Corporate agriculture has numerous impacts on the environment, and while it is capable of producing food (of sorts) cheaply, it is literally costing the earth.
Almost all forms of corporate agriculture are monocultures that replace the thousands of species of a natural environment with just one or two species. A forest may be cut down to make room for a soy bean crop, for example, or by a field of grass nibbled at by a few cows. Diversity is lost, and with the loss of diversity comes susceptibility to diseases, pests, and weeds. A monoculture is easier for machines to harvest, but the cost to the environment, and to the people, is catastrophic.
Corporate agriculture produces food that is designed for lengthy storage, transportability, and maximum profits, but no one in the corporate agriculture world cares about taste or nutritional values. One example is the common supermarket tomato, a tasteless, tough-skinned tomato that stores indefinitely, travels well, but is not worth eating. Another example is the cauliflowers that flood our Australian markets each year. They look like cauliflowers, but they are tasteless, and since Chinese agriculture is poorly supervised, they could have a veritable concoction of chemicals, and highly questionable nutritional value.
The Wasteland of Trade in Food
In Australia we grow oranges that we sell in California, but we eat Californian oranges ourselves. Our cauliflowers, as noted above, come from China. Almost none of the food available in supermarkets is grown locally for that you must go to the local farmers' markets. The waste in fuel in transporting foodstuffs around the world is astronomical, and simply stupid. But in the endless search for maximum profits, this is what corporate agriculture seeks.
Corporate agriculture encourages monocultures, and monocultures are totally unnatural and unsustainable without outside inputs. Unnatural systems encourage pests, diseases and weeds, and also make catastrophic crop failures possible. The corporate solution is chemicals: herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and so on. The list is endless. Toxic chemicals poison the soil and the water, and they also leave residues on the surfaces (and inside) of the foodstuffs, and poison the consumers as well. Not only that, but these unnatural monocultures also need the input of endless fertilizers, which actually strip the soil of nutrients, and which end up in the waterways where they cause algal blooms.
Cruelty to Animals
Corporate agriculture regards animals as units of production, and could not care less about their welfare. The fact that animals such as cows, sheep and chickens are sentient beings that experience pain and suffering much as we do does not register with corporate agriculture, which sees these creatures only in dollar terms. This is not only bad for the animals, but also for the environment. Keeping chickens or cows in confined spaces, for example, means their waste products are also confined and accumulated, and this has negative impacts on the environment. Keeping animals in unnaturally cramped spaces also means an increase in stress and disease for the animals. The corporate agriculture response? Drugs and hormones.
There are many alternatives to corporate agriculture that do not cost the earth. Perhaps the best is permaculture, which advocates species diversity and growing food where the people are. Other alternatives are forest gardens and organic gardening. Any of these alternatives have a beneficial effect on the environment, and they enhance the world around them rather than destroying it.