Colleen Slebzak

Anthropological Review

How Much is that Broccoli in the Window?

The United States Fresh Market Broccoli Industry
And the Negative Social and Environmental “Costs”

The revenue/profit from just the US Fresh Market Broccoli harvest in the US is $648,886,000 per year, and the costs “on paper” equal out to $3,343 per acre of broccoli with 121,700 acres in production totaling $406,843,100 per year. A difference of $341,954,000 (as a profit), but when you add in all of the hidden costs to the environment and society, this figure does not look so good. Plus, I’ve only touched on a few of the many costs of the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry (negative externalities for the environment and society directly related to the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry), in this report. I will only total a few costs, and one can see the dramatic reduction of the original estimated profit of US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry- If I were to total all of the costs, broccoli would not look as good to the American consumer.
I will start with only a few of the many costs the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry has on the environment.
First I will put a dollar amount on some of the fertilizers it takes to produce broccoli in the US (only a few of many used in the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry). Fertilizers diversely effect wildlife and tend to reduce biodiversity. Also, sediment from erosion (due to fertilizer -and the below mentioned pesticides, Calcium Lime, insecticides, and herbicides- applications), is the greatest pollutant of surface water in the US and is a major carrier of agrochemicals into the water system. Toxic water runs off into our drinking water and into streams (already resulting in a Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico). The US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry produced 20,500 tons of broccoli last year (and had averaged this amount each year since 2009), and if one were to multiply the combination of the nitrogen used: 70 lbs per acre @ $.22 per lbs equals: 70 x .22 for a total cost of $15.40 per acre, plus the use of phosphorus: 100 lbs. per acre @ $.28 per lbs for a total cost of $28 per acre, and add the use of potassium 100 lbs. at $.28per lbs for a total of $15 per acre, for all of the fertilizers mentioned above (3 of many, many more used), multiplied by 121,700 acres in production, equals a total cost of  $7,162,045 in just these fertilizers alone per year.
Another environmental cost is in the use of Calcium Lime in the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry on crops. Calcium Lime causes irreversible damage to the soil (accelerating the degrading process), and the vapors add pollutants to the atmosphere and groundwater. The dollar amount per year for Calcium Lime is $3,042,500 and the US puts 6,085,000 tons of Lime on the ground each year for the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry ( .5 tons per acre x 121,700 acres in production at $25 a ton).
Herbicides are also used in the production of the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry. Herbicides (Roundup Ready), can cause weeds morphological resistance to the herbicides. The US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry uses 2 pounds per acre (per year), at $9.30 per pound, multiplied by 121,700 acres in production, for a total cost of $2,263,620 per year…. again these are only a few of many.
Insecticides are used in the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry as well; which, can also cause insects’ morphological resistance to the insecticide. There is also the issue of the groundwater pollution that results from the spraying of these chemicals, and allergies in humans are starting to appear as a result of ingesting these chemicals- causing real concerns in recent years. I highlight only two of the many insecticides used in the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry: The first is Asana XT, and .06 of a gallon is applied per acre, at 121,700 acres in production, multiplied by $111 per gallon equals a total cost of $810, 522 per year. Adding to that, the use of Warrior T (the second damaging chemical I chose to highlight), at .02 a gallons per acre, multiplied by 121,700 acres in production, with a cost of $330 per gallon, totals out to be $803, 220 per year. The total cost of just these two insecticides alone is $1,613,742. Per year.

Now to look at a few of the many social costs the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry has on society:
Phosphate poisoning cases (directly from broccoli production), for farm workers in the United States average 22 cases per year, and the most common result is asthma for its victims. Asthma can shorten one’s lifespan an estimated of 10 years, so if a humans life is  estimated at $9 million (sensei’s example), and an estimate of a 70 year lifespan, this equals out to: 9 million divided by 70 years, for a total of $128,571. Divide that by 10 years of life for a total of $12,857 per person, per year.
Another social cost (out of the many I don’t mention), is the average of 32 pesticide poisoning cases for farm workers each year, directly related to the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry. Pesticide poisoning (a developmental toxin and a carcinogen), and can prove fatal in high doses. With the cost of life at $9 million, multiplied by 32 cases average a year, this results in a total cost of $288 million in human life.
And finally the last social cost I will mention ( of the many I don’t), is the direct poisoning to consumers from the market with the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry. Mathematically; 178 cases of immobilizing illnesses are averaged over the course of three years (1997-2000, so I will divide by three to get the estimated value of average per year), and the assume that the victims are out of commission for one year of their life;  $ 12,857 divided by 10 equals $1285, per person /3 equals 59, multiplied by 1285 equals a total cost of $75,815.
In conclusion, the total of the estimated environmental and social costs of the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry (only mentioned here, and NOT including the many other costs), total out to be $302,170,579- and if one were to look again at the profit of the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry ($341,954,000), one can see the “profit” is much less then that “on paper”. So in my opinion, the profit of the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry does NOT benefit society as much as it says “on paper”. If one were to add up all of the costs of the US Fresh Market Broccoli Industry, including the ones I did not mention in this essay (due to length restraints), broccoli simply is NOT worth it from a conventional production standpoint. If we were to grow broccoli organically and locally, then yes, the benefits of broccoli would then (and only then), exceed the negative externalities -both environmental and social- costs.

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This entry was posted on July 20, 2013 by in crop production, Democracy, Sustainability, Uncategorized.
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