7 Apr 2022


Current Environmental Concerns Associated With Agribusiness

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In the recent years, the agricultural businesses all over the world have developed and adopted new technologies and techniques to boost production. Currently, agriculture-based businessesoperating in most developed countries are industrial-style agriculture. Characteristics of industrial agriculture include large scale farming, single crop plantation over a period of time, standard high yielding cash crops, usage of intensive and efficient labor, extensive usage of pesticides, external energy inputs and fertilizers and large scale livestock production using hybrid species in confined systems, (Labeling Ecologically Approved Fabrics, 2016). The Union of Concerned Scientist perceives industrial agriculture farms as factories that require inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides and in return produce outputs or yields like corn, livestock products and so on. The main goal of industrial agriculture is to increase their yield outcome and reduce the production costs especially by exploiting economies of scale, (Horrigan, Lawrence and Walker, 2002). 

Background information

Currently, a vast portion of American farmland is dominated by industrial agriculture. Industrial agriculture was developed and adopted numerous years after World War II and involves chemically intensive food production with outsized single-crop farms and technologically improved animal production facilities. At its inception, industrial agriculture was applauded as a scientific accomplishment that will enable a rapidly growing world population to cater for itself. A fundamental principle of industrial food production is monoculture; this involves intensively growing only one crop on a gigantic farmland. Today, monoculture is widely practiced in the USA and other developed countries in Europe and Asia. In addition, as an effort to feed their high population rates, some developing countries have implemented this type of agriculture in their countries for instance extensive corn farming in Kenya. In the USA, major cash crops planted intensively include corn, soybeans, rice, cotton and wheat, (Union of Concerned Scientist, 2015).

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Due to exponential increase in population in the past century, most lands have been converted into farmlands in order to meet the plea for food among nations. With adaptation of these lands, industrial agriculture has become common in most countries. During the commencement of this type of agriculture, yields were higher than before making the world believe that this technological breakthrough will help feed the world. Farming was made easier, yield production was skyrocketing, profit margins were off the charts and due to economies of scale, the farmers were making more than they expected.Nevertheless, with all these pros to the farmer, the adaption in agriculture did not come about without negativities on the environment, (Earth talk, 2011).

The ‘green revolution,’ how industrial revolution in agriculture was referred after World War II, involves the utilization of synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, use of fossil fuels to run their engines during production and application of oil-derived synthetic fertilizers. The aforementioned inputs that are synthetic chemicals, fossil fuels and synthetic fertilizers production are petroleum derived which is very toxic to the atmosphere and a great contributor to global warming. As much as Industrial agriculture is considered a great success and beneficial to humanity, it is harmful to human health, the environment and the food quality consumed by humans and other animals. Other than that, industrial agriculture has a complex impact on the economy and the urban and rural social fabric (Union of Concerned Scientist, 2016). Therefore, in order to curb the adverse effects of industrial agriculture, science based methods are to be encouraged and implemented by farmers.

One major negative impact of large-scale crop production on the economy is reduction of small-scale producers. Most large-scale farmers maximize on their advantage of economies of scale to minimize their input, maximize their output and reduce their costs of production. Due to low cost of production, their market prices become relatively lower than other small-scale farmers. This enables them to find right and easy markets for their products leading to high profit turn over. Due to this, they undermine small-scale producers thus driving them out of the market since they have to sell their products at high prices in order to cover up for their high costs of production. In addition to driving out modest farmers, large-scale farmers undermine rural communities and may cause enmity. 

Aspects of industrial agriculture and their impact on the environment

Different aspects of industrial agriculture have different influences on the world. Examples of these aspects include monoculture, deforestation, water consumption, economic costs, genetic engineering and usage of synthetic chemicals. Each of these aspects has some disruptiveness to the environment such as production of harmful farm wastes (like animal wastes, which are unsanitary, and pose a danger to human health). Furthermore, agricultural impact on the environment fluctuates depending on the region and the nature of the agriculture production method used. Examples of region specific environmental issue include, soil salinization is a major environmental menace in Australia while in New Zealand methane emissions from livestock are the major environmental concerns. 


The large scale growing of a single crop in a farm over a period is known as monoculture. Monoculture farming greatly depends on chemical inputs including synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. The fertilizers are mandatory because the growth of only one type of plant repeatedly on a farm rapidly depletes the nutrients that are needed by the plant for survival and therefore fertilizer is used to replenish the nutrients in the soil. On the other hand, planting the same type of crop highly attracts stable weeds and insect pests that need to be removed hence pesticides are used. In addition, monoculture hinders biodiversity in both animals and plants (Union of Concerned Scientist, 2016).

This intensive use of chemicals produces crops and livestock products that are not fit for human consumption. These chemicals end up being ingested by humans that are later absorbed into the bloodstream and cause long-term diseases that are hard to treat such as cancer (earth talk, 2011). 


Deforestation involves large clearance of earth’s forest. According to Norman Myers, a British environmentalist, deforestation is done for cattle ranching, logging, palm oil plantation, slash, and burn farming. These large tracks of slash-and-burn land are utilized for agricultural production. According to a report done by Megibo, the Vice President of Communications Council for Sustainable Agriculture, the world must double its food supplies and renewable in order to sustain the whole population. He therefore states that the major challenge for this inadequate agricultural lands. New agricultural areas will have to be created and it is mainly done through deforestation (Megibo, 2012). 

Millions of species lose their habitat and climate change occurs due to deforestation. Climate change occurs due to increased rates of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Trees play a vital role in the absorption of unwanted greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and when they are cut down; this absorption rate reduces thus increasing the concentration of the gases. Other than climate change, cut down of trees leads to soil degradation and erosion, temperature fluctuations and tampers with the atmospheric water cycle.

