carcasses at 196 days of age from the randombred RBC2 strain established in 1966 and maintained at Ohio State University and a modern turkey hatched in 2003 (Source: Havenstein et al., 2004a,b; 20

Figure 5: Changes in the U.S. beef industry from 1955 to 2000 (Source: USDA)

See also – Havenstein, G. B., P. R. Ferket, and M. A. Qureshi. 2003. Growth, Livability and Feed Conversion of1957 vs 2001 Broilers When Fed representative 1957 and 2001 Broiler diets1 Poultry Science 82: 1500-1508).

Why the Rapid Growth Rate in Today’s Chickens

Figure 1 show why genetic selection and improved nutrition are the main reasons poultry producers are able to produce a much larger bird than they were 50 years ago. – More dramatic pictures showing the change in chicken size

“Figure 1 illustrates genetic selection in chickens. The two carcasses are the result of feeding and raising two different types of chickens under the same conditions. The chicken on the left is a strain known as an Athens/Canadian Random bred control. This strain has been maintained at the University of Georgia and has undergone no genetic selection for growth rate since it was formed in 1957. The carcass on the right is the popular broiler strain that the industry was using in 2001. This strain had undergone genetic selection for about 45 years. As you can see, the genetically selected bird is about five times larger than the strain that has undergone no genetic selection. Breeding scientists continue to select chickens with better growth rates, more efficient feed conversions, and stronger immunity to disease. This quick genetic selection for the best possible broiler bird has resulted in a large bird that can grow very quickly and be very cost-efficient. “Another reason poultry breeders are able to grow bigger chickens is that poultry nutrition has improved tremendously in the last several decades. Through nutritional research, we have discovered what ingredients broilers need in their feed in order to maximize their growth rate. A typical broiler feed includes regular grains, such as corn (a major energy source), soybean meal

(a protein source), vitamins and minerals (for better immunity) and enzymes. “Contrary to popular belief, enzymes are not hormones. Enzymes are used to help chickens digest phosphorus and protein. Enzymes also reduce environmental pollution by breaking down the phosphorus and nitrogen in broiler waste. Chickens are fed formulated diets with balanced nutrients. More is known about broiler nutrition than the nutrition of any other animal. Several of the vitamins we know now were first discovered with the chicken as a model.

Appendix IV – Land Sparing

Peak Farmland and the Prospect for Land Sparing By Jesse H. Ausubel,, Iddo K. Wernick, and  Paul E. Waggoner, Population and Development Review, Volume 38, Issue Supplement s1, pages 221–242, February 2013

“The past 50 years have already witnessed important peaks for environment and resources. The rate of increase of world population peaked around 1970 and has slowed considerably since then. Peaks of forest destruction also have passed with a transition from less to more forests in many countries and regions. By the 1980s wooded areas in all major temperate and boreal forests were expanding. After 1990, growing stock expanded in many forested countries … during 1990–2010 the density of forests grew in all world regions …

“As we hinted above, peaks of farmers’ use of nitrogen and water may also have passed …

“Another 50 years from now, the Green Revolution may be recalled not only for the global diffusion of high-yield cultivation practices for many crops, but as the herald of peak farmland and the restoration of vast acreages of Nature.  … we are confident that we stand on the peak of cropland use, gazing at a wide expanse of land that will be spared for Nature” Scientists See Promise for People and Nature in ‘Peak Farmland’ by ANDREW C. REVKIN, The New York Times, December 17, 2012  Peak Farmland? The landscape of the future has more wilderness by Ronald Bailey from the June 2013 issue

“Ausubel and his colleagues calculate that rising Chinese corn productivity spared 120 million hectares from the plow. In the United States, corn production grew 17-fold between 1860 and 2010, but more land was planted with corn in 1925 than in 2010. (The area planted in corn has started increasing again, thanks to the federal government’s biofuels mandates and subsidies.) Today U.S. forests cover about 72 percent of the area that was forested in 1630. Forest area stabilized in the early 20th century, and the extent of U.S. forests began increasing in the second half of the century.

