Agribusiness/Factory Farms — Environmental Hazards!

By Roland Sheppard

CDC Reveals Scary Truth About Factory Farms and Superbugs The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information

Factory Farms Are Big Busness — They are Monompolising Famlands

The Great Land Grab: Rush for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor  Oakland CA: In a new report, The Great Land Grab: Rush for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor, the Oakland Institute sounds the alarm on the threat that land grabbing poses to food security and livelihoods. Land grabs—the purchase of vast tracts of land from poor, developing countries by wealthier, food-insecure nations and private investors —have become a widespread phenomenon, with foreign interests seeking or securing between 37 million and 49 million acres of farmland between 2006 and the middle of 2009. While such land grabs have not gone unnoticed, much attention has focused on individual countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia, buying land in poor nations. The Great Land Grab lays bare the insidious role played by international financial institutions like the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank and Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS), as well as rich nations, in promoting and facilitating this widespread land reappropriation—all in the name of promoting food security through foreign investment in agriculture.

Over 90% of the food we eat are Factory Farmed! What are the Costs?

  1. By their very size, they enhace the global warming of the the Earth
  2. Lately, Facory Farms are Responsible for all of the plague of Pandemics. US Capitalism Ignores Its’ Own Science for Two Decades!

From: The United States National Center for Biotechnology Information of the Institue of Health’s Essay Primary Pandemic PreventionFactory Farms Cause Pandemics!


Over the last few decades, hundreds of human pathogens have emerged at a rate unprecedented in human history. Emerged from where? Mostly from animals. The AIDS virus is blamed on the butchering of primates in the African bushmeat trade, we created mad cow disease when we turned cows into carnivores and cannibals, and SARS and COVID-19 have been traced back to the exotic wild animal trade. Our last pandemic, swine flu in 2009, arose not from some backwater wet market in Asia, however. It was largely made-in-the-USA on pig production operations in the United States. In this new Age of Emerging Diseases, there are now billions of animals overcrowded and intensively confined in filthy factory farms for viruses to incubate and mutate within. Today’s industrial farming practices have given viruses billions more spins at pandemic roulette. How can we stop the emergence of pandemic viruses in the first place? Whenever possible, treat the cause. The largest and oldest association of public health professionals in the world, the American Public Health Association, has called for a moratorium on factory farming for nearly two decades. Indeed, factory farms are a public health menace. In addition to discontinuing the intensive confinement practices of animal agriculture, we should continue to research, develop, and invest in innovative plant-based and cultivated meat technologies to move away from raising billions of feathered and curly-tailed test tubes for viruses with pandemic potential to mutate within.

Graphic Representation of the Pesticide Treadmill Source

CDC Reveals Scary Truth About Factory Farms and Superbugs The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information

FAO estimates that annually up to 40 percent of global crop production is lost to pests. Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy over $220 billion, and invasive insects at least $70 billio — Climate Change Fans Spread of Pests and Threatens Plants And Crops, New FAO Study

How America’s Food Giants Swallowed the Family Farms Across the midwest, the rise of factory farming is destroying rural communities. And the massive corporations behind this devastation are now eyeing a post-Brexit UK market

How Factory Farms Help Create Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs The rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, or superbugs, has got many of the world’s leading public health organisations very worried. And while antibiotic resistance can be partially traced back to the medical system, there’s another culprit that many people don’t know about: animals and factory farming. 

2023 Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Forecast Gulf Dead Zone Predicted to be Smaller, But Still Twice the Size of National Goal The Gulf of Mexico hypoxia zone, or dead zone as it is called, in 2022. The area was smaller than recent years because of lower flows in the Mississippi River. The hypoxia zone this year is forecast to be about 20% larger, but still below the five-year average. 

Climate Change and Factory Farms

Factory farming is a both a leading cause of climate change and susceptible to negative financial impacts because of it.

The factory farming, transport, and slaughter of roughly 90 billion land animals each year contributes an estimated 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)—more than all forms of human transportation combined.[1] Factory farming is also the leading industrial emitter of both methane and nitrous oxide, each of which has a more destabilizing effect on climate than carbon dioxide.[2]

Industrialized animal agriculture is also the leading cause of deforestation. Each year, the world’s largest meat, dairy, and egg producers contribute to the clearing of millions of acres of tropical forest for livestock grazing and soy production, 70 to 75 percent of which becomes feed for billions of factory-farmed chickens, pigs, and fish.[3] Whether forests are cleared or burned, their destruction releases sufficient carbon into the atmosphere to make deforestation responsible for 10 to 15 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, raising animal agriculture’s total contribution to between 20 and 30 percent.[4]

