1. I suspect that reduces its usefulness as fertilizer. Great for CAFOs, not so good for sustainable agriculture.

    Interesting that the cause of this phosphorus pollution seems to be man-made phosphorus fertilizer, which not only introduces indigestible phosphorus compounds but also makes manure a waste product. Using manure as fertilizer would better manage the problem at both the input and output sides of the equation. But no, we have to engineer pigs to do the management for us.

    Ultimately, of course, the solution lies in balancing our diet better. We eat far too much meat (and not enough vegetables) to be good for either us or the planet. But hey, supersize me– it’s genetically modified!

    • But then how to you feed everyone? Large scale farms do have economies of scale that allow them to pump out more food per acre. Didn’t say it was great food, just more.

      • I’m not sure I buy that. Supposedly “beyond organic” farms like Joel Salatin’s in Virginia – he uses a technique called management intensive grazing to raise various animals, in case you haven’t read Omnivore’s Dilemma – actually produces more food per acre than most factory farms. Not to mention, our meat consumption as a nation should really be cut down, anyway. It’s an extremely inefficient way to produce food, and if the grain that was fed to animals was fed to humans (not that it should be, given the way it’s produced), then we’d have a hell of a lot less hungry people in the world.

        • Wow, more (and better) food than factory farms is excellent. More vegetarians means less poo at the farms too, even if it can, with some food, be turned into compost or electricity via methane.

      • If you’ve watched the video (available on YouTube) “The Story of Stuff,” you’re familiar with the concept of linear production vs. cyclical production– essentially resource-intensive vs. sustainable. The same can be said of food production: factory farms use a linear system that’s based on fossil fuels and mining as sources of fertilizer. That makes manure a waste product, not an essential recyclable component.

        Your question is a valid one: “How do you feed everyone?” And, like the CO2 conundrum, it has two components: (1) We rich folks eat too much. And (2), the population is growing too fast to be sustained by the planet’s resources for any length of time.

        As to the first, if you haven’t yet, read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” In it, she talks about the conscious decision by factory food producers not to market their increased production to the poor, who don’t have any money, but to the rich instead– even though we don’t need all those extra calories. So yes, the linear approach *does* produce more food– at least until soil damage and peak oil make such farming impossible. (Not to mention the costs to the rest of us in contaminated ground water and GMO infiltration.) But that doesn’t necessarily mean more people are getting fed.

        The vast majority of corn and soy grown on factory farms in the U.S. is not made into nutritional food products, or even used as animal feed (though the waste products are). It is turned into high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soy oil, which appear in almost every prepared food we eat. They add nothing but calories– and perceived value, allowing food processors to separate us from more of our monthly budget.

        In the linear system, such a pig makes sense. It cuts costs and regulatory problems. But it also perpetuates reliance on fossil fuels and mining as sources of fertilizer. Like so much in the corporate world, it’s about money, not future consequences.

        The alternative? Local sustainable farming. Right now it’s not always economically competitive, though it’s coming back in a lot of places due to increased demand. But notice that the largest producers of our two largest food crops– the ones filling us with HFCS and hydrogenated oil– are also the most highly subsidized through government farm subsidies. They have a competitive advantage that comes from taxpayer pockets.

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