Tomato Production Running Head: THE PRODUCTION OF TOMATOES The Production of Tomatoes and Their Effects of Production on Environments Nathan Johnson Arizona State University SOC 394: Production, People, and Environments Sharon Harlan Today in our fast-paced modern culture we take so many things for granted. One of the things we neglect to pay attention to is our environment and the resulting consequences from the production of some vegetables. There are hundreds of different vegetables that could be expounded on. However, I would like to choose one that is very familiar and is consumed on average at a rate of about four ounces per person in the United States. This product is the tomato. The tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) was introduced into Europe by the Spanish explorers in the early sixteenth century, is one of the most important and popular vegetables in the world. It originated in the Peruvian and Mexican regions. European migrants later on introduced it to the United States of America and Canada. The tomato is native to HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_America" \o "Central America" Central , HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_America" \o "South America" South , and southern HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_America" \o "North America" North America from HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico" \o "Mexico" Mexico to HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentina" \o "Argentina" Argentina . There is evidence that the first domesticated tomato was a little yellow fruit, grown by the HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec" \o "Aztec" Aztecs in Mexico, who called it xitomatl (pronounced shi-to-ma-tlh), meaning "plump thing with a navel". The tomato is a vegetable crop of greatest importance in the processing industry. There are an endless number of aspects involved with the tomato and I am going to address the various ways tomatoes are used, the health benefits of the tomato (briefly), the current production of tomatoes and their effects on environments (workplace, community, and natural environments), and also some possible options for the sustainable production of tomatoes. The majority of my discussion will be directed towards fresh/whole tomatoes; which consummate about fifty-one percent (See Figure 1) of the total tomato allocation in the United States. Tomatoes are very common in foods that are purchased regularly. There are of course the fresh whole tomatoes, but there are also many products that contain tomatoes like: sauces, salsas, soup, chili, pizza and many more common products. Fresh whole tomatoes can also come in the form of diced tomatoes, ground tomatoes, and tomato paste. The tomato that you see in your everyday supplies goes through a very intensive process including tomato farmers and field workers, product irrigation (canal or other body of water, and/or local water supplier), product transportation (air, shipment, and automotive transport), tariffs and other transnational taxations or fees, and finally product delivery/sale (local supplier) to the consumer. Interestingly, tomatoes provide numerous health benefits that so often are overlooked. Inside a tomato there is a red pigment called lycopene. This compound acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can be harmful or even damage cells in the body. Recently, studies have revealed that lycopene may be even twice as beneficial to humans as the well-known antioxidant betacarotene. Several other health benefits that tomatoes provide are: the ability to improve skin texture and color, they act as an excellent blood purifier, helps defend against congestion in the liver, the Vitamin K found in tomatoes helps to prevent hemorrhages, and tomatoes also reduce cholesterol because they contain a natural antiseptic. According to an article in the New York Times, ?Studies conducted by Harvard researchers have discovered that men, who consumed ten servings of tomatoes a week, or the equivalent to ten slices of pizza, can cut the risk of developing HYPERLINK "http://www.essortment.com/all/healthbenefits_rbdh.htm" \t "undefined" prostate cancer by a formidable forty-five percent. However, its benefits are not limited to the prostate. Italian researchers have found that those who consume more than seven servings of raw tomatoes lower the risk of developing rectal colon or stomach cancers by sixty percent. Israeli researchers have found that lycopene is a powerful inhibitor of lung, breast, and HYPERLINK "http://www.essortment.com/all/healthbenefits_rbdh.htm" \t "undefined" endometrial cancer cells.? Research has also indicated that the lycopene in tomatoes can help older people stay active longer. Now that we have considered the many health benefits tomatoes provide to our human bodies, let?s take a detailed look at our current methods of production and their effects on the surrounding environments. Tomatoes begin their production on a farm in normally one of two ways, either by the seedling tray or seedbed methods. In seedling tray tomato production the holes created for the tomatoes are filled with a medium that drains well, such as peat moss, commercial potting soil, or a mixture of sand, compost, and burnt rice hulls. Then seeds are sewn at two seeds per hole, thinning to keep the strongest plant. In seedbed tomato production a well-drained area not recently cropped with a Solanaceous crop (a crop from the potato family) is chosen. By burning a three to four centimeter layer of rice straw on the seedbed before sowing and forming a raised seedbed of fifteen centimeters or higher it can improve drainage that might reduce soil borne disease problems. The seeds are then sewn in rows six centimeters apart at a rate of seven-hundred and fifty to nine-hundred seeds per square meter. Lastly, the bed surface is covered with a thin layer of compost or rice straw mulch. During the production of tomatoes several substances are used to control disease and insects, to fertilize the plants, and to control the spread of fungi. Several insects attack tomato plants. The tomato fruitworm and beet armyworm bore inside fruits. Chemical insecticides, Bacillus Thuringiensis, Methyl Bromide, and parasitic wasps are used to control these pests. Fungicides such as Ridomil Gold (mefenoxam) can be applied to the seedbed at or before seeding to control pythium damping-off. Seed can