- All Best Essays, Term Papers and Book Report

Agribusiness Politics in America: Planting Seeds of Profit

Essay by   •  August 6, 2011  •  Case Study  •  2,692 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,745 Views

Essay Preview: Agribusiness Politics in America: Planting Seeds of Profit

Report this essay
Page 1 of 11

The Shaping of an Industry

For two months in 1904, writer Upton Sinclair wandered the Chicago stockyards carefully noting the dead rats being shoveled into sausage-grinding machines, the bribed inspectors looking the other way as diseased cows were being slaughtered for beef, and the filth and guts that were being swept off the floor and packaged as "potted ham." Less than two years later, he would author a book which would forever revolutionize inspection standards for the meat industry in the United States. Sinclair's muckraking book, entitled The Jungle, incited a shocked public's demand for reforms in the meat industry. By the end of that same year then President, Theodore Roosevelt, called upon Congress to pass a law establishing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, for the first time, set up federal inspection standards for meat. Remarking on his auspicious exposé, Sinclair claimed that, "It seemed to me that the walls of the mighty fortress of greed were at the point of cracking. It needed only one rush, and then another, and another."

Where's the Beef?

Some 100 years later, Upton Sinclair would certainly be alarmed at just how much mightier those walls of the fortress of greed have become. On the current state of the American beef industry, Howard Lyman, a retired cattle rancher turned president of a health and environmental advocacy organization exposed that the beef industry was feeding ground-up, diseased cattle to other cattle adding that "The current meat for sale to the U.S. consumer is more contaminated than their toilet" (Saaris 2004). Labeled an alarmist, Lyman has boldly joined the ranks of a growing number of muckrakers who believe that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been neglectful in protecting the health and safety of those who consume farm products (Knickerbocker 2004).

The USDA is the regulatory agency responsible for ensuring the safety of U.S. beef products, but Title VII of the U.S. Code also gives it responsibility for "conducting beef promotion, research, and consumer education programs that are invaluable to the efforts of promoting the consumption of beef and beef products" (Saaris). As the organization charged both with promoting beef consumption and with providing independent food safety oversight of the meat industry, there is great potential for conflict of interest (Saaris). In addition to fundamental contradiction regarding responsibilities in the the meat industry, there are strong forces that may potentially be pulling the USDA in the direction of promotion at the expense of effective meatpacking regulation. Many contend that the level of influence which money has on the American political system tends to reduce zeal for effective regulation; the meat lobby has tremendous influence in Congress, and very, very deep pockets. For this matter, USDA whistleblowers have often claimed that inspectors are largely impotent when it comes to effective regulation (Saaris).

Franken Foods

Although it would seem that a public which has had "mad cow syndrome" inflicted upon it would be understandably uneasy about trusting science and agribusiness on any other matter pertaining to food, Franken foods have ironically become somewhat congruous to the American palate. While environmentalists worry about the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMO's) in farmers' fields, the loudest protests are coming from those who fear GMO's on their dinner tables. They claim that while consumers can wash pesticides off their lettuce, what do they do when they're inside the plant (Acosta 2000)? And while the FDA has determined that, so far, none of the GMO products on the market represents a threat to human health, consumer advocates feel that not enough careful, long-term research has been done to deliver a convincing conclusion. Caution, they contend, makes more sense than blind faith and that at a minimum, all foods containing GMO's be labeled as such, so that the public can make an educated decision about what it eats (Acosta).

Keeping Pace

So, why the big fuss over veggies and meat? It is estimated that over the next 25 to 30 years the world population will increase by at least 2 billion. Astonishingly, about 95 percent of this growth is projected to occur in developing nations where nearly 800 million people are already undernourished. With global population growth soon promising to outpace food production, some argue that genetic engineering can help feed multitudes and expand crop productivity by as much as 25 percent and that the meat industry, now mechanized and consolidated, can more sufficiently and safely meet public demands. Keeping in step with this potentiality, American entrepreneurs have been leading the way in GMO research and marketing as well as in juggling public health concerns with big business interests in the beef industry. In this paper I will examine the use of GMO's and its implications within the American agricultural and political sectors. In addition to analyzing the overall impact of biotechnology, I will also examine America's flourishing beef industry and attempt to uncover how, if at all, business politics has played a role in augmenting public health standards.


In this paper I expect to find an industry which has outgrown the political sphere which was intended to regulates it and a political system which is incapable of adjusting to the over zealous business men which now run American agriculture. I also expect to find an industry whose rating as having the most sub par food standards of all developed countries, is attributable only to its overriding desire to turn a profit and to globalize its monopolistic business practices. I will invariable also find evidence that significant amounts of traceable money has been contributed to political candidates and parties as a means of maintaining industry dominance and ultimately political sovereignty.


Let Them Eat Steak!

Food security eludes an estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from chronic under consumption of adequate nutrients. But, even before the recent welfare cuts, food security for many Americans was eroding as cases of hunger have increased by 50% since 1985 (Allen). With a lack of access to food being closely linked to poverty, it has been found that between 1989 and 1993, a 26% increase occurred in the number of children living in families with incomes below 75% of the poverty line (Allen). However,



Download as:   txt (16.5 Kb)   pdf (176.8 Kb)   docx (16 Kb)  
Continue for 10 more pages »
Only available on