Good editorial from the New York Times:

In the past month, two new reports have examined how farm animals are raised in this country. The report funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts calls the prevailing system “industrial farm animal production.” The report from the Union of Concerned Scientists prefers the term “confined animal feeding operations.”

No matter what you call it, it adds up to the same thing. Millions of animals are crowded together in inhumane conditions, causing significant environmental threats and unacceptable health risks for workers, their neighbors and all the rest of us.

The astonishing increase in the number and size of confined animal operations has been spawned largely by the very structure of American farm supports, which always has been skewed in a way that concentrates farming in fewer and fewer hands. As both of these reports make clear, the so-called efficiency of industrial animal production is an illusion, made possible by cheap grain, cheap water and prisonlike confinement systems.

In short, animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse. Manure — traditionally a source of fertilizer — has been turned into toxic waste that fouls the air and adjacent water bodies. Crowding creates health problems, resulting in the chronic overuse of antibiotics. Read the rest of this entry »

True or false? With approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, biotech companies are planting fields of corn, rice, and other food crops genetically engineered to grow drugs and other chemicals. The risk of contamination to the food supply from these so-called “pharma crops” is minimal.

False. Pharma crops can get into the food supply when their seeds are inadvertently mixed with seeds of food crops during planting, growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing. Or when the crops cross-pollinate with food crops. The ease of contamination was shown in 2002 when one biotech company allowed corn plants engineered to produce a veterinary drug to grow in a Nebraska soybean field. The harvest contaminated a grain elevator, and 500,000 bushels of tainted soybeans had to be destroyed. Read the rest of this entry »