“If global crop yields had remained stuck at 1960 levels, Ausubel noted in his lecture, farmers around the world “would have needed about 3 billion more hectares, about the sum of the USA, Canada, and China or almost twice South America.” Plowing down this amount of the world’s remaining forests and grasslands would have produced what Ausubel calls “Skinhead Earth.” Restoring the Forests: SKINHEAD EARTH?  by David G. Victor and Jesse H. Ausubel

-Foreign Affairs, Vol 79, No. 6, (November/December 2000 pp. 127-144.  URL:

“EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS AGO, when humans played only bit parts in the world ecosystem, trees covered two-fifths of the land. Since then, humans have grown in number while thinning and shaving the forests to cook, keep warm, grow crops, plank ships, frame houses, and make paper. Fires, saws, and axes have cleared about half of the original forestland, and some analysts warn that within decades, the remaining natural forests will disappear altogether.

“But forests matter. A good deal of the planet’s biological diversity lives in forests (mostly in the tropics), and this diversity diminishes as trees fall. Healthy forests protect watersheds and generate clean drinking water; they remove carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere) from the air and thus help maintain the climate. Forests count — not just for their ecological and industrial services but also for the sake of order and beauty.

“Fortunately, the twentieth century witnessed the start of a “Great Restoration” of the world’s forests. Efficient farmers and foresters are learning to spare forestland by growing more food and fiber in ever-smaller areas. Meanwhile, increased use of metals, plastics, and electricity has eased the need for timber. And recycling has cut the amount of virgin wood pulped into paper. Although the size and wealth of the human population has shot up, the area of farm and forestland that must be dedicated to feed, heat, and house this population is shrinking. Slowly, trees can return to the liberated land.

How Much of This Do We Use Up Every Year? – Book Review- The Blog of BILL GATES, gatesnotes, January 26, 2015

‘Humans will harvest roughly 17% of what the biosphere grows this year.’

“Smil tries to figure out what portion of the biosphere’s primary productivity — the amount of plant life generated each year by photosynthesis — is consumed by humans. He estimates that

we will harvest roughly 17 percent of what the biosphere grows this year — mostly plants. (He admits it could be as little as 15 percent or as much as 25 percent.)

“About 12 percent of the Earth’s land mass is now devoted to farmland.

“Twelve percent is a big number, but it would be even bigger if it weren’t for innovations in crop breeding, field machinery, and other areas that made farming much more efficient. If crop yields had remained stagnant since 1900, in the year 2000 we would have needed nearly four times more crop land to feed everyone. That’s practically half of all the ice-free land in the world.

“We’ve also had a huge impact on the biosphere by building major cities, which essentially eliminate or drastically reduce any natural productivity from those areas. Smil notes that major cities now cover nearly five million square kilometers. If you clustered them all together, they would cover an area 50 percent larger than India.”

“With crop yields had remaining at the 1900 level, the crop harvest in the year 2000 would have required nearly four times more land and its total (nearly 60 MKm2)  would have claimed nearly half of all ice-free continental area rather than the less than 15% the agricultural lands claim today.”

Comparing 20th Century Trends in U.S. and Global Agricultural Water and Land Use By Indur M. Goklany, Water International, Volume 27, Number 3, Pages 321–329, September 2002 , International Water Resources Association

“Despite the pressures agriculture has brought to bear on global biological resources, similar to the situation in the U.S., those pressures could have been much worse had global agricultural productivity, and therefore yields, been frozen at, say, 1961 levels. This is equivalent to freezing technology, and its penetration, at 1961 levels. In that case, agricultural land area would have had to more-than double its actual 1998 level of 12.2 billion acres to at least 26.3 billion in order to produce as much food as was actually produced in 1998 (Goklany, 2001). Thus, agricultural land area would have had to increase from its current 38 percent to 82 percent of global land area (FAO, 2001; Goklany, 2001). Cropland would also have had to more than-double, from 3.7 to 7.9 billion acres. In effect, an additional area the size of South America-minus-Chile would have to be plowed under. Thus increased land productivity forestalled further increases in threats to terrestrial habitats and biodiversity.”

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  2001. FAOSTAT Database, 2001. . 3

October 2001.

