Energy and Industrialized Agriculture

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Agricultural practices throughout the ages have evolved dramatically. Having started off as simple pastoral management and shifting cultivation, these methods have been altered substantially in the name of “progress”, primarily in the US and other industrialized nations. Through this progression the energy inputs and outputs has been drastically altered. The industrialized food system as we know it is much more complex today than the simple agricultural practices used thousands of years ago. Today, the industrialized agricultural system is dependent on extraordinary amounts of fossil fuel inputs in order to maintain its complexity. Energy is needed for growing, processing, packaging, distributing, preparing and disposing of food. With the rising cost of these fuels and the scarcity amongst these non-renewable forms of energy, we are setting up ourselves for exorbitant food prices as well as potentially catastrophic environmental degradation as a result of the industrial food system. The Green Revolution of the 1950s and 60s is generally attributed for the development of industrial agriculture. Over the course of a few decades, grain production increased by more than 250% [1], however the Green Revolution techniques heavily rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides of which must be developed from fossil fuels, making agriculture increasingly reliant on petroleum products. While some argue the Green Revolution staved off hunger for more than a billion people, others suggest that food security actually diminished for many people in underdeveloped nations as their cropland was converted for livestock feed production. With the advent of the Green Revolution came the need for substantial amounts of energy to sustain crop produc... ... middle of paper ... ...n provide economic benefits for the community and reduce the consumption of energy necessary for transportation of these food products. The reduction of fertilizers can minimize energy demands while at the same time mitigate the effects of toxic runoff from their use. Works Cited 1. Constraints on the Expansion of Global Food Supply, Kindell, Henry H. and Pimentel, David. Ambio Vol. 23 No. 3, May 1994. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 2. http://www.epa.gov/methane/ 3. http://www.epa.gov/outreach/pdfs/Methane-and-Nitrous-Oxide-Emissions-From-Natural-Sources.pdf 4. Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy, Pimentel, David and Giampietro, Mario. Carrying Capacity Network, 11/21/1994. http://www.dieoff.com/page55.htm 5. http://www.epa.gov/outreach/sources.html 6. http://www.infra.kth.se/fms/pdf/energyuse.pdf 7. http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuir.html
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