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Today, having enough to eat is rarely a problem for most of the planet’s inhabitants. Advanced farming and livestock-raising techniques have revolutionized the way we produce food, and have made us capable of making more food than ever before. But, of course, every rose has its thorns: The very same “advanced” farming technologies and practices that have helped us produce such a bounty have also pretty much screwed us (and nature) in a raft of ways.
5 Africa Has Been “Over Farmed”
In Africa, as much as three quarters of potentially arable land has been “over farmed,” and as such under-produces food. Much of the continent faces a dust bowl type of situation, where topsoil becomes so depleted of nutrients and moisture that it dries out and blows away. Ironically, the recent increase of African food production stands to drastically cut the continent’s food production within a few short years.
4 Raising Poultry Using Antibiotics
Raising poultry using antibiotics is fueling the development of drug-resistant “superbugs” which can infect animals and humans alike. Using antibiotics to keep chickens “healthy” during their brief lives is an almost universal practice in large, commercial farming. But in recent years we have seen more and more bacterial infections in people linked back to the chicken they have eaten, and many of these infections can’t be treated with various types of antibiotics, because the bacteria have already grown resistant to them.
3 The “Dead Zone” in Mexico
A huge swath of the Gulf of Mexico is now referred to as “dead zone” thanks to the water being so depleted of oxygen that almost nothing can live there. The culprit? Farming! Excessive runoff or nitrogen and phosphorous used on farms ends up in the Mississippi River, which shuttles the chemicals on down into the Gulf. There, algae blooms flourish, and end up disrupting the entire ecosystem of the Gulf. It’s ironic – many of the chemicals used to produce food on land are making seafood harder and harder to find.
2 The Corn in America is Genetically Modified
More than three quarters of the corn grown in America is now genetically modified. And corn is by far the country’s most commonly grown foodstuff, to the tune of around 80-million acres a year. While we don’t yet know the long-term effects of genetically modified foods, scientists are beginning to link their consumption to weaker immune systems and an increased risk of cancer.
1 No More Bananas
Without human intervention, we would have no more bananas. Why? Because of human intervention, of course! Just as in animals, genetic variety is what keeps plants evolving into ever more robust, resistant iterations. But people, by and large, only like soft, tasty bananas of the Cavendish variety. So that’s basically all we’ve planted for hundreds of years. Gone is the genetic variety of wild bananas that used to exist, and gone too would be the genetically weaker but more sugary and sweet Cavendish bananas if farmers did not pollinate, fertilize, and essentially coax them to life with every new crop.