be treated with broad-spectrum fungicides, such as captan and/or thiram to reduce losses from damping-off (these terms will be explained in more detail when the environmental effects are expounded upon). Tomato plants are normally fertilized with organic (animal manure) and/or chemical fertilizers such as nitrogen, to produce high yields. When the effects of production on the workplace environment (including farmers and field labor) are considered, many concerns are revealed typically when contact is made with the product (either direct (skin) or indirect (inhalation)). Bacillus Theringienesis, the insecticide previously described, is harmful to humans in ?high or even moderate concentrations? (U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)). Some of the effects from moderate concentrations include persistent eye, oral and dermal irritation for up to seven days (see Figure 2). Ridomil Gold (Mefenoxam), the fungicide used to control fungi populations has a moderate toxicity that has a mild effect on human exposure (inhalation or skin contact) including eye and/or skin irritation for up to seven days. Captan, the previously noted substance used to control pythium damping-off is not harmful to humans (See Figure 3). Thiram however, another pythium damping-off reduction substance has a, ?Toxicity to humans, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity? with results not limited to ?irritation of skin, eyes, respiratory tract and mucous membranes? (United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2008). Fortunately, the fertilizer most commonly used in the production of tomatoes, Nitrogen, does not have any toxicity to humans in the amount distributed to crops. When considering the effects tomato production yield to the community environment it is interesting to see the benefits their production provides. With the addition of tomato farms to societies in places like Mexico and California, thousands of jobs are created to support the market for tomatoes. In California six thousand jobs are created from tomato farming (www.californiatomatoes.org) and an estimated thirty-five thousand jobs in Mexico. Approximately eighty-four percent of all tomatoes consumed in the United States are imported from Mexico (www.southwestfarmpress.com). These employment opportunities provide economic stimulus to the struggling Mexican economy as well as more employment opportunities for the local communities in California. The community environment is also affected by the contamination of the products that they consume. For example, when the tomato plants are watered, the fungicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and other non-environmental friendly products used to abnormally stimulated plant growth; the water carries those chemicals down into the ground and into the groundwater. The groundwater then proceeds to flow into a nearby lake, stream or other body of water and then we end up with traces of those chemicals and pesticides in our drinking water. In an article by Janet Wilson, a writer for the Los Angeles Times she says, ?We definitely know now why Southern Californians drink more bottled water than New Yorkers.? In her study she found that in a geological study of the water that Californians drink there were found to be trace amounts of 40 chemicals and 20 pesticides related to tomato production (Janet Wilson, Los Angeles Times). Most importantly, the current method of farming for tomato production effects the surrounding natural/biophysical environments in many different ways including: global warming, ozone depletion, acidification, and eutrophication. All of these effects are slowly changing the world that we currently live in many concerning ways. This is the most critical area because unless there is a change in some of the methods of production soon, the consequences for neglecting to recognize the effects on our biophysical environment it will be too late. Unfortunately, the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming are in most ways, one in the same when it comes to effects. When the ozone layer is depleted there is an overall increase in the global temperature because the ozone layer protects us from some of the sun?s rays. In the production process, the main chemical that is contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer is the insecticide Methyl Bromide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ?About 50 to 95% of the Methyl Bromide injected in to the soil can eventually enter the atmosphere. In the United States, strawberries and tomatoes are the crops which use the most Methyl Bromide. Methyl Bromide is a toxic material. Exposure to this chemical will affect not only the target pests it is used against, but non-target organisms as well. Because Methyl Bromide dissipates so rapidly to the atmosphere, it is most dangerous at the actual fumigation site itself. Human exposure to high concentrations of Methyl Bromide can result in central nervous system and respiratory system failure, as well as specific and severe deleterious actions on the lungs, eyes, and skin.? Methyl Bromide contributes to the continuing depletion of the ozone layer because it negatively interacts with other gasses in the atmosphere. We can see from this article that Methyl Bromide not only has biophysical repercussions but it also effects the workplace environment because employees can have negative physical reactions to using the insecticide. Ocean acidification is the name given to an overall and ongoing decrease in the pH of Earth?s Oceans. The cause of this decrease in the pH is from the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Many of the chemicals used in the tomato production of tomatoes such as Bacillus Theringienesis, Methyl Bromide, and Mefenoxam all contribute to the atmosphere which result in an overall increase in the acidification of the oceans on the Earth. Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104 (a change of -0.075) (see Figure 4). Eutrophication is an unfortunate result from the fertilization process of tomato production. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), ?Eutrophication is a process whereby water bodies, such as lakes, estuaries, or slow-moving streams receive excess HYPERLINK "http://toxics.usgs.gov/definitions/nutrients.html" nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth (algae, periphyton attached algae, and nuisance plants weeds). This enhanced plant growth, often called an algal bloom, reduces dissolved oxygen in the water when dead plant material decomposes and can cause other organisms to die. Nutrients can come from many sources such as fertilizers applied to agricultural fields, golf courses, and suburban lawns; deposition of nitrogen from the atmosphere; erosion of soil containing nutrients; and sewage treatment plant discharges.? Eutrophication generally promotes excessive plant growth and decay, favors certain weedy species over others, and is likely to cause severe reductions in water quality. With the excessive amount of fertilizers that are artificially injected into the tomato plants, there is a significant increase in amount of ?stimulation of excessive plant growth? in the nearby bodies of water creating a deficit of oxygen in that body of water thereby killing off some organisms in addition to severe reductions in water quality. Currently, there has not been much movement towards the sustainable production of vegetables, and in particular tomatoes. Consumers are now beginning to be aware of the many areas of concern there are with the production of vegetables. In most grocery and supermarket stores there is a section that is normally pretty small labeled ?organic vegetables.? These vegetables are typically more expensive than the vegetables that are produced under the current production process. Consumers are a lot less interested in purchasing a product that is more expensive even if it is more environmentally friendly, especially in the current economic situation depressing our nation. There are several ways that a more sustainable environment can be created in the production of tomatoes: a change in the current system of production, voluntary consumer restraint and/or grassroots campaigns, and government regulation. There are several points in the production cycle of the tomato that could be changed to be more sustainable. The most important areas that we begin with are in the production process. If we replace the current environmentally harmful chemicals, insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers we will have effectively made the production process more sustainable. One research project by the California College of Sustainability ( HYPERLINK "http://www.cca.edu/about/sustainability" www.cca.edu/about/sustainability ) developed a ?22 point programme for white fly control and associated viruses that reduced insecticide sprays from 30 to 12, greatly increasing grower profits.? The implementation a system like this will greatly reduce the implications resulting from the overuse of insecticides as well as increasing the local economy because the ?22 point progamme? greatly increases grower profits. There are also many seed treatments are available for disease prevention. Seed treatments are more effective as a preventive measure against future predators of the tomato plant than pesticide sprays. The addition of more seed treatments will reduce the amount of pesticides used out in the field. By utilizing organic animal manure we will be solving two problems at once: we will be reducing the current surplus of animal manure and an environmentally safe fertilizer will be used. Unknown to most, consumers have a tremendous amount of power in deciding what is produced and consumed. For example, if consumers united and only purchased organic or sustainable products, producers would be forced to renovate their production process to make it more sustainable. Grassroots campaigns (environmental, resource conservation and labor organizations) work very similarly when compared to voluntary consumer restraint. If grassroots campaigns (a collection of persons organized to protest to a company/organization for a process to be done a certain way) were utilized and put pressure on producers to make their products more sustainable and also on consumers to avoid certain environmentally harmful products we will have effectively utilized both consumer restraint and grassroots campaigns and made the production process of tomatoes more sustainable. Finally, another option to help make tomato production more sustainable would be for the government regulation. Through congress and other political action the government could regulate that producers must produce their product a certain way to be sold in the United States or to be imported into the United States. For example, the government could regulate that only tomatoes that are produced with the ?22 pointe programme? and seed treatments could be sold and/or imported in the United States. By the government taking control and regulating the production process there is not a need for a large consumer movement and by this method the producers would either conform to the requirements mandated or close as a business. Tomatoes are a very popular vegetable on the market today that we do not want to lose just because they are not eco-friendly. As we have seen, unfortunately there are several harmful effects currently affecting the workplace, community, and natural/biophysical environments. Through producer reform, consumer restraint, grassroots campaigns, and/or government regulation a successful method can be set for safe and sustainable production of tomatoes. By implementing a system that is more sustainable we as consumers will have the peace-of-mind to go to our local supermarket and purchase a tomato that has been produced with limited and safe chemical usage and produced in an environmentally friendly environment. Word Count: 2,728 Charts and Graphs Figure 2: Figure 1: Figure 3: Figure 4: References A) Barndt, Deborah. 2002. Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization on the Tomato Trail. Rowman & Littlefield. B) Sanders, Douglas C. ?Fresh Market Tomato Production.? NC State University Horticulture Information Leaflets. 1/01/2008. 11/3/2008. . C) Cook, Roberta. ?Greenhouse tomatoes change the dynamics of the North American fresh tomato industry.? U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 12/15/2005. 11/3/2008. . D) Kalloo, G. ?Genetic Improvement of Tomato.? Berlin ; New York : Springer-Verlag, c1991. 11/3/2008. . E) Strider, David. ?Bacterial Canker of Tomato Caused by Cornyebacterium Michiganese.? North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, 1969. 11/3/2008. . F) Industrial Environmental Research Laboratory. ?Tomato Cleaning and Water Recycle.? 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