Fruit, vegetable or crop production may not be as innocent as it is portrayed to be

Columnist reflects on the pros and cons of fruit, vegetable and crop production

By Jonah Kondro

A couple of summers ago I was fishing on Pigeon Lake with some relatives. The day was coming to a close and we boated back to the launch. On the shore there was a young gal working or volunteering for Fish and Wildlife Alberta: she was performing a simple fishing survey. What was caught? How big? Those sort of questions.

I asked the young gal if her survey was commissioned because of the blooming blue-green algae on the lake during that period in the summer. Not directly she said. I then asked her what was the cause of the blue-green algae. Thankfully she didn’t give me a full-blown politician’s answer. She claimed that many factors contribute to the blooms of algae, but it was mostly caused by rain water runoff and taking fertilizer off the farm fields into bodies of water. It made sense to me.

If I remember correctly there were advisories warning against the consummation of fish caught in Pigeon Lake, but the warnings didn’t stop me from chowing down on some fresh cooked fish in the campsite. I didn’t die or get sick—knock on wood.

I like to eat meat, and I do my best to repress any thoughts I may have over the hormone content, the farming conditions, or the manner in which the animal was killed before processing. I certainly do not think about where the meat came from once the fish fillet, the chicken breast, the beef ribs, or the pork chops hit my barbeque rack; I’m more inclined to think about what sort of spices or sauces I need from the kitchen to season my meal.

Many people don’t like to eat animals that were slaughtered in an inhumane manner; some people don’t eat any animals at all; and some people won’t eat or consume products containing animal by-products. I don’t share these values or attitudes, but I understand why some people do.

There is one thing that the blue-green algae conversation led me to think about: fruit, vegetable, or crop production isn’t as innocent as the vegetarians would like me to believe. I’m not thinking about the Mom and Pop farms or the friendly roadside green houses. I’m talking about the massive industrial farms throughout North America that employ hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. The fruit, vegetable, or farm products harvested from those operations feed a lot of people.

Whether it is a herd of cows or an orchard of orange trees, both styles of farming will utilize massive amounts of resources. Orchards need to spray for pests and cattle farmers need to immunize livestock from illness. Both methods of farming require a lot of space to raise cattle or grow a crop. The fossil fuels burnt by transportation trucks aren’t conscious or conscientious: it’s all weight. And product storage may require a climate controlled environment so the oranges don’t rot or the steaks don’t spoil.

Simply adopting a different diet isn’t going to curb the substantial resource usage. Mass consumption is here to stay as it would seem. I don’t know if picking an orange off a tree branch is the same as putting a bolt into the head of a cow. Both methods end an organic form of life.