Climate change directly threatens factory-farming operations,  Climate change poses numerous threats to industrialized animal farming operations. One is loss of livestock productivity due to heat stress. Among cattle, poultry, and swine, high temperatures lower feed intake, limit weight gain, and have a negative impact on fertility as well as milk and egg production. High temperatures also increase livestock mortality rates. As of 2019, researchers estimated the annual cost of heat-stress losses at between $1.9B and $2.7B in the U.S. alone.[5] According to the USDA, approximately half of these losses accrue to the dairy industry, owing primarily to decreased output.[6]

Additional climate-change related losses to factory farming operations include those related to shortages and increased prices of water, the increased prevalence of parasites, and the destruction of livestock and infrastructure by climate-change-related extreme weather events including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. Such climate-related disasters may also result in animal-feed supply chain interruptions that drive up the cost of this critical input, resulting in increases in raw material and operating costs that could negatively impact corporations’ financial performance in the short and long-term. As Tyson explains in its 2019 10-K filing, “Fluctuations in commodity prices and in the availability of raw materials, especially feed grains, live cattle, live swine and other inputs could negatively impact our earnings. Our results of operations and financial condition, as well as the selling prices for our products, are dependent upon the cost and supply of commodities and raw materials such as beef, pork, poultry, corn, soybean, packaging materials and energy…. Production and pricing of these commodities are determined by constantly changing market forces of supply and demand over which we have limited or no control. Such factors include, among other things, weather patterns throughout the world, outbreaks of disease, the global level of supply inventories and demand for grains and other feed ingredients, as well as agricultural and energy policies of domestic and foreign governments. Volatility in our commodity and raw material costs directly impact our gross margin and profitability.”[7]

Climate change-related regulation poses a serious financial threat

Increasing concern about climate change may also result in the increased regulation of factory-farming operations. Regulation could take the form of carbon taxation and/or required emissions reductions. Either would negatively impact factory farming operations, and each is on the radar of the world’s largest meat, dairy, and seafood producers. As Tyson warned investors in its 2019 10-K filing, “Increased government regulations to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions as a result of concern over climate change may result in increased costs, capital expenditures and other financial obligations for us.”[8][a]

Some countries are already considering imposing carbon emissions-related regulations on factory farming operations. Germany is contemplating raising the current seven percent value-added tax (VAT) on meat to 19 percent. Denmark, New Zealand, and Sweden are evaluating similar moves. In May 2020, the EU Commission announced its “Farm to Fork” strategy, a component of the EU’s Green New Deal. In addition to limiting factory farming’s contributions to climate change, the strategy involves mandatory labeling requirements designed to “empower consumers to choose healthy and sustainable diets” by informing purchasers about “the nutritional, climate, environmental and social aspects of food products.”[9]

At the same time, scientists and economists around the world are increasingly calling on these and other national governments to reconsider their support of industrialized animal agriculture, including by shifting tax and credit incentives and redirecting roughly $500M in subsidies away from environmentally degrading methods of food production.[10] As the global Food and Land Use Coalition has described the impetus for its support of governments’ efforts to develop multi-pronged low-emission strategies, “Leaving food and land use systems on the current pathway would put the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement climate targets out of reach and undermine food security, creating needless human suffering, market disruption and political instability.”[11][b]

OceansU.S. AgricultureU.S. Agriculture  August 1, 2019 Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that scientists have determined that this year’s Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” is 6,952 square miles, nearly the size of New Jersey. In response, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Lucia von Reusner released the following statement:

“The collapse of one of our most important watersheds is tragic not only because of its size, impact on marine life, and consequences on Gulf economies – but because it’s entirely predictable and preventable. Uncontrolled runoff from industrial meat production flushed down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico is known to be the main source of pollution causing the dead zone. The raw sewage from livestock waste and runoff from grain fields washing into waterways across the Midwest has reached crisis levels – contaminating drinking water, causing toxic algae blooms, and deoxygenating important waterways throughout the Mississippi River watershed.

“The very predictability of this crisis is the most damning indictment. America’s meat companies know where their waste is going and what effect it has on water quality, but are content to leave these problems to communities downstream that have to foot the bill. This is shameless corporate abuse of our public waterways. It is time the companies responsible are held to account for cleaning up American waterways.

As Massive Dead Zone Blooms in Gulf, Hold Industrial Farming Companies Responsible

“As climate-fueled flooding becomes commonplace in America, the industrial meat companies like JBS and Cargill that are responsible for driving polluting farming practices must immediately take action to implement protections for America’s water.”

A recent Mighty Earth analysis showed that nearly 220 million tons of untreated animal waste and other pollutants washed freely off industrial farms into the Mississippi River watershed in 2018, endangering local water quality and ultimately contributing to the toxic algal blooms fueling the annual Gulf dead zone. This is 500 times more raw sewage than New York City produced during the same year. America’s largest meat companies have concentrated their slaughterhouses and processing facilities near waterways throughout the Mississippi River Basin that are increasingly prone to flooding, while failing to develop and implement practices to protect water quality.

