Intensive farming, also called intensive agriculture, is the over production of agriculture in proportion to the land size its developed upon. It "uses a large investment of capital and some combination of fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, heavy machinery, irrigation and other modern farming techniques to maximize output from a plot of land." (Silverman 2003)
Super bugs and contamination of ground water. Both are direct results of pesticides. Algal blooms (Also called algae blooms) and Nitrogen runoff are a result of over fertilizing. For the sake of understanding the relationship between three of the four, they're grouped here under the practice of intensive farming. For other subsets of intensive farming also see Plantation effect, concentrated farming, Super bugs, and agroterrorism.
The moral of this story - avoid Yaqui Valley.
Dictionary.com defines pesticide as: "a chemical preparation for destroying plant, fungal, or animal pests." Fertilizer is supposed to be the opposite, right? Maybe in small amounts, perhaps. But since it's no longer the honey bees pollinating for us, (see Colony Collapse Disorder and Nosema apis), farmers are using fertilizers in mad crazed amounts. Since fertilizers are chemicals too, they have the same affect as pesticides often, killing life.
Would you like to drink pesticides? Oh wait, you do. "Pesticide contamination of ground water is a subject of national importance because ground water is used for drinking water by about 50 percent of the Nation's population." Unless you're the other 50 percent, that is. "Before the mid-1970s, it was thought that soil acted as a protective filter that stopped pesticides from reaching ground water. Studies have now shown that this is not the case. Pesticides can reach water-bearing aquifers below ground from applications onto crop fields, seepage of contaminated surface water, accidental spills and leaks, improper disposal, and even through injection waste material into wells." (USFG) Pesticides are strong chemicals. Their purpose is to kill bugs! They do in fact harm human life.
What happens when children grow up drinking pesticides? They become mutants! Not really, but they're pretty messed up. Here's why. "A Mexican researcher found extremely high levels of pesticides in samples from children in the Yaqui Valley." Not surprising, considering its an agricultural valley. "She compared children from the farming communities of the Yaqui Valley, where a wide mix of pesticides is applied 30 to 40 times a season, with those from a village in the Sierra Madre foothills, where far fewer pesticides are applied." I'd love to go back to the "organic" days. "The research team found the Valley children had poor hand and eye coordination. The four and five-year-old children were below the standard level of three-year-olds at such simple tasks as catching a ball." But here's the kicker. They aren't human any more, perceptually. "She asked the children to draw a person, a standard way to measure a child's perceptual and motor abilities development. The four-year-olds from the foothills could draw a complete person. But of the Valley children, most four-year-olds just scribbled, and the five-year-olds only drew a head and a line or a circle and a line." (Greenpeace)
Nitrogen runoff, from the valley into the gulf.
Nitrogen (in saltwater) and phosphorus (in freshwater) are the nutrients that contribute most to algal blooms and nitrogen runoff. Farmers are trying to compete, growing as many crops as possible, as big as they can, and as fast as they can. America production of agricultural goods has never been higher, as a result. But there's always a catch for messing with nature. "Each November and April, with clockwork precision, small algae start to multiply by the billion, forming gargantuan algae blooms in the pristine waters of the Gulf of California. It’s not because of an internal clock or lunar cycle. It is triggered by farmers’ excessive use of fertilizers in the neighbouring Yaqui Valley." Hmm... where have we heard the name of that valley before?... "Each time farmers irrigate their wheat fields at the beginning and end of a crop cycle, they wash thousands of tonnes of nitrogen fertilizer into the Gulf of California, a body of water so rich in biodiversity that celebrated ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau once called it the 'aquarium of the world.'" (Greenpeace)
Stuck in the muck
Large amounts of nitrogen causes algal blooms, which sounds like a good thing, right? No. They spoil water quality in these large numbers, cause odors and create scums. They make drinking water not only smell and taste bad, but contaminate it with cyanobactera, one of the most powerful natural toxican nature creates. It isn't just your recreational areas that are getting effected when your boats propellers get stuck in the muck. The dense blooms block out sunlight, killing other plants and animals in sunless graves. As soon as the bloom is over, the algae decomposes using up all the oxygen, further killing fish.
"PHOENIX, Ariz. — Through early June, bass and other fish continued to die on Salt River reservoirs, as resource managers and health officials scrambled to confirm the cause and find a way to stop the kills. A toxic blue-green algae - Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii - is the prime suspect for the kills, which started in March on Apache. In late April, Canyon suffered a die-off, with a third occurring on Saguaro in early May. A second kill hit Apache in mid- May and a second struck Saguaro in June." (Montgomery 2004)
"Every day, some 32 billion gallons of agricultural, urban, and industrial runoff (including oil, pesticides, and manure) pollutes America's marine environment. The pollution is suffocating our coastal bays and estuaries, poisoning marine mammals, and feeding outbreaks of stinging jellies and harmful algal blooms that contribute to some 7,000 beach closures a year.
Most of this is attributable to so-called nitrogen-rich nonpoint-source pollution, pollution from agricultural and other sources that follows down our rivers and watersheds and into the sea.
Every spring, the Gulf of Mexico experiences a seasonal algae bloom that creates a huge dead zone, where there is so little dissolved oxygen in the water that no fish or bottom dwelling life can survive." (Helvarg 2001)
A direct link between pesticides and fertilizers
The sugar industry. One of the most sought out commodities in fat America. Or should I say obese? Okay, obese America. Lets go to Florida. "The federal government spends $2-billion dollars a year to subsidize an industry which causes massive environmental damage to a vast area of Florida and its coastal waters, destroying fisheries and now threatening real estate values and the tourist industry on the Gulf Coast." Dang it. You thought you could just avoid the west coast gulfs and be safe. Not the case. "Of course sugar can be grown more economically in nations that really need a sugar industry. But vast swaths of Florida north and south of Lake Okeechobee have been subjugated to this crop and the pesticides and fertilizers required to grow it. The consequences for other parts of the state are calamitous." (Jones 2007) There probably isn't a farmer out there that doesn't use fertilizer but uses pesticides, or vice versa.
Subsidies cause concentrated farming which causes intensive farming which causes agroterrorism.
USGS 2005 (Pesticides in ground water, http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/pesticidesgw.html)
Greenpeace No Date (Gulf of California - Excessive fertilizer use and algae blooms)
Montgomery 2004 (Robert Montgomery, Western fisheries battle a toxic algae)
Silverman 2008 (Should we be worried about the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico?, by Jacob Silverman)
Jones 2007 (The Blob has come to Florida, By Hardy Jones, August 9 and 10, 2007)
Helvarg 2001 (David Helvarg, Mississippi Delta Blues, Pollution is flushin marine life down the drain)