The following quotes are from the book From the Good
Earth, by Michael Ableman (Thames and Hudson) - a beautiful book, which paints an
overall positive picture about agriculture - where we have come from, what we have done in
the past two generations, how things are changing and and what we must do now.
"California...... Stop for a moment. Step out of the
car, and the heat is like a dead weight on your head. Everywhere you look there are flat
fields of grapevines, in their perfectly formed bunches of immature fruit hidden among the
leaves. A black drip hose loops from one vine to the next, and the next, stretching off
into infinity. It emits a single drop of water every few seconds at the base of each vine
in this row and in every other row throughout this enormous factory plantation - all in a
series of precisely timed and computer-controlled chips.
"Close your eyes, and that's what you hear: just the
carefully timed drip, drip, drip onto ground as hard as a tennis court. But for the
grapevines, there is not a living thing here: no weeds poking their heads out of packed
clay; no worms tunnelling or insects buzzing; no songbirds trilling overhead or small
rodents scurrying in the understory; not even one solitary vulture circling. Just grapes.
And, beyond the drips, silence.
"These fields and orchards were designed to produce
great quantities of cheap food. And to accomplish that, we are told, there must be high
input industrial efficiency. Fields are laser-levelled as flat as tabletops. Rows are
precision-spaced with food crops bred to accommodate machinery and last on food shelves.
First the earth is drilled with synthetic fertilisers developed from the same research
that perfected explosives and poison gases in World War II, and then it's pumped with
fumigants and doused with herbicides to inhibit soil-borne disease and retard the growth
of weeds. Crops are sprayed and dusted with broad-spectrum insecticides that kill harmful
insects, along with most others, in order to maintain high yields and guarantee
consistency of appearance in the supermarket.
"A tractor with insect-like mechanical arms that span
many rows creeps along in a bean field. Sprayer jets in the tractor's arms are drenching
the plants with chemicals. The man in the tractor has a lunch pail beside him. When he
eats, he will have to remove his respirator and the rubberised gloves that protect his
hands. He's learned not to inhale the chemicals he's spraying - the same sprays that,
according to the World Health Organisation Statistics, result in one million acute
poisonings per year and, according to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), leave traces
behind on the food we eat."
"Sculpted beds carved out of a northern California
hillside await a full planting of commercial strawberries. Under a plastic cover the
ground will be sterilised with a fumigant, the contaminated plastics discarded, disposable
irrigation tape laid down, granular fertilisers applied, and the seedlings planted into
holes burned into a second covering of plastic. In the months until harvest, the plants
and the fruit may be treated with one or more of the 65 pesticides registered for use on
"On the Oxnard plain in Southern California, pest
control specialists begin their day spraying celery with fungicides. The EPA has ranked
agricultural chemicals as one of the most serious health hazards, some linked to cancers,
sterility, and birth defects."
"Pesticides banned in the United States are still
produced and sold to developing countries, only to return to us in a circle of poison on
many of the foods we import. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, 64% of
imported produce sampled by the FDA in 1990 showed detectable residues of pesticides,
including banned chemicals DDT, Hexalor, dieldrin, aldrin, chlordane and
These examples explain why you are encouraged to eat food
which is grown organically!