Agricultural giant JBS, responsible for 80 million tons of pollution in 2018, was the top polluter identified in the analysis, while Cargill and Tyson were the most vulnerable to flooding. Polluted runoff from fields producing the vast quantities of animal feed used by these companies is another major source of water contamination causing the dead zone.

This announcement comes shortly after the publication of Mighty Earth’s “Cargill: Worst Company in the World” report, which documents decades of bad acts by Cargill and calls on the company to take action to address the negative impacts of its massive supply chain. Cargill is the second-largest feed beef processor in North America and the largest supplier of ground beef in the world.

 Agricultural Runoff and the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone | Big River: A King Corn Companion Learn how agricultural runoff from the Midwest has contributed to a massive “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, in this video segment adapted from the independent film Big River: A King Corn Companion. A cornfield treated with conventional chemical fertilizer promises a bumper crop, but chemical runoff from the farm enters the Iowa River, eventually draining into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. In the Gulf, these dissolved nutrients allow algae to flourish. The algae’s decay depletes the water of oxygen, creating a dead zone where shrimp and fish are starved of oxygen and die.

Interdiscip Toxicol. 2009 Mar; 2(1): 1–12. PMCID: PMC2984095 Published online 2009 Mar. doi: 10.2478/v10102-009-0001-7PMID: 21217838 Impact of Pesticides Use in Agriculture: Their Benefits and Hazards


The data on environmental-cum-health risk assessment studies may be regarded as an aid towards a better understanding of the problem. Data on the occurrence of pesticide-related illnesses among defined populations in developing countries are scanty. Generation of base-line descriptive epidemiological data based on area profiles, development of intervention strategies designed to lower the incidence of acute poisoning and periodic surveillance studies on high risk groups are needed. Our efforts should include investigations of outbreaks and accidental exposure to pesticides, correlation studies, cohort analyses, prospective studies and randomised trials of intervention procedures. Valuable information can be collected by monitoring the end product of human exposure in the form of residue levels in body fluids and tissues of the general population. The importance of education and training of workers as a major vehicle to ensure a safe use of pesticides is being increasingly recognised.

Because of the extensive benefits which man accrues from pesticides, these chemicals provide the best opportunity to those who juggle with the risk-benefit equations. The economic impact of pesticides in non-target species (including humans) has been estimated at approximately $8 billion annually in developing countries. What is required is to weigh all the risks against the benefits to ensure a maximum margin of safety. The total cost-benefit picture from pesticide use differs appreciably between developed and developing countries. For developing countries it is imperative to use pesticides, as no one would prefer famine and communicable diseases like malaria. It may thus be expedient to accept a reasonable degree of risk. Our approach to the use of pesticides should be pragmatic. In other words, all activities concerning pesticides should be based on scientific judgement and not on commercial considerations. There are some inherent difficulties in fully evaluating the risks to human health due to pesticides. For example there is a large number of human variables such as age, sex, race, socio-economic status, diet, state of health, etc. — all of which affect human exposure to pesticides. But practically little is known about the effects of these variables. The long-term effects of low level exposure to one pesticide are greatly influenced by concomitant exposure to other pesticides as well as to pollutants present in air, water, food and drugs.

Pesticides are often considered a quick, easy, and inexpensive solution for controlling weeds and insect pests in urban landscapes. However, pesticide use comes at a significant cost. Pesticides have contaminated almost every part of our environment. Pesticide residues are found in soil and air, and in surface and ground water across the countries, and urban pesticide uses contribute to the problem. Pesticide contamination poses significant risks to the environment and non-target organisms ranging from beneficial soil microorganisms, to insects, plants, fish, and birds. Contrary to common misconceptions, even herbicides can cause harm to the environment. In fact, weed killers can be especially problematic because they are used in relatively large volumes. The best way to reduce pesticide contamination (and the harm it causes) in our environment is for all of us to do our part to use safer, non-chemical pest control (including weed control) methods.

The exercise of analysing the range and nature of benefits arising from pesticide use has been a mixture of delving, dreaming and distillation. There have been blind alleys, but also positive surprises. The general picture is as we suspected: there is publicity, ideological kudos and scientific opportunity associated with ‘knocking’ pesticides, while praising them brings accusations of vested interests. This is reflected in the imbalance in the number of published scientific papers, reports, newspaper articles and websites against and for pesticides. The colour coding for types of benefit, economic, social or environmental, reveals the fact that at community level, most of the benefits are social, with some compelling economic benefits. At national level, the benefits are principally economic, with some social benefits and one or two issues of environmental benefits. It is only at global level that the environmental benefits really come into play.

There is a need to convey the message that prevention of adverse health effects and promotion of health are profitable investments for employers and employees as a support to a sustainable development of economics. To sum up, based on our limited knowledge of direct and/or inferential information, the domain of pesticides illustrates a certain ambiguity in situations in which people are undergoing life-long exposure. There is thus every reason to develop health education packages based on knowledge, aptitude and practices and to disseminate them within the community in order to minimise human exposure to pesticides.

 Animal Agriculture Statistics Agriculture is the Biggest Water Waster, According to the EPA (Peta)  Most Europeans and North Americans have access to clean drinking water, though the USA is experiencing more water shortages than ever. Earth has plenty of water, but 96% is salt or saline. Drinking or freshwater is only 3%, with 1% available for use. So why are we wasting it on farms (and other industries)?

  • American animal factories consume 36 to 74 trillion gallons of water per year.
  • 70% of Consumable Freshwater Is Utilized for Agricultural Purposes, According to Environmental Stats (Sentient Media)
  • It’ll be interesting in 2050 when 9 billion people turn on the taps and dust comes out. It won’t be a pretty sight, and another side of humanity will rear its ugly head. The world over, farms consume 70% of freshwater. Remember, we only have 1% to use.
  • 40% of Emissions Due to Agriculture Come From Farming Animals in the U.S. (Sentient Media)
  • We can blame planes and cars and the oil and gas industry. We know it impacts climate change. Yet agriculture and factory farming are flying under the radar.
  • Methane from mega cattle, sheep, and goat farms is also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. There’s talk about reducing global emissions. We’re still failing at repurposing farmland.
  • Global Warming Statistics
  • Waste Produced by Farmed Animals Has Polluted 145,000 Miles of Rivers and Streams in the U.S. (ICCR)
  • It’s not just the USA. Worldwide, 80% of wastewater flows into our ecosystem untreated. Waste comes from corporations, farms, and even individuals who carelessly pollute the environment. Factory farms pollute drinking water from farm runoff. That means urine, blood, and fecal matter enter our drinking water.
  • The number one freshwater polluter globally is agriculture. Factory farms release 1 billion tons of phosphorus and nitrogen waste every year. Aside from polluting 145,000 miles of rivers, 1 million acres of waterways like lakes, reservoirs, bays, and estuaries also bear the factory farming footprint
  • In Maryland and West Virginia, Farming Waste Contributes to Male Fish Deveopoing Ovaries (Peta)
  • Talk about impacting evolution. Farming waste is so potent in some states that male fish living in rivers near chicken farms are developing ovaries.
  • Approximately 14,400 Acres of Rainforests Are Cleared for Cattle Farms (PETA)
  • We move fast. Modern machinery can destroy one acre in six seconds. According to environmental statistics, we’re down to the last 10% of the virgin Amazon rainforest. In the last 50 years, massive swaths of forest were clearcut to make room for industrial livestock farming.
  • About 260 Million Acres of Deforestation Is Used to Produce Crops for Farm Animals in the U.S. (Peta)
  • Deforestation is a method that mega-farms use to clear land to grow feed for farm animals that feed the insatiable demand of humans. Grazing also impacts unique vegetation. Many plants are on the brink of extinction.
  • Farming Cows Produce the Highest Amount of Methane (Sentient Media)
  • Not news anymore. People have been saying for decades that cows (through no fault of their own) are responsible for 44% of human-caused methane. Enteric fermentation is part of a cow’s digestion.
  • Learning how many cows are in the world would give a better perspective on this issue.
  • Worldwide, Dairy Cows Produce 3.7 billion Gallons of Feces and Urine Per Day (Sentient Media)
  • No doubt, cows are busy chewing the cud and excreting 14 galls of feces and urine every day. Since there are approximately 264 million cows bred for milking alone, that adds up. Cow manure is also poorly stored and handled, which leads to water contamination in rivers and aquifers.


How Many Factory Farms Are There, and Which Country Has the Highest Number of Factory Farms? Globally, about two million factory farms raise about 9.32 billion animals. In the USA, 99% of all farmed animals live on factory farms. China is the world’s largest meat producer, and the U.S. comes second.

Is Factory Farming Bad for the Environment?

Yes. It influences climate change, pollutes the environment, releases greenhouse gases, and destroys animal habitats. How Does Factory Farming Affect People?  Farming releases animal waste into the air and water streams. Over 400 harmful gasses, including heavy metals like zinc, come from factory farms. Also, animals receive 80% of all antibiotics and hormones, which indirectly end up in our food.