Goklany, I.M. 2001. “Agricultural Technology and the Precautionary Principle.” Political Economy Research Forum (PERC), November29-December 2, 2001, Bozeman, Montana, USA:PERC

Appendix V – Food Safety  The 10 Deadliest Outbreaks in U.S. History — Revisited  By Dan Flynn | April 4, 2012

The ten deadliest food- and waterborne outbreaks are: 1. Typhoid fever, 1924-25

Oysters from Long Island, NY, held in polluted waters, sickened more than 1,500 in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.; 150 died. 2. Typhoid fever, 1903

A public water source in Ithaca, NY, was polluted from a dam construction site, resulting in typhoid outbreak involving 1,350 people; 82 were killed, including 29 Cornell University students. 3. Streptococcus, 1911

Raw milk delivered door-to-door in the Boston area was responsible for a strep outbreak;

48 people died. 4. Listeria, 2011

“Rocky Ford” cantaloupes from Colorado became contaminated, probably in the packing facility, sickening at least 146 in 28 states; 36 died. (pesticide free – TRD) 5. Listeria, 1985

Mexican cheese made by a Los Angeles company sickened mostly Hispanic women, many who were pregnant; 28 died. (made from raw milk – TRD) 6. Streptococcus, 1922

Raw milk delivered door-to-door in Portland, OR was contaminated; 22 killed. 7. Listeria, 1998

Ball Park hot dogs and Sara Lee deli meats were recalled after Listeria was found in the Michigan processing plant; 21 killed. 8. Botulism, 1919

Canned ripe olives from California sold to inland states were contaminated and caused outbreaks in three states; 19 died. 9. Salmonella Typhimurium, 2008-09

Peanut butter and paste contaminated with S. Typhimurium caused at least 714 illiness in 46 states; 9 killed. (largest producer of organic peanut butter – TRD) 10. Listeria, 2002

Sliced turkey meats from Pilgrim’s Pride were responsible for a multiple state outbreak; 8 killed.”

© Food Safety News

My observation – Before 1950 when U.S. population was less than half of what it is today and food production was only nation in packaged or process foods and only a few items of produce. Very little was imported:

Top three deadliest before 1950

Five of the top ten before 1950

After 1950:

Two are from raw milk or raw milk cheese

One was pesticide free

Two – numbers 8 & 10 (out of ten) were from produce conventionally grown in the United States

The two large outbreaks outside the recent times have both been attributed to sprouts, at least one of which if not both were organically grown..

Massive outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection in schoolchildren in Sakai City, Japan, associated with consumption of white radish sprouts  Michino H, Araki K, Minami S, Takaya S, Sakai N, Miyazaki M, Ono A, Yanagawa H. Environmental Health Bureau, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Tokyo, Japan. Jonathan H. Mermin1- and Patricia M. Griffin, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume. 150, No. 8, October 15, 1999, pp. 787-96.

“In July 1996, Sakai City, Japan, experienced the largest outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections ever reported, involving over 7,000 persons.”

2011 Germany E. coli O104:H4 outbreak – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia “A novel strain of Escherichia coli O104:H4 bacteria caused a serious outbreak of foodborne illness focused in northern Germany in May through June 2011. The illness was characterized by bloody diarrhea, with a high frequency of serious complications, including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition that requires urgent treatment. The outbreak was originally thought to have been caused by an enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) strain of E. coli, but it was later shown to have been caused by an enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) strain that had acquired the genes to produce Shiga toxins. “In all, 3,950 people were affected and 53 died, 51 of which were in Germany.[7] A handful of cases were reported in several other countries including Switzerland,[8] Poland,[8] the Netherlands,[8] Sweden,[8] Denmark,[8] the UK,[8][9] Canada[10] and the USA.[10][11] Essentially all affected people had been in Germany or France shortly before becoming ill. “A joint risk-assessment by EFSA/ECDC, issued 29 June 2011, made a connection between the German outbreak and a HUS outbreak in the Bordeaux area of France, first reported on 24 June, in which infection with E. coli O104:H4 has been confirmed in several patients.[51] The assessment implicated fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt in 2009 and 2010, from which sprouts were grown, as a common source of both outbreaks, but cautioned that “there is still much uncertainty about whether this is truly the common cause of the infections”, as tests on the seeds had not yet found any E. coli bacteria of the O104:H4 strain.[52][53] The potentially contaminated seeds were widely distributed in Europe.[54] Egypt, for its part, steadfastly denied that it may have been the source of deadly E. coli strain, with the Minister of Agriculture calling speculations to that effect “sheer lies.”[55] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Nonpasteurized Disease Outbreaks, 1993-2006

Raw milk was much more likely to cause outbreaks than pasteurized milk.

