Unfortunately, your mouthwatering cheeseburger and perfectly salted fries may be part of a larger and much less palatable negative effect on the environment. Here's how the industrial food production process hurts Mother Earth:
- Water pollution: When agricultural chemicals, hormones, pesticides and fertilizers absorb into the water table, fish die and the drinking water becomes unclean, among other problems.
- Dead zones: Water runoff also contains tons of nutrients from fertilizers. This runoff feeds gigantic algae blooms in waterways like the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound. These blooms spread for miles and choke off all existing life in the water beneath by interfering with oxygen levels.
- Air pollution: When livestock animals are confined, as they are with industrial meat production, noxious gases like sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and ammonia are released into the air.
- Energy suck: Scientists estimate that about 40 percent of the energy used in our industrial food system goes toward the production of (polluting) fertilizers and pesticides [source: Sustainable Table]
Not every tasty morsel you put in your mouth is part of an evil plot to destroy the world, however. Which foods are safe?