Feeling the Heat: Factory Farming and Climate Change . . . Globally, animal agriculture represents 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.      Specifically, the massive feed-crop production and manure associated with factory farms—industrial facilities that raise large numbers of animals in intensive confinement—are significant contributors to air and water pollution as well as climate-warming emissions.

Despite its heavy environmental impact, industrial animal agriculture is largely exempted from federal and state air and water pollution regulations that apply to other major industries, just as it is exempt from almost all state and federal animal-protection laws.

Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment The agribusiness/food sector is the second most profitable industry in the United States — following pharmaceuticals — with annual sales over $400 billion. Contributing to its profitability are the breathtaking strides in biotechnology coupled with the growing concentration of ownership and control by food’s largest corporations. Everything, from decisions on which foods are produced, to how they are processed, distributed, and marketed is, remarkably, dictated by a select few giants wielding enormous power. More and more farmers are forced to adopt new technologies and strategies with consequences potentially harmful to the environment, our health, and the quality of our lives. The role played by trade institutions like the World Trade Organization, serves only to make matters worse.

Through it all, the paradox of capitalist agriculture persists: ever-greater numbers remain hungry and malnourished despite an increase in world food supplies and the perpetuation of food overproduction.Hungry for Profit presents a historical analysis and an incisive overview of the issues and debates surrounding the global commodification of agriculture. Contributors address the growing public concern over food safety and controversial developments in agricultural biotechnology including genetically engineered foods. Hungry for Profit also examines the extent to which our environmental, social, and economic problems are intertwined with the structure of global agriculture as it now exists.Socialist Cuba: An Example of the Way Forward!

Organic Farming — Cuba: “The Road Not Taken”: The Other Cuban Revolution By Rolnd Sheppard

University of Cienfeugos Urban Garden or “Organiponico”Lately, I have been reading Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law, and Endangers Your Health. This book, written by Dan Fagin and Marianne Lavelle and The Center for Public Integrity, is a clear “snapshot” of how Industry set up its own scientific institutions to counter the gains of the environmental and health and safety movements of the 1970’s. ( Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to defend their chemicals.)

The authors describe the book as “…the story of how the chemical industry has managed to keep so many of its toxic products on the market, even in the face of mounting evidence of their danger and emerging-and safer- alternatives. It is also the story of how the federal agencies that are supposed to be the public’s watchdogs have been deranged by the chemical industry’s pressure tactics, which include junkets and job offers to government regulators, major contributions to politicians, scorched-earth courtroom strategies, and misleading multimillion-dollar advertising and public relations campaign.”

Two of the four toxic chemicals that they use to prove their point are Astrazine and Alachor. Both chemicals are used as pesticides extensively in agriculture. Both chemicals have been banned in other countries because of their association to breast cancer and other female cancers. They have not been banned in the United States due to the economic power political clout of agribusiness and the chemical industry.  (The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies the herbicide as toxicity class III – slightly toxic.[4] The EPA has described the following effects when exposed to levels above the maximum contaminant level (MCL): slight skin and eye irritation; at lifetime exposure to levels above the MCL: potential damage to liver, kidney, spleen; lining of nose and eyelids; cancer.[5] Since 2006, use of alachlor as a herbicide is banned in the European Union

Atrazine was banned in the European Union (EU) in 2004 because of its persistent groundwater contamination[2] In the United States, however, atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides, with 76 million pounds of it applied each year.[9] It is probably the most commonly used herbicide in the world, and is used in about 80 countries worldwide.[10] Its endocrine effects, possible carcinogenic effect, and epidemiological connection to low sperm levels in men has led several researchers to call for banning it in the US.[2]

These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes – nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the “good” and the “bad,” to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil – all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called “insecticides,” but “biocides.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

Pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals and mechanization are the basic ingredients of agribusiness in the United States.  The initial thrust into large-scale farming resulted in a large increase in productivity of food.  But industry has gotten on the chemical treadmill where larger and larger capital investments of more and more fertilizers and pesticides are needed to maintain production while water supplies are becoming more and more polluted by these chemicals.  The chemicals not only get into the water supply-they also become part of our food supply.  One by-product of food production is cancer. In fact, prior to the introduction of large-scale chemical farming, one third of all crops were lost to weeds, bacteria, and insects.  Today, after the constant increase in chemical use, one third of all crops are still lost to weeds, bacteria, and insects as they become resistant to the chemicals.

Plenty of Garbage

Thus, the “chemical treadmill” has kept us in the same place at greater costs in capital investment and human lives.  (We do not reproduce fast enough to become resistant to the chemicals.) This model has become one of ever-increasing costs and declining levels of production.

To reverse this process would be to stop large scale farming conducted by agribusiness which requires a one crop, fully mechanized, fully fertilized, and fully pesticided approach to agriculture.  Huge capital investments in farming and industry would be lost.  That is why the toxic chemicals described by Fagin and Lavelle are considered by the government to be a “protected species”.  In the long run, this type of farming is the least efficient even though it is the most profitable.