* Probably no more than 1% of the milk consumed in the United States is raw, yet more outbreaks were caused by raw milk than by pasteurized milk.

* If you consider the number of outbreaks caused by raw milk in light of the very small amount of milk that is consumed raw, the risk of outbreaks caused by raw milk is at least 150 times greater than the risk of outbreaks caused by pasteurized milk.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“Which foodborne diseases could be prevented with irradiation?

Treating raw meat and poultry with irradiation at the slaughter plant could eliminate bacteria commonly found raw meat and raw poultry, such as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. These organisms currently cause millions of infections and thousands of hospitalizations in the United States every year. Raw meat irradiation could also eliminate Toxoplasma organisms, which can be responsible for severe eye and congenital infections. Irradiating prepared ready-to-eat meats like hot dogs and deli meats, could eliminate the risk of Listeria from such foods. Irradiation could also eliminate bacteria like Shigella and Salmonella from fresh produce. The potential benefit is also great for those dry foods that might be stored for long times and transported over great distances, such as spices and grains. Animal feeds are often contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella. Irradiation of animal feeds could prevent the spread of Salmonella and other pathogens to livestock through feeds.”

“Alfalfa seeds used in making alfalfa sprouts can sometimes be contaminated with Salmonella.

“Using irradiation to eliminate Salmonella from the seeds may require a dose of irradiation that also interferes with the viability of the seeds themselves. Combining irradiation with other strategies to reduce contamination with germs may overcome these limitations”

Appendix VI – “Blame Factory Farming” for Everything?

In response to an article titled – Blame factory farming, not organic food in Nature Biotechnology 25:165, 1 February, the editors of Nature Biotechnology stated the following: “The most comprehensive peer-reviewed study to look at contamination of produce found that organic fruits and vegetables are three times more likely to be contaminated with bacteria than conventional produce; indeed, of all the produce tested, the study found the pathogen Salmonella exclusively in organic lettuce and organic green peppers. Of a total of 15 farms that had E. coli-positive samples, thirteen were organic and only two were conventional.”

“There is a simple fix available, however, that could stem the rising tide of cases of food-borne illness in the United States. Irradiation of fruits and vegetables would eliminate 99.999% of pathogens. It would have prevented or drastically reduced all of last year’s E. coli outbreaks. And most important of all, it would have saved lives. It’s hard to understand why a country that already irradiates its meat should not do the same to its fruits and vegetables “(Blame factory farming, not organic food: a response, Nature Biotechnology 25:165, 1 February 1, 2007).”

Modern agriculture and the favorite pejorative describing it, industrial agriculture are deemed to be evil by many critics. Readers of The New York Times might have found it strange that one of its food columnists, Mark Bittman flew out to California to visit a high tech, science based industrial tomato farm and a nearby cannery. The farm is a neighbor to one of the world’s leading agricultural biotechnologist in rice cultivation and has close ties to scientist at one of the world’s leading agricultural universities, the University of California, Davis (see Building a Better Tomato

It came as no surprise to some of us, that Bittman declared that “Not All Industrial Food Is Evil” (The New York Times, To some of us with a penchant for cynicism might believe that whatever his misgivings allegedly were – “So, fearing the worst — because we all `know’ that organic farming is `good’ and industrial farming is `bad” – as a food writer, he did not have a choice. Why, because the leading chefs consider canned tomatoes to be better balanced because of a lower ph and therefore better than fresh tomatoes for a basic tomato pasta sauce. The farm that Bittman visited was harvesting a plum tomato that would be considered a modern variety of Roma tomatoes.

Various modern varieties of Roma tomatoes such as the “Roma VF” can be found in seed catalogs. First developed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Beltsville, Maryland in the 1950s from the famed San Marzano (see below), its’ importance was as a fusarium wilt-resistant cultivar. Further breeding has resulted in more modern varieties.  While Roma was originally an open-pollinated variety rather than a hybrid, it has been steadily transformed for improved taste, additional resistance capabilities and increased yield – from 25 to 80 tons per acre on the farm visited by Bittman.

