Vanessa Ryan

Date of Award


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


Edward Van Buren


Since the mid-twentieth century and the green revolution, industrialized agriculture has required fertilizer, pesticides, excess water and added energy that typically comes from fossil fuels, all of which contribute to climate change while threatening human and environmental health. The goals of this thesis are to illustrate the well-documented environmental degradation caused by various industrial farming techniques; to suggest alternative, sustainable farming practices that preserve and promote the vitality of soil and other natural resources; to examine the unequal power of large agribusiness corporations to influence food production and distribution policies; to assess the current federal policies in place that have created low accessibility of sustainably-grown food; and to propose changes to the U.S. food system that would increase the prevalence of sustainably-grown food to improve the health of the average U.S. consumer. Chapter 1 uses the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and environmental history to describe how specific industrial agricultural practices harm the environment.Chapter 2 uses environmental science to suggest various sustainable alternatives to food production such as using organic farming and planting perennial crops. Chapter 3 employs environmental economics to emphasize the dominant role of agribusiness in the current food system. Chapter 4 uses environmental politics and law to assess the current accessibility of sustainably-grown food in the country. Finally, Chapter 5 proposes reforms to the Farm Bill that emphasize soil vitality and community-based food systems to increase access to sustainably-grown food in the country and to resolve associated issues with the current food system discussed throughout this thesis.