Recently, agriculture ecologists, who are aware of the “treadmill”, have been advocating a different model for farm production.  This model is based on smaller farms rotating crops and breeding livestock.  This is a natural (organic) method of controlling weeds, insects, and bacteria that feed on farm produce.  Until recently, there have been no large-scale models to demonstrate the alternative form of agriculture.

Unfortunately, the “Socialist Block” model also embarked on the “chemical road” for agricultural production along with “forced collectivizations”.  The Soviet Union was an underdeveloped country with little technological skills that basically copied the science and the agricultural models found in the Industrialized countries.  In the Soviet Union there was no science or mechanism to do otherwise and still feed the population in the context of a civil war and a blockade.  In the case of Cuba, the chemical models of both the United States and the Soviet Union was continued.

The 38-year economic blockade of Cuba hampered the development of the Cuban economy.  To the credit of the Cuban Revolution they did not carry out any forced collectivizations.  They did copy the Soviet model of large chemically dependent state farms.  When the “Socialist Block” stopped all trade with Cuba, the Cuban economy was severely crippled.  They could no longer import the amount of oil, fertilizers, and pesticides to continue large-scale mechanized food production.   They had to move in the direction of the alternative model of agriculture that I previously described.

In response to a huge drop in pesticide and fertilizer imports, Cuban agriculture is being transformed. Cuba is presently undertaking the  largest national conversion from conventional agriculture to large-scale alternative farming in history.

Cuban Science Versus Monsanto

In Issue #1, March 1999, of the Monsanto Monitor, there is an interview with a Cuban geneticist. In this interview, Rebecka Milestad, of the Research School in Ecological Land Use at the Department of Rural Development Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, wrote: “’If Monsanto came to Cuba, we would never sell ourselves to them.

Cuba is more important than money,’ claimed Eduardo, a geneticist at the agricultural university in Havana Province, where I visited him and his      colleagues in January this year.

“Their laboratory facilities are run down and they complain that other research institutes in Cuba receive more resources for genetic engineering research. Yet he still would not work for a company like Monsanto.:

So I asked how Monsanto practice differs from that what he and his fellow researchers do. He replied, ‘they wouldn’t dream of trying to develop herbicide-resistant crops, for example, that are only designed for the big companies to make money. In Cuba, he continued, ‘we only use biotechnology and genetic engineering for the good of our people and our country. And there is no limit to what we can achieve with this technology.’

Cuba has been in the forefront of developing organic farming along with their biotechnology. Due to the blockade, they have been forced to move away from chemical agriculture.

In fact, the Cuban experiment in agriculture should be carefully observed. In my opinion, the results that they have already achieved demonstrate that their approach shows the way to combine science and technology for the benefit of the environment and humanity.

“Butterflies are free, and so are we…” are the words to a song by Leonard Gershe in his play Butterflies are Free. We and the butterflies can only be free if we are safe in our own habitat.

I attended the “Dialogue With Cuba” conference at the University of Berkeley on March 23,1998.  I went to the panel discussion on agriculture in Cuba and saw the film; The Greening of Cuba.  In that film one can see the dramatic transformation that is taking place in agriculture.Normally it takes 3-5 years, after the transition, to begin to achieve the previous levels of productivity.  Cuba had the task of feeding its population while undergoing this transformation.The Greening of Cuba is a documentary on how well the Cubans have met the challenge.  One of the gains of the Cuban Revolution has been the development of education.  Although Cuba has only 2% of the population of Latin America, it has 11% of the PhD’s in Latin America.

Cuban scientists were mobilized — not to protect chemicals as in this country — but to develop the alternative organic model .  In the past few years Cuban scientists and planners have accelerated this process by using sophisticated biotechnology techniques, such as the mass production of naturally occurring local organisms to create biopesticides and biofertilizers.  Among the alternative tactics being used for pest control, the most important are conventional biological controls based on mass releases of parasitic and predatory insects and the use of biopesticides.

Cuba produces numerous formulations of bacterial and fungal diseases that attack insect pests. These are applied to crops in lieu of chemical insecticides. At present, 218 biotechnology centers are located on agricultural cooperatives, where the workers are typically people in their twenties who were born on the cooperative and have received some university-level training. Industrial production of these biopesticides is under way for larger- scale operations aimed at export crops. Many biopesticides are applied to crops in place of chemical insecticides.

Cuba is also one of the world leaders in the use of biofertilizers, including the standard Rhizobium inoculants for leguminous crops, as well as free-living bacteria that make atmospheric nitrogen available for non-legumes, and solubilizing bacteria that liberate phosphorus for uptake by plants.