Though considered better than fresh tomatoes, the canned tomatoes that most of us can afford to use are not what the more affluent purists include in their basic tomato sauce for pasta – canned San Marzano tomatoes certified DOP – Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta (protected designation of origin) grown in the volcanic soils of Mount Vesuvius in Valle delSarno, San Marzano sul Sarno in the Campania (Italy) near Naples.  It is a variety that dates in the Campania from the late 1700s but its commercial availability was not until the mid-1920s. Far be it from be to challenge the culinary authority of the great chefs but it might be noted that that some taste tests – I assume blinded if not double blinded – did not rate the DOP San Marzanos that high (Serious Eats – What Is a DOP Tomato?, A Preliminary Canned-Tomato Taste-Test,, EXPERIENCE COMES WITH AGE , )

Bittman’s dilemma in having to find some aspects of the evil Industrial agriculture to be good, is actually shared by most of those who share his views. It is one thing to proclaim in stentorian tones on the evils of industrial agriculture and how it is unsustainable and has to go and it is another thing to try to farm without the use of critical components of modern scientific, technological, industrial agriculture. Unless you are able to command astronomical prices, your boiler chickens will be Cornish Crosses. Free range or organic chickens will also be modern breeds using modern techniques that have raised egg production in the last century from 88 to over a hundred per year. You will buy your chicks from a hatchery which will likely vaccinate them while still in the shell and add in an anti-biotic to protect them from infection. Organic vegetable farmers will likely use F-1 or F-2 hybrids (as farmers all over the world are doing) and the poultry manure that they use would have come from birds fed with genetically modified corn raised using synthetic fertilizer and some pesticides. In other words, synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and GM grains are laundered through poultry in order to protect the purity of organic farmers and their customers. We could carry this argument across the spectrum of modern agriculture but my favorite is the premium Scotch and Irish whiskeys and artisan beers that use only Golden Promise barley, a product of 1950s mutation (radiation) breeding.

Appendix VII- Agricultural Subsidies, Cheap Food & Fast Food

There seems to some confusion about what agricultural among the critics of modern agricultural policies as to what the intent of agricultural subsidies in the U.S. has been. Historically beginning in the 1930s, it was to raise farm incomes by raising the prices of farm products not lowering them. Over the decades, various schemes paid farmers to take land out of production or bought up surplus product to take it off the market. These surpluses have provided the food for the U.S. PL 480 food aid programs and their successors. For the last half century, the U.S. agricultural subsidy programs have passed in Congress with a coalition of rural votes for the income support joined by urban representatives by including a variety of food aid programs for the poor. The Ethanol requirements which many of us consider to be ridiculous are a further attempt to draw down a product, in this case corn, off the food market to raise its price.

To say that there is confusion on the subsidy issue would be a considerable understatement. Even some of the finest writers on food writing for a publication renowned for its fact checking is not always clear on this issue. (see page 63 – Michael Specter, Freedom From Fries: Can fast food be good for you? The New Yorker: The Food Issue, November 2, 2015, pp. 56-65 ). Subsidized crop insurance would be one form of subsidies that can help the farmer without necessarily raising

prices and possibly lowering them. The claim is often made that conventional agriculture is subsidized and “organic” is not. But crop insurance, which is becoming the dominant form of subsidy and it is available to most all farmers. Since it seeks to reimburse lost revenue  but acre, an “organic” farmer might get a larger payout for losing the same size crop as a conventional famer since his or her product’s ability to command a higher price would translate into greater lost revenue. One eminent food writer, Tamar Haspel is a strong proponent of what she calls crop “neutral” insurance subsidies (Unearthed: A rallying cry for a crop program that could change everything by Tamar Haspel, The Washington Post, February 2, 2015, , see also, If GMOs aren’t the problem with our food system, then what is? By Tamar Haspel, The Washington Post, November 8, 2015, ).

Given the potential volatility of agriculture, it is probably important that we protect our skilled farmers from being wiped out in a severe drought or some other climatic event. Since the depression of the 1930s, the rapid decline of the rural/farm population appears (to this non-expert) to have been relatively orderly with those leaving either selling or leasing their land to neighbors who are allowed to grow bigger and more efficient. If the price of food has been falling, as it has, then it is because of the ever increasing efficiency/yield of modern agriculture and not the subsidies. The biggest subsidy to agriculture from the public sector at all levels and from the private sector has been the great agricultural universities and the research and extension that they provide. Few could argue against the proposition that this research has benefited all of us in addition to farmers.

