GMOs and Factory Farming – Their effect on your environment, your food and your body

As part of my study of plant-based nutrition with Cornell, we were required to write a PSA (of approximately one minute) in relation to GMOs and factory farming. I thought it might be a bit of interesting content for this blog. My apologies if its a little dry, but check it out and feel free to leave your comments below!

It is not uncommon for the health conscious to be wary of GMO’s, however the repercussions run far deeper than just their effect on your individual health, and often work hand in hand with other various consequences of agribusiness. All of which contribute significantly to climate change and the degradation of the Earth, through various avenues; increased methane gasses from ruminant digestion/manure decomposition, large scale deforestation, and the pollution of water bodies to the point of near-complete toxicity. The FAO estimates that a minimum of 18% annual green house gasses are produced by livestock worldwide, whilst the World Watch Institute estimates that the contribution is actually closer to 51% 

The crops that we use to feed livestock are largely genetically modified (eg, corn, and Soy). The chemical run off from these crops (produced via fertilizer, pesticide excess, herbicide excess) leech into the local water systems, effectively poisoning them. The nitrogen and chemicals that these fertilzers contain has a direct causal link with increased toxicity of the water, as well as algal blooms, which in turn contribute to water de-oxygenation. The EPA estimates that over 50% of rivers and streams in the USA are now unfit to support aquatic life. To make matters even worse, industrialised fishing further assaults the marine ecosystem; with bottom trawling, and long line fishing having huge repercussions; Mr Latham articulates that 70% of the marine life caught via trawling is not the intended catch, and so is dumped as dead marine life: a pointless decimation of an already delicately balanced ecological system.

It is clear that our consumption of the earth’s resources is far outpacing the earth’s ability to replete them. The available water that we use for irrigation of crops, watering livestock, and treating agribusiness is putting extreme pressure on our water supplies; a pressure that desperately needs to be relieved. The toxicity of water and the pollution of the air through green house gasses is progressing at a rate that threatens our very existence – with atmospherical green house gas being retained in the atmosphere for around 10,000 years after release, we are approaching the limit we can exude before the climate of earth changes so dramatically that the human population is wiped out. It was established in Mr Latham’s lecture that a 4degree cooling of the earth was responsible for a complete ice age, and that a 2degree increase from our current climate would result in the complete collapse of human food and water sources, leading to our extinction.

The IPCC predicts a bleak outlook for the future production of crops, and suggests that a global move towards plant-based diets may be necessary to prevent world hunger. Drawing from an interview with Howard Lyman, we can deduce that up until now the focus of agribusiness has been leading us to our deaths, through climate change, environmental pollution and lifestyle diseases, and that in order to recover our health, and our earth, we need to work with nature and move towards a plant-based diet.