It is unclear whether the widespread implementation of an alternative model of agricultural development will, in conjunction with other government policies, allow Cuba to emerge from the crisis wrought by the collapse of the socialist bloc. The continued and growing success of the experiment in alternative agricultural currently underway in Cuba is unprecedented, with potentially enormous implications for other countries suffering from the declining sustainability of conventional agricultural production. Hopefully, Cuba will soon be self-sufficient in food production

The movie captures the still living dynamics of the Cuban Revolution and the fighting spirit of the population as they started from scratch to rebuild their farms and introduce urban agriculture.

The Cuban could have followed the road of the Soviet Union and China towards capitalist restoration.  Instead, they chose the road of extending and deepening their socialist revolution.  In the process they had to give control over the development of farming to the scientists and those working the farms.  The success of organic farming is the product of the combined efforts of a people determined to protect their independence from the United States.  The film is a testimony to the capacity of humanity to work socially to solve its problems of survival and to act for the social good of all.  “What a piece of work is humanity!”  Viva Cuba!

The Other Cuban Revolution

An October, 1999 news release from Food First, announced that the  Right Livelihood Award Alternative Nobel Prize Goes to Cuban Group Promoting the Organic Revolution. This group was the Grupo de Agricultura Organica (GAO), the Cuban organic farming association, which has been setting the standard for sustainable agriculture for the world.

In accepting this award, Dr. Fernado Funes-Aguilar, President of GAO said: “This award is truly an honor for Cuba, for GAO, and for all the farmers, researchers, and policy makers who have struggled to make organic farming work in Cuba. We hope that our efforts will demonstrate to other countries that conventional chemically-dependent agriculture is not the only way to feed a country.”

In the press release, Peter Rosset, executive director of Food First, said: “This award shows the enormous potential of sustainable agriculture, which is so under exploited in other countries. The whole world should learn from Cuba.” Dr. Rosset went on to say that “in Cuba, organic is for everyone, not just for those who can afford it.

In past articles I have written on the importance of the Cuban developments in agriculture.  That the chemical dependent agriculture for profit in Capitalist society is making cancer part of our food chain based on an ever-increasing use of pesticides.

This award supports that conclusion.

I have also written that how the Cuban Socialist Revolution has  been a revolution to establish  harmony between science and nature to establish a sustainable economy and environment.

Researchers around the world are now beginning to recognize these achievements of the Cuban Revolution.

If a small socialist country can make these achievements, just think of the potential if the whole world would become a socialist world with science in harmony with nature.

The Cuban developments should be a guide for environmentalists through out the world.

(The accompanying articles by Elizabeth Agnew “The Other Cuban Revolution” and “Alternative Nobel Prize Goes to Cuban Group Promoting the Organic Revolution”, © Institute for Food and Development Policy, demonstrate these dynamics of the Cuban Revolution )


The Other Cuban Revolution  By Elizabeth Agnew (August 1999)

Having survived years of careless exploitation and tumultuous political and social change, Cuba is setting an example to the whole of the western hemisphere with its enlightened environmental policies.

Havana, Cuba: This island has had its share of disasters, delivered by both nature and man, but one of the country’s most consistent strengths lies in its natural resources. Cuba boasts the highest number of plant and endemic species in the West Indies. It is a land of extremes with some of the smallest existing species of wildlife, such as the butterfly bat and the bee hummingbird, as well as the world’s largest shrews.

The socioeconomic development policies in the first half of this century have left Cuba a poor country – like many of its neighbors in Latin America. A few powerful individuals and foreign corporations controlled the country’s wealth, while illiteracy, poverty and lack of medical services contributed to a desperate situation among a large proportion of the population.

In 1959 the island’s natural resources were severely damaged when there was a massive shift from mixed agriculture to sugar cane, leaving natural vegetation in only 14 per cent of the country. Further threats to Cuba’s capacity for long-term sustainability came from poor land-use practices, pollution and over logging, often driven by short-term economic and political demands. This has resulted in deforestation, loss of wetlands and rampant tourism, which is growing at a rate of 30 per cent annually.

The socialist revolution addressed social needs in Cuba, and the one-party regime transformed all aspects of society. One highly significant change was a drive for environmental conservation rare in Latin American countries. This emphasis led the country to take a longer-term view of planning while stressing integrated approaches to sustainable development.

Since the revolution, vegetative cover has increased to just over 17 per cent, and Cuba now has the lowest deforestation rate in Latin America and the lowest human population growth rate.

These statistics are a source of pride and encouragement to Cubans engaged in the conservation struggle. More than 2 per cent of the world’s flora are found in Cuba, and approximately 51 per cent of Cuban flora is endemic. New species are still being discovered in the more remote areas.