Crop insurance along with cell phones are currently playing a critical role around the world in allowing small subsistence farmers to become small agribusinesses to their benefit and to the benefit of the global community as the above noted shift into more fruit and vegetable production appears to be accelerating. It is a story that needs to be told in more detail in another article.

We are told of the horrors of cheap food and fast food and its responsibility for the rising epidemic of obesity. A forthcoming report from the Cornell Food Lab argues that the increased consumption of cheap fast food appears most significant at the extremes, the underweight and the morbidly obese (Fast Food, Soft Drink, and Candy Intake is Unrelated to Body Mass Index for 95% of American Adults by David Just and Brian Wansink, Obesity Science and Practice, November 2015,, This infographic explains why junk food isn’t to blame for obesity , For Most of Us, Obesity Is Unrelated to Junk Food: Don’t start stuffing your face, though. It’s not like burgers and pop are good for you. ).

Even though our diet “remains poor,” it does appear that overall; we are making progress (Improvements In US Diet Helped Reduce Disease Burden And Lower Premature Deaths, 1999–2012; Overall Diet Remains Poor The danger is that policies that are offered to counter obesity such as taxes on certain foods, may do serious harm to those allegedly being protected.

“Using data relating index scores to health outcomes in two large cohorts, we estimated that the improvements in dietary quality from 1999 to 2012 prevented 1.1million premature deaths. Also, this improvement in diet quality resulted in 8.6 percent fewer cardiovascular disease cases, 1.3 percent fewer cancer cases, and 12.6 percent fewer type 2 diabetes cases. Although the steady improvement in dietary quality likely accounted for substantial reductions in disease burden from 1999 to 2012, overall dietary quality in the United States remains poor. Policy initiatives are needed to ensure further improvements.”

There is a delicious irony that globally and in the U.S., the cheapness of foods that are the object of such scorn may be the means that allows people to consume less of them rather than more. In micro-economics, we have what are called Giffen or inferior goods. Contrary to the Law of Demand where quantity demand varies inversely to price, for inferior goods, quantity demanded varies directly with the price. There is what is called the income effect, namely the rising price of an inferior good that constitutes a large part of a poor person’s consumption leading to a loss in real income. There real income loss means that the poor consumer has to buy more of the cheaper good even though its price has risen and less of other items. In micro economics, it has been an easy theory to illustrate and a difficult one to prove.

On a macro level in the global economy, the micro theory seems to be working. For example, throughout Asia, the proportion of the land devoted to the primary grain, generally rice but sometimes another grain, has been declining in throughout region in virtually every country. In most every country in Asia, people are now eating less rice and more of other foods. The major exception seems to be India, where they are eating more rice and more of other foods as overall consumption continues to rise. All this is consistent with the above data that shows the portion of the cultivated land in fruits and vegetables continues to rise.

We close with the observation that many critics speak in near apocalyptic terms about the need to overturn the industrial agricultural system lock, stock and barrel. They seem to pounce on all bad

news as proving their contention even if the bad news, the number of people in hunger reflects a continuing decline in that adverse condition. Let there be some good news, of which there is plenty, guess who is first in line to take credit.

Nothing could be more obvious about the beneficial transformation of our food system then the modern super market or hyper market. When in college in the 1950s, I worked at any number of different jobs including one year working in a supermarket for the chain that was the second largest in the U.S. and the largest west of the Mississippi where I was located (Albuquerque, New Mexico). There was no deli, the dairy case was extremely limited and the produce department had about forty items in it. In winter, coconuts were brought in to fill the empty bins. Yet at the time, this was rightly seen as a cornucopia, the wonder of the world and unmatched anywhere. And it was compared to what existed when my parents were young adults. Today, an average supermarket will have as many as 400 items in the produce section and some where we shop will have a many as 700. Some of that 700 will be fresh spices in little small sections but that as what appears to satisfy market demand.

