Food production is interconnected with the environment and health. Over the last 150 years, industrialization has slowly transformed American agriculture from small-scale local farms to massive specialized enterprises reliant on fossil fuel energy, pesticides and fertilizers.
The health and sustainability of our agro-eco food system is indeed a human health issue. Industrialization and monocrop farming with its reliance on non-renewable or hard-to-renew resources have brought a myriad of problems: fresh water consumption for crops, groundwater contamination from animal waste and fertilizer runoff, soil nutrient depletion, fossil fuel consumption, increased carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions, and increased use of antibiotics in animal feed.
The last 80 years of agricultural policies have supported and encouraged the industrialization of agriculture and expanded food production capacity. Yet, looking at the food system as an entire system, it fails to provide well for either farmers or consumers. The existing food system offers too much cheap food to consumers who opt for foods high in calories, fats, sweeteners and carbohydrates over more expensive fresh produce. Current production policies and market distortions need to be corrected. Future policies should integrate health and sustainability concerns.