Opportunities for success in conservation and sustainable use are probably higher in Cuba than anywhere else in the western hemisphere. This is because Cuba has accepted• sustainable development as an official government policy with the goal of seeking solutions to its needs in both the short and long terms.

“Cubans are not only highly trained and professional, they are extremely motivated to work hard and to co-operate with one another,” says Steven Price, international program director of WWF-Canada.

For more than ten years, the conservation organization WWF has been funding conservation and development projects in Cuba. Its Cuba Program has a five-year conservation plan to restore ecosystems and encourage conservation of the island’s natural treasures. The plan aims to advance the conservation of biological diversity, to promote sustainable use of natural resources while reducing environmental contamination and waste, and ultimately to safeguard essential ecological processes.

Other WWF initiatives include support for the infrastructure of Turquino and Desembarco del Granma National Parks, and projects to band and analyze the habitats of migratory birds as well as to protect parrots and sandhill cranes. WWF is also increasing protection of the Alejandro von Humboldt National Park, and supporting the Cuban National Museum of Natural History.

In addition, the Canadian International Development Agency recently joined WWF on a conservation and development project in the largest and most important wetland in the Caribbean, the Cienaga de Zapata. This 500,000- hectare wetland is home to thousands of migratory species, as well as several endemic birds, such as the bee hummingbird.

WWF plans to increase its conservation investment in Cuba in the coming years. “A modest investment of funds yields a tremendous conservation dividend,” says Steven Price.

(Elizabeth Agnew is Cuba Program Director for WWF, based in Toronto, Canada,

Alternative Nobel Prize Goes to Cuban Group Promoting the Organic Revolution

STOCKHOLM and OAKLAND: The Grupo de Agricultura Organica (GAO), the Cuban organic farming association, which has been at the forefront of the country’s transition from industrial to organic agriculture, was named as winner of a major international prize—the Right Livelihood Award—commonly known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize.’

The Grupo de Agricultura Organica is one of four winners of the 1999 Right Livelihood Award, chosen from more than 80 candidates from 40 countries. GAO brings together farmers, farm managers, field experts, researchers, and government officials to develop and promote organic farming methods. Its aim is to convince Cuban farmers and policy-makers that the country’s~ previous high-input farming model was too import-dependent and environmentally damaging to be sustainable, and that the organic alternative has the potential to achieve equally good yields.

“This award is truly an honor for Cuba, for GAO, and for all the farmers, researchers, and policy makers who have struggled to make organic farming work in Cuba,” said Dr. Fernado Funes-Aguilar, President of GAO. “We hope that our efforts will demonstrate to other countries that conventional chemically-dependent agriculture is not the only way to feed a country.”

During the 1990s Cuba overcame a severe food shortage caused by the collapse of its trade relations with the former Soviet-bloc and the on-going U.S. trade embargo. Self-reliant organic farming played a significant role in overcoming the crisis.

GAO was founded in 1993 as the Asociación Cubana de Agricultura Organica (ACAO), but recently changed its name when it was legally incorporated as part of the Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forest Technicians (ACTAF). Over the past five years it has built up an impressive program of lobbying, training courses, workshops, documentation centers, demonstration farms, and exchange visits for farmers, and has held three international conferences.

“I hope this award will awaken the world to the amazing achievements Cuba has made in organic farming and food security”, said Martin Bourque, Sustainable Agriculture Program Director of Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy. “Through their hard work, innovation, and scientific excellence, GAO and the whole Cuban agricultural sector have demonstrated that low-input sustainable agriculture can work on a national scale.” Food First has had a scientific and technical exchange program with GAO for several years, and will co-sponsor GAO’s Fourth National Encounter on Organic Agriculture in May of the year 2000.

GAO is the first Cuban winner of the Right Livelihood Award. It shares the prize money of SEK 1,800,000 (approximately USD 225,000) with a Colombian network, Consolidation of the Amazon Region (COAMA), working for indigenous rights and biodiversity, and with Chilean-Spanish lawyer Juan Garces, who is honored for his untiring efforts over many years to bring the former Chilean dictator, General Pinochet, to justice. One of the world’s leading promoters of solar energy, Hermann Scheer, receives an honorary award.

The prizes will be presented at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament on December 9, the day before the conventional Nobel Prizes. Founded in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award has honored more than 80 outstanding individuals and organizations for work contributing to a better future for the world.

Peter Rosset, executive director of Food First, said: “This award shows the enormous potential of sustainable agriculture, which is so underexploited in other countries. The whole world should learn from Cuba.” Dr. Rosset went on to say that “in Cuba, organic is for everyone, not just for those who can afford it.”

For more information on GAO or Food First, you can contact Food First staff members who are available for comment, and access: