Modernization of Agriculture: A Comment; Fred Magdoff Replies

  • Charles Levenstein
  • Rashid Shaikh
  • Fred Magdoff
Keywords: Ecology


In his discussion of "Pros and Cons of Agricultural Mechanization in the Third World" (MR, May 1982), Fred Magdoff did not consider the significant implications of agricultural modernization for public health and occupational health. The health effects of technical change in agriculture can be quite substantial. Several observers have recently reported serious hazards from unguarded harvesting equipment used in Cuban sugar plantations. Cases of debilitating injuries from unsafe threshers have also been reported from India. The prevalence of schistosomiasis in the Sudan is linked to the proliferation of snails, resulting from widespread irrigation for cotton growing. We do not intend to catalogue here the variety of health hazards associated with agricultural modernization, but they may range from the not-so-subtle effects of pesticide exposure, to the unforeseen effects resulting from significant changes in the nature of raw materials for industrial production.