Gift of Agriculture Category Explained:

Our civilization is based on agriculture because it created villages amid fields of sustenance.

I have chosen articles for this section from writers who agree with me, such as:

”We have allowed transnational corporations to run a food system that eliminates livelihoods, destroys communities, poisons the earth, undermines biodiversity, and doesn’t even feed the people. All in the name of efficiency.”

Michael Specter,  “The Extremist”
The New Yorker
April 14, 2003

Pages 63-4

There aren’t many places today where cows roam free and chickens lay eggs on a haystack. Less than two per cent of the American population is involved in producing food. American agricultural technology has managed to transform farms into factories, and animals are, as Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice-president of the Humane society of the United States, put it in an op-ed piece that appeared recently in the Los Angeles Times, really nothing more than incredibly efficient “meat-, milk- and egg-producing machines.” The only encounters many of us have with animals are when they appear on our plate. Most of these animals never see a day of natural light or spend even an hour free with other members of their species.

"Efficient hunting".
The New York Times
Sunday, March 11, 2007

…An entrepreneur from Texas, John Lockwood, set up a Web site that allowed subscribing hunters with a high-speed computer connection to shoot antelope, wild pigs and other game on his 220-acre San Antonio spread via remote control — from anywhere. Lockwood offered to send the animals’ heads to subscribers. During a demonstration, a friend of Lockwood’s used a computer 45 miles away to shoot a wild hog as it fed at Lockwood’s ranch….

Bodley John. H.  Anthropology And Contemporary Human Problems
California: 1983
ISBN 0874846714

Page 49

Ecosystems modified by industrial civilization become much simpler, less efficient, and more unstable than those affected by tribal cultures. Such differences sometimes result directly from contrasting subsistence systems. For example, the ecological advantages of traditional, root crop shifting cultivation over intensive monocrop systems in tropical areas have frequently been noted (Geertz 1963; Rappaport 1971). In their crop diversity and organization, swidden plots structurally resemble the rain forest ecosystem, and thereby utilize solar energy with great efficiency and minimize the hazards of pests and disease.

Andrew Kimbrell,  Fatal Harvest
Foundation for Deep Ecology
ISBN 1559639415

Page 2

It is generally agreed that an efficient farming system would be immensely beneficial for society and our environment. It would use the fewest resources for the maximum sustainable food productivity. Heavily influenced by the “bigger is better” myth, we have converted to industrial agriculture in the hopes of creating a more efficient system. We have allowed transnational corporations to run a food system that eliminates livelihoods, destroys communities, poisons the earth, undermines biodiversity, and doesn’t even feed the people. All in the name of efficiency.

Andrew Kimbrell,  Cold Evil
E.F. Schumacher Society lecture
Great Barrington, MA 2002

Page 24

Pig number 6707 was meant to be “super”—super fastgrowing, super big, super meat quality. He was supposed to be a technological breakthrough in animal husbandry. Researcher Dr. Vern Pursel and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture had used our taxpayer money to design this pig to be like no other, and to a certain extent they succeeded. No 6707 was unique, both in his general physiology and in the very core of each and every cell.

Joseph A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies
New York
Cambridge University Press
ISBN 052138673

Page 25

Fred Bateman (1969) has investigated changes in labor efficiency in the American dairy industry between 1850 and 1910. There was no major technological breakthrough in this interval, but other changes took place. One major shift was the widespread extension of dairying into the winter months. Another was improvements in feeding. Still a third was the addition of stricter sanitation requirements. All of these added to the labor requirements of dairying, although yields did not increase proportionately. The figures in Table 1 show that between 1850 and 1910 dairy output per unit of labor declined by 17.5 percent.

Page 98

New York Times
January 5, 2004

Holstein Dairy Cows and the Inefficient Efficiencies of Modern Farming By VERLYN KLINKENBORG

Sixteen years ago, I met a Holstein cow named Juniper-Mist Bell Paula. She lived in splendid solitude in a stone-walled paddock on a venerable Massachusetts farm. Bell Paula was, in fact, more chicken than cow. Her job was to produce eggs, not milk. Several times a year, she was given hormones that caused her to super-ovulate — to release many eggs instead of one. These were flushed from her, fertilized and implanted in receptor cows as near as the next stone paddock or as far away as China and Japan. The reason was Bell Paula’s milking record. At the time, an average Holstein in America — the ubiquitous black-and-white dairy cow —gave some 16,000 pounds of milk a year. Bell Paula could give 31,000 pounds a year when she was still being milked.

Bodley, John H.  Victims of Progress
Mountain View: 1990
ISBN 0874849454

Page 7

The most powerful cultures have always assumed a natural right to exploit the world’s resources wherever they find them, regardless of the prior claims of indigenous populations. Arguing for efficiency and survival of the fittest, early colonialists elevated this “right” to the level of an ethical and legal principle that could be invoked to justify the elimination of nay cultures that were not making “effective” use of their resources.

Page 8
Members of the expanding culture rationalized as “natural” evolutionary processes that eliminated groups considered to be either culturally or racially inferior. They thought this “selection” process was so natural and “inevitable” that nothing could prevent it....

Winner, Langdon.  The Whale and the Reactor : A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology
University of Chicago Press
ISBN 0226902110.

Page 26

The mechanical tomato harvester, a remarkable device perfected by researchers at the University of California from the late 1940s to the present offers an illustrative tale. The machine is able to harvest tomatoes in a single pass through a row, cutting the plants from the ground, shaking the fruit loose, and (in the newest models) sorting the tomatoes electronically into large plastic gondolas that hold up to twenty-five tons of produce headed for canning factories. To accommodate the rough motion of these harvesters in the field, agricultural researchers have bred new varieties of tomatoes that are hardier, sturdier, and less tasty than those previously grown.

Hightower, Jim.  Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times
Cambridge, MA
Schenkman 1978
ISBN 0846705168

Page 2

The basis of land grant teaching, research, and extension work has been that “efficiency” is the greatest need in agriculture. Consequently, this agricultural complex has devoted the overwhelming share of its resources to mechanize all aspects of agricultural production and make it a capital-intensive industry; to increase crop yield per acre through genetic manipulation and chemical application; and to encourage “economies of scale” and vertical integration of the food process. It generally has aimed at transforming agriculture form a way of life generally has aimed at transforming agriculture from a way of lie to a business and a science, transferring effective control from the farmer to the business executive and the systems analyst.

Nye, David E. Consuming Power
United States: 1998
ISBN 0262140632

Pages 120 and 191

Efficient harvesting, better food preservation, and more efficient marketing did not improve farmers’ incomes, however. The last 20 years of the nineteenth century was a period of agricultural depression. Commodity prices fell as a result of overproduction. Many farmers were unable to meet mortgage payments and had to leave the land or become renters. Farmers blamed railroads, middlemen, banks, and Wall Street for their plight, and through political organizations (notably the Populist Party) they called for nationalization of railroads, lower freight rates, better terms for their loans, funding for irrigation research, and more democratic control over corporations. But the underlying problem of the 1890s was the success of farm production coupled with the development of the food-preservation industry....


In each instance, labor productivity has risen more than tenfold. This rise had steadily reduced prices. A bushel of wheat averaged $1.05 during the 1870s. An equivalent price in the 1980s would have been about $12 per bushel, about three times the actual price. Enchantment of crops will continue. Genetic engineering offers many of the same opportunities as cross-fertilization and cross-breeding, but with much greater speed and flexibility.

Page 92
Food production, once the dominant activity of society, has been permanently relegated to the margin. The trends that produced this transformation are readily identified.

Bodley John. H.  Anthropology And Contemporary Human Problems
ISBN 0874846714

Page 118

The food systems of industrial nations represent an enormous advance in the evolutionary progress and a proportionate loss in long-run adaptive success. The primary distinguishing feature of these systems is their fossil fuel energy subsidy, which permits very high crop yields for very low inputs of human energy. Other critical aspects are the extreme complexity of the production-consumption chain, and the tendency to increase the per capita energy and resource cost of food consumption through expanded dependence on synthetic and highly processed foods and inefficiently produced animal protein.

These systems are not only far more costly in terms of per capita demands for energy and resources, but they are unquestionably more frail than tribal systems, they demand much more intensive ecosystem management, and they have greater potential for environmental deterioration.

Worster, Donald.  Human Ecology. The Wealth of Nature
New York
Oxford University Press, Inc.
ISBN 0195076249

Page 89

In an earlier America of extensive rural poverty and poor living conditions more could be said for the vigorous pursuit of wealth in the marketplace, just as more may be said for it today in Bangladesh or Haiti. But when that pursuit persists beyond the point of material sufficiency, when it becomes a dream of unlimited economic gain, troubles follow. That is what has happened to American farmers and indeed to this country in general. Farmers must run their machines nonstop to keep up with the self-aggrandizing industrialist. The faster farmers go, the more crops they harvest, the more secure their position in the marketplace may be, the more they can buy—so they hope. But what they win in that way lasts only for a brief while. A continual uncertainty is their fate in this society.

Sikorski, Wade.  Modernity and Technology: Harnessing the Earth to the Slavery of Man
University of Alabama Press

Page 67

Both the farmer and the consumer are revealed as the Reserved by the food industry—the consumer because her consumption is a thing to be manipulated and controlled by advertising technology, the farmer because her craft is measured by its usefulness to the food industry. “Inefficient” farmers go broke and become surplus farmers. The ugly truth of the farmer as Reserved by the food industry is best revealed by President Reagan’s joke that we should keep the wheat and export the farmers.

Marshall Sahlins,  Stone Age Economics
Illinois, 1972
ISBN 0202010988

Page 21

The Bushman figures imply that one man’s labor in hunting and gathering will support four or five people. Taken at face value, Bushman food collecting is more efficient than French farming in the period up to World War II, when more than 20 percent of the population were engaged in feeding the rest.

Confessedly, the comparison is misleading, but not as misleading as it is astonishing. In the total population of free-ranging Bushmen contacted by Lee, 61.3 percent (152 of 248) were effective food producers; the remainder were too young or too old to contribute importantly. In the particular camp under scrutiny, 65 percent were “effectives.” Thus the ratio of food producers to the general population is actually 3:5 or 2:3. But, these 65 percent of the people “worked 36 percent of the time, and 35 percent of the people did not work at all”! (Lee, 1969, p. 67).

Martinez Alier, Juan., and Klaus Schlupmann.  Environmental Policy
ISBN 0631171460

Page 3

The productivity of agriculture has not increased, but decreased, from the point of view of energy analysis. This does not mean that a new criterion of economic efficiency, such as energy return to energy input, should be introduced, which would be substituted for the usual criterion of economic efficiency. It is a fact, for instance, that different agricultural products have use values which are not always related to their energy content, and even less to their energy cost, but rather to their protein or vitamin content, or simply to the pleasure to be gained by eating or drinking them. Nevertheless, such studies of the flow of energy in agriculture show that it is not appropriate to analyse economic growth in terms of an increased productivity of agriculture (said to be based upon technical progress or upon the development of productive forces) which, because of the relatively low income-elasticity of demand for agricultural produce, frees labour to other sectors of the economy.

Lehman, Hugh.  Rationality and Ethics in Agriculture
Idaho: 1995
ISBN 0893011797

Page 150

Definition 2 also stipulates that a sustainable production system must be efficient. Efficiency is a matter of degree. A system can be more or less efficient. Further, to speak of efficiency is virtually meaningless unless we are told the respects in which the system should be efficient. Should the system be efficient in the use of land or other natural resources? Should the system be efficient in the use of human labor? Should the system be efficient in the use of energy? Perhaps, the stipulation that the production system be efficient reflects the assumption that resources essential for production are in limited supply. Eventually they will be used up, and at that point in time production would have to be discontinued.

Busch, Lawrence.  Science, Agriculture, and the Politics of Research
Colorado: 1983
ISBN 0865312257

Pages 229 and 246

The agricultural sciences developed as part of the expansion of colonial empires and the shift from subsistence to capitalist farming. This origin had the effect of institutionalizing the goal of increased productivity as a central theme in agricultural research. Over the years, increased productivity came to be seen as an end, rather than as a means. Even today, productivity often remains an unchallenged and paramount goal for agricultural research....