How One Man Is Destroying Our Health and Environment

By Dr. Mercola

Sometimes you read or hear someone in power say something so illogical and narrow-minded that it really crystallizes the reasons why the United States is in such dire straits when it comes to health.

Secretary of Agriculture, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack, recently made such a statement. As reported by Politico:1

“There’s been a lot of griping from some corners about the impact of large-scale industrial agriculture on the environment and its sustainability, and Vilsack is tired of it.

In remarks to the GreenGov Symposium … the secretary said critics of conventional farming should understand the role they play in that system as consumers.

Americans spend about 10 percent of their income on food, thanks to the U.S. agricultural system, while residents of other developed countries spend 20 percent. For those in developing countries, the outlay is 50 percent.

As a result of U.S. farmers and the efficiencies of large-scale farms, Americans have more money in their pockets for things like housing, education and luxuries like vacations, Vilsack said.”

In other words, shut up about sustainability and just be happy there’s plenty of cheap food to be had. What’s so crazy about a statement like this is the miniscule view it takes on a subject that has extraordinarily vast ramifications for human health and future generations.

The High Cost of Cheap Food

Our current agricultural model has an array of hidden costs. It takes a toll on workers and residents in farming areas, wildlife, soil, air and water supplies; it depletes natural resources that are non-renewable or slow to renew, and dumps toxins into what remains.

Ultimately, it takes a toll on the health of those who consume this denatured, contaminated and ultra-processed food, and it threatens the very ability to continue growing food in the future.

We’re not even talking about some far distant future that is easy to ignore. We’re talking about a mere 20 to 60 years in the future! According to various scientific predictions:

    • Within 60 years, the world’s topsoil may be completely lost.
    • Potable water is quickly being depleted and becoming increasingly scarce.
    • By 2050, antibiotic-resistant infections — a health crisis directly attributable to industrial farming — may kill 10 million people worldwide each year.
    • Phosphorus, needed for fertilizer, may soon be completely depleted.4 Modern fertilizer consists of varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Both phosphorus and potassium, neither of which can be synthesized, are becoming increasingly sparse.

According to the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (GPRI), we could hit “peak phosphorus” as early as 2030. Without these fertilizer ingredients, the entire world would quickly be in trouble. Phosphorus in particular is critical for healthy plant growth.

The only way to do without these fertilizers is to radically alter the way we farm the land. Using regenerative farming methods, fertilizer use becomes less of a rate-limiting factor.

Yet Vilsack is “tired” of hearing about how industrial farming hurts the planet and its inhabitants, and he wants Americans to pipe down and thank the gods of efficiency we can afford to take vacations with the money we save on food.

Low Food Prices, High Medical Costs

Never mind the fact that Americans have the lowest health rating7 in the developed world thanks to this industrial, processed diet, and the fact that we have the most expensive health care system in the world, even though it ranks 37th in terms of quality.

Cheap food is no bargain when it makes you and your children chronically ill. Nearly 38 percent of American adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese, and this alone costs the U.S. health care system up to $210 billion each year.

That could pay for a lot of organic veggies, yet using Vilsack’s reasoning, you should be happy that cheap food affords you to pay for your ill health.

Cheap food is no bargain when it leads to the permanent “vacation” that is premature death either, at least not for the surviving family members who have to bear the loss of a loved one.

Remarkably, while the global maternal mortality rate has improved, falling by more than one-third in the past 15 years, the U.S. is one of the few countries that buck that auspicious trend. Since 1990, the maternal death rate in the U.S. has actually RISEN by more than 50 percent, according to the latest statistics.

Hidden Costs Abound

Vilsack also stays mum on the fact that your tax dollars are used to:

Subsidize all this cheap corn, soy and wheat grown by industrial farms — the basic ingredients of cheap processed food — as well as meat and dairy from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Over the past 15 years, more than $96 billion in agricultural subsidies have been handed out to industrial farmers who pollute the environment and contribute to the destruction of the ecosystem, all in the name of efficiency.

Promote biotech propaganda that falsely assures you genetically engineered (GE) foods are a boon to farmers and the food system and pose no safety concern.

Provide industry farmers with crop insurance. Last year, this price tag came to a whopping $14 billion. Virtually all U.S. corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton crops are insured under this program, and as noted by Bloomberg:

“The arrangement is a good deal for everyone but taxpayers. The government pays 18 approved insurance companies to run the program, pays farmers to buy coverage and pays the bills if losses exceed predetermined limits …

Unlike direct farm aid payments, which are capped at $40,000 per farm, there is no limit on crop insurance subsidies … The heavily-discounted insurance incentivizes farmers to cultivate marginal acres that may or may not be fertile. And the program’s been vulnerable to fraud …”


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