Industrial Agriculture: Consequences and Alternatives

In this module, we will explore how traditional, smallholder farmers are threatened by industrial agriculture. By industrial farming, we refer to the dominant system of chemically intensive food production developed in the decades after World War II, featuring enormous single-crop farms and animal production facilities. By traditional farming knowledge, we mean a set of skills and practices used in agriculture such as the stewarding of biodiversity, waters, and land and selecting, saving and sharing local adoptive seeds that producers have used effectively for generations, developed with the coevolution of farmers and the environment. Of course, it does not mean that things cannot or don’t need to change or improve with new discoveries or techniques, but rather it means that it is possible to develop new knowledge and techniques that create solutions to agricultural challenges with the respectful convergence between traditional and modern knowledge. We echo what Maxwell Munetsi from La Via Campesino says: “A peasant is a scientist. The amount and quality of knowledge [They] have been developing and practicing for centuries is highly useful and appropriate.”

In the following two videos, you will learn about traditional farming practices, and the ways that livelihoods have been influenced and threatened by agricultural corporations. You’ll also learn how seed has gone from a central part of many cultural practices to a commodity traded on global financial markets. Then, view a chart that takes a look at some practices of industrial agriculture, while also examining its consequences and possible alternatives.

 Film 1: Seeds of Freedom

Film 2: Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?

from Anna Lappé & Food Mythbusters

Chart 1: Practices of Industrial Agriculture and their consequences

This chart shows practices associated with industrial agriculture, and some of their consequences. It also shows possible alternatives to these practices.




Optional Viewing:

Film 3: Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

Two short films on the struggles of US family farmers: