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Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture [Hardcover]

Andrew Kimbrell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 67.50
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press (31 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559639407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559639408
  • Product Dimensions: 39.5 x 32.4 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,119,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Synopsis

Fatal Harvest takes an unprecedented look at our current ecologically destructive agricultural system and offers a compelling vision for an organic and environmentally safer way of producing the food we eat. It includes more than 250 profound and startling photographs and gathers together more than 40 essays by leading ecological thinkers including Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, David Ehrenfeld, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, and Gary Nabhan. Its scope and photo-driven approach provide a unique and invaluable antidote to the efforts by agribusiness to obscure and disconnect us from the truth about industrialized foods. The book's many photographs and essays offer graphic testimony to the tragic consequences of how our food is produced. Readers will come to see that industrial food production is indeed a "fatal harvest" - fatal to consumers, as pesticide residues and new disease vectors such as E. coli and "mad cow disease" find their way into our food supply; fatal to our landscapes, as chemical runoff from factory farms polson our rivers and groundwater; fatal to genetic diversity, as farmers rely increasingly on high-yield monocultures and genetically engineered crops; and fatal to our farm communities, which are wiped out by huge corporate farms.

As it exposes the ecological and social impacts of industrial agriculture's fatal harvest, the book also details a new ecological and humane vision for agriculture. It shows how millions of people are engaged in the new politics of food as they work to develop a better alternative to the current chemically fed and biotechnology-driven system. Designed to aid the movement to reform industrial agriculture, Fatal Harvest will inform and influence the activists, farmers, policymakers, and consumers who are seeking a safer and more sustainable food future. The Fatal Harvest Reader brings together in an affordable paperback edition the essays included in Fatal Harvest, offering a concise overview of the failings of industrial agriculture and approaches to creating a more healthful and sustainable food system.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb from all points of view 24 Oct 2003
Format:Paperback
When I received this book recently as a gift I was completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the considerateness of the donor. Overwhelmed by the high quality of the production. Overwhelmed by the large number of "big names" who had contributed. Overwhelmed by the quality and meaningfulness of the photographs. Overwhelmed by the quality of the message that it gets across. Overwhelmed by the ammunition it gives me in my own personal drive for safer, more reliable food. Overwhelmed by how helpful it will be to the waverers who have not yet plucked up the courage to break their links with the chemical establishment.
Let me start with the photos which are not only high quality but extremely helpful because side by side we are given a picture of crops grown under two systems which represent the two poles of producing our food. The text on the left page goes like this: "Industrial Eye: see what you are looking at: MELONS: More than half the melons sold in the U.S. are grown in California where industrial melon farms stretch for miles and miles … Two of the most heavily used toxins in industrial melon production are … Life is also difficult for the melon pickers …" On the right page we have: "Agrarian Eye: See what you are looking at: MELONS: These melons are one crop among dozens at the Live Earth's 23-acre farm near Santa Cruz, CA. The melons are part of a diverse system of annual and perennial fruit and vegetable crops that rely on soil health to support the plant's natural ability to deter pests.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Agribusiness v nature 2 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful tome. The downside is that it is so large that it is physically heavy and is best read on a table surface but that is a minor negative. Fatal Harvest provides very clear comparisons between the aggressive farming methods of industrial agriculture with the inherently gentle approach to organic type methods of food growing. It will make you think when you see farm workers covered in chemical suits and gas masks - an essential requirement to protect them from chemicals they are spraying onto growing food crops over vast precision-sowed-and-managed acreages, bereft of wildlife. On opposite pages you will see methods being used on small farms showing diversity with flowering hedges, birds, insects, pretty wild flowers and lines of not so straight vegetable growing. This is a really good, very well illustrated, non-sentimental practical observation on how the western world produces its food via both (so-called) conventional and, at the other end of the spectrum, natural organic methods. The layout allows for continuous comparison by utilising photography showing alternative methods side-by side. More of a reference book that a good read but nevertheless, despite its rather high cost well worth a read, particularly if you are interested in how food is produced. It does have a slightly American slant but the principles described are universal.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning indictment of large scale industrial farming 25 Sep 2002
By "msl32" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A coffee table book about the dangerous practices of industrial agriculture might not be the most appetizing addition to your coffee break, especially if you are dining on food composed of conventionally grown ingredients. But this book does such a compelling job of cataloging the failures and hazards of traditional American agriculture - as well as the solutions - that you won't be able to put it down, despite the hard-to-swallow truths about our unsustainable food system.
Fatal Harvest features impressive design, stunning photography and intriguing side-by-side comparisons of industrial versus agrarian based agriculture systems. Thoughtful essays by leading agricultural thinkers complement the commanding images. If you need one book to show you how our current food system is not only unsustainable but also hazardous to you, your family, the environment and wildlife, this is it. It should be required reading in agriculture schools, Cooperative Extension agencies, the halls of Congress and anywhere else that the seeds of future farming policy are sown, for if we don't work to change this system, we will face many more farm crises in the future.