Water consumption

Large-scale farming requires a lot of water for irrigation or watering animals. This excessive water consumption has its setbacks including depletion of underground water sources through excessive drafting. Usage of saline water for irrigation leads to destruction of the soil structure due to formation of alkaline soil. Excessive irrigation in soils due to poor management or ununiformed distribution leads to water wastage. Further, chemicals found in the soil through chemical fertilizers or other farm inputs may combine with irrigation water and lead to water pollution. Poor irrigation techniques tamper with soil salinity and may lead to accumulation of toxic salts on farm surface in regions with high rates of evaporation. Saline soils can be detrimental to the farmer since it requires leaching to get rid of the salts or application of a specialized drainage system that will carry away the salts. 

Economic costs

In Agribusiness, economic costs comprise of; food prices that consumers pay, profits made by agribusiness owners (including farmers and manufacturers such as fertilizers manufacturers), health and societal cost of impacts of agribusiness. Economic cost of Agribusinesses include both positive costs (profits made by agribusiness owners and other key players) that lead to promotion of the country’s economy and negative costs that include the adverse effect of agribusiness activities on the environment. Negative turnover of industrial agriculture include health and environmental damage. Health risks arise from overexposure to pesticides and bacteria that are resistant to bacteria and especially affect farmers, farm workers and rural communities. Environmental damage may consist of global warming and water pollution- fertilizer run off leading to impairment of fisheries, chemical waste pollution of both underground and surface water (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015).

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering of both animals and plants involves the manipulation of genes to fit a specific trait. According to Greenpeace, these genetically modified entities can spread through nature, interbreed with natural organisms and contaminate the natural environment in uncontrollable ways (earth talk, 2011). Other than manipulation of genes, agribusiness has led to hastened resistance among unwanted organisms thus making it harder to manage pests, bacteria and weeds. Resistance refers to a situation in which unwanted organisms like weeds and bacteria have undergone gene evolution to create an advantage against a weapon to destroy them such as pesticides. Resistance can be created by overuse of antibiotics and/or overdependence on herbicides and pesticides. Use of the same chemicals to kill microorganisms repeatedly leads to the microorganisms adapting to it thus making it harder to destroy them. Other than that, use of herbicide tolerant genetically engineered crops has also created pesticides resistant weeds thus increasing the general use of herbicides (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2016). 

Usage of synthetic chemicals

Synthetic chemicals majorly involved in Agribusiness include chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides. As much as these chemicals are considered beneficial to the soil such as improving the nutrient content in soils, and reducing the level of pests attack on cash crops, they have undesirable influence on the environment. Chemical fertilizers lead to gradual increase in soil acidity and eventually inhibit growth of plants. Furthermore, chemical fertilizers reduce biological activity in the soil (microorganisms in the soil ecosystem) unlike farms that are fertilized using manure, organically or other biological fertility sources.

Pesticides encompass herbicides, fungicides and insecticides and their use has increased tremendously in the USA. Monoculture is one great contributor to the use of pesticides since it makes plants more susceptible to pests. According to Pimentel, an entomologist, states after application of pesticides, only one percent reaches the pests target and the remaining 99% is emitted to affect the environment. Runoff and airborne pesticides pollute both surface and underground waters. In addition, pesticide in the environment leads to diminished population of birds and beneficial insect population leading to an imbalance in predator and prey populace. 

Climate change and pollution

The frequently observed agricultural pollutant is the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They leach through the soil thus contaminating it and later flows into water sources both surface and underground and contaminating it. Additionally, pesticides released in the air lead to airborne pollution that may be harmful to the respiratory system. Other major pollutants from farming include sediments, pathogens, metals, pesticides, salts and nutrients.

With improved agricultural based technologies comes about climatic change. These two aspects are interrelated in that poor agricultural techniques hasten global warming and consequently global warming negatively affects agricultural production. Climatic change involves a significant shift in economic costs and social impacts in agriculture. Agriculture has been known to produce crucial effects on climate change especially when green houses are produced and released into the environment such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

Agribusiness is a vital part of the economy in America and other countries in the world. After the World War II, new technologies were adopted to promote production of food for the rapidly growing population. However, as much as these technologies brought about positive changes in crop production volumes, it has produced significant adverse effects on the environment that cannot be ignored. Industrial agriculture has hastened climatic change leading to rapid global warming due to release of greenhouse gases. Over reliance on pesticides on farms has led to creation of evolved microorganisms that are resistance to the current methods of subduing them. Therefore, it is important for agriculture to be revolutionized into better production methods and not just focused on returns but also on the environment. For instance, large scale farmers can adopt new methods of fertilizing their vast lands such as using organic fertilizers in order to reduce pollution. In addition, policies should be formulated and enforced in counties and states that regulate the deforestation rates to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases and reduce soil degradation and erosion. 


Earth talk.Agribusiness and the environment. (2011). Retrieved on June 6 2016 from http://www.politicalaffairs.net/agribusiness-and-the-environment/

Horrigan, L., Lawrence, R. S., and Walker, P. (2002). What’s wrong with industrial agriculture? Environmental Health Perspective : volume 110

Labeling ecologically approved fabrics. (2016). Problems associated with conventional farming. Retrieved on June 6 2016 from http://leafcertified.org/the-apparel-industry/faqs/problems-associated-with-conventional-farming

Megibo, J. L. T., (2012). The seven challenges of Agribusiness- the journey of the next 10 years. EmbrapaLabex Korea.

Union of Concerned Scientists. Hidden costs of industrial agriculture (2015). Retrieved on June 6 2016 from http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/hidden-costs-of-industrial.html#.V1Xh2GgrLIV

Union of Concerned Scientists. Industrial Agriculture: the outdated, unsustainable system that dominates U.S. food production. Retrieved on June 6 2016 from http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture#.V1Xh3mgrLIV

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