Agribusiness Destroys Soil, So Mines for Food

Since good soil takes effort and money to maintain, Agribusiness hasn’t bothered. As a result, basics required for all life, including phosphorus, are now supplied by mining instead of soil. It’s resulted in inferior food, but the situation is even worse. Phosphorus reserves are running low, leaving us to face starvation.

by Heidi Stevenson

Until the advent of Agribusiness, the single most important factor in farming was soil quality. To that end, any farmer worth his keep made improving the soil one of the priority tasks. Crops were rotated. Soil was amended with compost made from organic wastes, like dead plants, urine and feces from all possible sources. Soil was protected from blowing away. It was treated like the precious resource that it is.

Now, though, Agribusiness treats soil as if it’s nothing more than an anchor for plant roots, almost like a nuisance. Poisoning it with their chemicals is of no concern. Leaching it of nutrients without replacement is not their problem. After all, they can get everything they need from mining operations. The requirements of plants are reduced—in the profits-oriented Agribiz mindset—to a few basic needs, which are usually defined as nitrogen – N on the periodic table, potassium – K on the periodic table, and phosphorus – P on the periodic table. Look at nearly any fertilizer label and that’s what you’ll see: the relative amounts of N, K, and P.

This approach can only come to a bad end—an end that’s now staring the industry in the face as its sources of phosphorus, once freely available from well-cared-for soil, now comes from mining operations. That’s right. Two of the primary constituents of all life on earth, phosphorus and potassium, are now brought to us through raping the earth. The problem is that reserves are playing out.

We’ll focus on phosphorus, because it’s the one that’s closer to disappearing. There’s only so much stored away in rocks, and modern food is becoming threatened. Plants cannot grow without phosphorus … and Agribusiness has tossed natural phosphorus away by refusing to recycle and allowing our birthright of soil to be tossed to the winds and swept away by water.

Obviously, the modern way is failing. We must return to old ways of food production. The myth of economies of scale, which we’re told can bring more and more better and better stuff, is coming to an end, an end that’s been denied, but must be faced. We cannot continue to rape the earth, to pull resources that had been given up slowly but are now torn from the earth’s body with no regard for the devastaton left behind. Look at the photo above. It’s a phosphorus mine, which exists primarily to support Agribusiness. It’s a monument to Agribusiness greed, a great scar in the earth that screams of insustainability.

Phosphorus is part of every cell in your body. Because of Agribusiness’s profligacy, we’re running out of an element that’s necessary for life. As proof of that profligacy, we need only take a look at the waste from factory farm operations. They create dead zones in rivers, and even oceans, because of the massive amount of phosphorus that is not used, but instead is washed off into waterways, causing massive algae blooms that rob the water of oxygen, leaving nothing for fish to breath.

Death brought to you by Agribusiness.

It’s almost humorous. As Agribusiness slowly starves us of micronutrients by delivering food divorced from the cycle of soil building, it’s also threatening to create permanent and rapid starvation as it sucks up the earth’s reserves of phosphorus.

Will we ever learn that there’s no shortcut in food production? The appearance of cheap food is nothing but smoke and mirrors, an image that completely ignores the long term effects of low cost food. We’re already paying for it in our health and environmental devastation. As reserves of phosphorus run out, with estimates running at peak phosphorus happening by 2050, at the latest, then one of the primary building blocks of all life will be unavailable to more and more people.

The simple fact is that we’re living on borrowed time. Until we realize that the piper must ultimately be paid, we’re behaving like the good citizens of Hamlin, who let their children be taken away because their greed wouldn’t allow them to pay the piper.


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