For years we have been told that American farmers must grow bigger, use more chemicals and genetically engineered organisms to `feed the world.' The current rate of soil loss, chemical damage and crop failures expose how this corporate model of farming will soon exhaust the land and water supply, poisoning the very earth that is supposed to sustain us. We will no longer be able to feed the world, and perhaps ourselves, unless farming policies and practices change. This book not only offers stark evidence of agriculture's dirty little secrets, but real world solutions to the problems industrial agriculture create.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Congratulations to those who prepared this volume 29 Feb 2004
By DAVID-LEONARD WILLIS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When I received this book recently as a gift I was completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the considerateness of the donor. Overwhelmed by the high quality of the production. Overwhelmed by the large number of "big names" who had contributed. Overwhelmed by the quality and meaningfulness of the photographs. Overwhelmed by the quality of the message that it gets across. Overwhelmed by the ammunition it gives me in my own personal drive for safer, more reliable food. Overwhelmed by how helpful it will be to the waverers who have not yet plucked up the courage to break their links with the chemical establishment.
Let me start with the photos which are not only high quality but extremely helpful because side by side we are given a picture of crops grown under two systems which represent the two poles of producing our food. The text on the left page goes like this: "Industrial Eye: see what you are looking at: MELONS: More than half the melons sold in the U.S. are grown in California where industrial melon farms stretch for miles and miles ... Two of the most heavily used toxins in industrial melon production are ... Life is also difficult for the melon pickers ..." On the right page we have: "Agrarian Eye: See what you are looking at: MELONS: These melons are one crop among dozens at the Live Earth's 23-acre farm near Santa Cruz, CA. The melons are part of a diverse system of annual and perennial fruit and vegetable crops that rely on soil health to support the plant's natural ability to deter pests. But it's not done so easily - there are many challenges ... Coastal fog also poses potential fungal problems for melons, which Broz addresses by using fungal-resistant varieties of melons ... The melons are sold at local farmers' markets and through the farm's community supported agriculture (CSA) program, where families receive a weekly box of seasonal fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season."
Next the text. "Part One: Farming as if Nature Mattered: Breaking the Industrial Paradigm" is composed of seven articles such as "Global Monoculture: The Worldwide Destruction of Diversity". Then "Part Two: Corporate Lies: Busting the Myths of Industrial Agriculture" is composed of articles each addressing one of the seven myths such as "Myth Two: Industrial Food is Safe, Healthy and Nutritious". The book continues through to "Part Seven: Organic and Beyond: Revisioning Agriculture for the 21st Century" with nine more articles such as "The Ethics of Eating: Why Environmentalism Starts at the Breakfast Table."
In these 370 pages we have all the information we need to convince those sitting on the fence that we must reduce our dependence on industrial agriculture. When confronted with this volume it is difficult to imagine how all those involved in the industrial agricultural chain will be able to put up an effective argument. On the contrary, it should be convincing to the thinking service organization that this is where their future profits lie and they should climb on the band wagon helping rather than hindering. For the farmer who is wavering - and probably for good reasons as his livelihood is affected - he will find in this volume the encouragement he needs; others have forged the trail and he can follow in the knowledge that the forerunners have solved the major problems.
Bravo to all those concerned with the preparation of this volume. You have done mankind a great service. It is a long tunnel down which we are travelling, but I for one can now see the light in the distance. Because of your initiative the rest of us will travel our own path with more confidence and with greater speed. At last we can hope for some sanity in our food production. If we can get this volume into the hands of enough people - people who care - then we really can change the world. If Silent Spring was the book that woke the world to the evils of indiscriminate chemical use, then this volume will go down as the one that banged home the last nail in the coffin of industrial agriculture.
72 of 87 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The agrarian position 17 Jan 2003
By Dennis Littrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The central message of this rather large book (put some legs on it and it could serve as a coffee table itself) is that industrial agriculture is unnatural, inhumane, dangerous; that big farms and big chemical multinationals are destroying the land and causing massive hardship for not only the ecology of the planet but for humans as well.
One of the arguments is that industrial agriculture actually leads to hunger and starvation for millions because it forces people off the land, land that is then used to produce foods or other products that are exported to the developed nations. The poor farmer cannot compete with the industrial farms and so has to go out of business. In the underdeveloped countries, land that once supported a variety of food plants that fed the local people has been turned into land that supports only a single crop destined for export, the profits going to middle men and the large land owners.