Credit the global economy and agricultural system for this cornucopia. Heavens no! Let us give thanks and praise to our foodie friends who will save us from a culinary perdition. “The food movement over the past couple of decades has substantially altered consumer behavior and reshaped the competitive landscape.” Oh thank you! “There was a time when consumers used to walk through every aisle of the grocery store, but today much of their time is being spent in the perimeter of the store with its vast collection of fresh products — raw produce, meats, bakery items and fresh prepared foods. Sales of fresh prepared foods have grown nearly 30 percent since 2009, while sales of center-of-store packaged goods have started to fall. Sales of raw fruits and vegetables are also growing — among children and young adults, per capita consumption of vegetables is up 10 percent over the past five years.” Note that our global food system from farm to fork had nothing to do with is; the foodies wished it and it miraculously happened. (A Seismic Shift in How People Eat by HANS TAPARIA and PAMELA KOCH, The New York Times, November 6, 2015,

Having already initiated the transformation of our food system, our urban foodie professoriate feels free to tell the large corporate food entities what they must do. Don’t ask them how it is to be accomplished; they make policy – others are to carry it out. It seems not to have occurred to them that the very forces so often condemned that made the stuff in the center so cheap, allowed for more income left to buy those items around the perimeter. And that these same scientific and technological forces that made some of the packaged food cheap,, also is responsible for all that fresh stuff being available and affordable. Sorry professors, it didn’t just happen out of nothing ex nihilo nihil.

“For legacy food companies to have any hope of survival, they will have to make bold changes in their core product offerings. Companies will have to drastically cut sugar; process less; go

local and organic; use more fruits, vegetables and other whole foods; and develop fresh offerings. … These changes would require a complete overhaul of their supply chains, major organizational restructuring and billions of dollars of investment, but these corporations have the resources. It may be their last chance.”

Appendix VIII

NAS (National Academy of Sciences). Toxicants Occurring Naturally in Foods. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Food protection, Food and Nutrition Board, National Research Council, 1973.

NRC. (National Research Council). Committee on Comparative Toxicity of Naturally Occurring Carcinogens, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, and the Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council. Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet: A Comparison of Naturally Occurring and Synthetic Substances. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996

Smale, Melinda; M. P. Reynolds; M. Warburton; B. Skovmand; R. Trethowan; R. P. Singh; I. Ortiz-Monasterio and J. Crossa. “Dimensions of Diversity in Modern Spring Bread Wheat in Developing Countries from 1965.” Crop Science 42 (November-December 2002):1766-1779.

Smale, Melinda and T. McBride. Understanding global trends in the use of wheat diversity and international flows of wheat genetic resources. Part 1 of CIMMYT 1995/96 World Wheat Facts and Trends: Understanding Global Trends in the Use of Wheat Diversity and International Flows of Wheat Genetic Resources. Mexico, D.F.: CIMMYT (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo – International Center for the Improvement of Wheat and Maize), 1996

Research, 1983, Vols 1-4

Rao, I and G. Cramer. Plant Nutrition and Crop Improvement in Adverse Soil Conditions. In M. Chrispeels and D. Sadava (eds.) Plants, Genes, and Crop Biotechnology, pp 270-303. Sudbury, MA: American Society of Plant Biologists, ASPB Education Foundation, and Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 2003.

Smalling, E.M.A; S.M. Nandwa; and B. H. Janssen. Soil Fertility in Africa is at Stake. In R.J. Buresh and P.A. Sánchez and F. Calhoun (eds.) Replenishing Soil Fertility in Africa, pp 46-61. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America, Special Publication No. 51, 1997

Appendix  VIII

Personal Statement – I have been involved in economic development for over 50 years. My first trip to Africa was in 1962, my first trip to Asia was nearly 40 years ago and though I was in the Caribbean nearly 40 years ago, my development work there began about a quarter century ago. I have returned to these areas on a regular basis and been to the developing world more times than I can count. Since leaving the hospital with only one leg, I have still been able to return to Asia and Africa and I maintain daily contact with these regions via email. I have been privileged to work in every aspect and every level in about everything that I have discussed above. I have known some of the people that I have worked with for 30 years or more and I am in regular phone and email contact with them in addition to meeting with them in London or Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. I say this because in my classes I illustrate many of my points with stories of my personal experience in development. I am likely to do that in a public presentation. Let me make clear that I do not offer my personal experiences as proof of anything. They are meaningful to me and I hope that they help my audience understand the point that I am making. But repeat, my personal experiences are not offered as evidence – merely illustration. I stand or fall on the factual accuracy of what I write or say.

About the Author

Thomas R. DeGregori is Professor of Economics at the University of Houston.

Comments are closed.