Clearly then, this is a polemic against industrial agriculture and in favor of a return to an agrarian life style. It is a tract against the use of pesticides and herbicides and in favor of organic farming. It is against monoculture farming and in favor of biodiversity and crop rotation. It is against genetic modified foods and Round Up ready seeds and in favor of the slightly blemished but flavorful produce from fields tended by hand and hoe. It is beautifully illustrated with breath-taking photos of farms, farmers, farm equipment and especially fields of verdant crops.
I am in substantial sympathy with the message of this book, but I do not appreciate facile or phony arguments in support of even the most agreeable message. I think unsubstantiated claims and superficial understandings do not help a worthy cause. Unfortunately there are a few of those in these pages.
On page 62, for example, the text suggests that "if biotech corporations really wanted to feed the hungry, they would...push for wealth redistribution, which would allow the poor to buy food." Obviously corporations don't work that way, and agrarian reform is not going to be helped by reviving delusive Marxist economics. On page 71 it is written, "...75 types of vegetables, or approximately 97 percent of the varieties available in 1900, [in the US] are now extinct." I am not sure what was left out here or misstated, but obviously more than about 2.34 vegetables (the 3% still extant) are still available. Worse yet is this from page 102: "In 1996...the fungal disease known as Karnal Bunt swept through the U.S. wheat belt, ruining over half of that year's crop and forcing the quarantine of more than 290,000 acres." However on page 100 it is reported that wheat fields take up "a total of 60-70 million acres" of land in the continental US. So how can a infestation that resulted in a quarantine of 290,000 acres (less than one-half of one percent of the total acreage devoted to wheat) ruin "over half of that year's crop"? Such slips tend to cast doubt on the credibility of the other figures in the book.
However, the central shortcoming of this otherwise laudable effort is the disinclination of the editor and the contributors to point to overpopulation as the root cause of hunger and starvation. Such a studied avoidance is disingenuous to say the least. The periodic starvations due to droughts that plague such places as Africa are due to too many people living on land that cannot reliably support them. In times of feast, the populations shoot up only to crash when the weather changes, as it must, as it has for millions of years. Furthermore to suggest (as the text on pages 50 and 51 does) that agriculture can keep pace with human population growth is mistaken. Fortunately, the essay, "The Impossible Race: Population Growth and the Fallacies of Agricultural Hope," by Hugh H. Iltis, which begins on page 35, presents a more realistic view.
Nonetheless, I applaud this effort by director Douglas Tompkins and those who contributed to the project. I was particularly taken with the photography and art design by Daniella Goff-Sklan who carefully avoids any "scare" photography. We are spared the sight of the bloated bellies of the starving poor. There are no photos of the horrendous conditions inside the poultry and meat packing industries. Clearly, the editors didn't want this book to be purely a propaganda piece. They wanted to get their message across without controversy; they wanted to be effective.
I am also in substantial sympathy with the agrarian movement itself. However whether it is possible or even desirable to return to an agrarian existence is in great doubt. Perhaps one might wax even more romantic and suggest a return to a hunting and gathering existence. Such nostalgic fantasies are just that, fantasies, like the notion of the noble savage or of an unspoiled garden of Eden. Humans have and will continue to alter the landscape. What I hope is that we find a balance between human needs and the needs of the planet's ecosystems before it is too late. Yes, a return to an agrarian culture (especially without the feudalism and warlord economies that existed concomitantly) would be a step away from the abyss that we are now approaching. But that isn't going to happen anytime soon. The surest way to save the planet from ourselves is to reduce our numbers. Until that message gets across, the planet will continue to be decimated by our insatiable desire to exploit and control. My vision of the future includes a large number of small farming communities with single family farms aplenty. But it also includes great tracts of forest and savannah, desert and tundra, unspoiled by human habitation. From my point of view the planet already contains too many humans. And that is why my vision and the agrarian vision so beloved by contributor Wendell Berry cannot yet become a reality.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every person in America should read this book. 8 Jan 2006
By Jan White - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Like other reviewers, I was unable to put this book down once I opened it. Although I understood in sort of a theoretical way that corporate agriculture was not a good thing, the pictures in this book connected all the dots for me. There is something about the photography that is simply transfixing - which seems odd given that the photos are of agriculture - but true nevertheless.

After reading this book I could not bring myself to buy any more non-organic produce, so be forewarned - this is not a "coffee table book" in any ordinary sense. It should come with a warning label.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy one for yourself and one to share... 25 Aug 2005
By Wabi Sabi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After reading this book, your views about agriculture will be forever altered. Presented in a high quality, high impact format, the photography offers the reader the chance to see the stark contrast between the products generated by 'power farmers' and that of the 'small farmer' - the true agrarian. Upon opening the book for the very first time, you will be completely engaged; you will be unable to put the book down until you have rummaged through all of the pages. The images will be etched on your brain with a subtle permanence and the accompanying text is just as powerful.
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