How Industrial Food Makes Us More Vulnerable to COVID-19

As Chuck D says, it’s ‘food as a machine gun,’ and that’s even more deadly in this pandemic

Kristin Lawless


Credit: Enemy Radio, used with permission

When I finished working on my book, “Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System is Changing Our Minds, Bodies, and Culture,” in 2018 — after 10 years of research and writing — I was certain of two things: First, our industrial food system is decimating our environment. Second, our nutrient-depleted, and chemically saturated processed food supply is changing our bodies from the inside out. It was also clear how these two issues are deeply linked: What we do to our environment, we do to ourselves.

What I didn’t know was that the COVID-19 pandemic was just around the corner and would bring global attention to the grave risks inherent in our industrial food system.

All over the world, industrial agriculture has pushed small-scale farmers deeper into forests where these types of pathogens exist. The decimation of forests has also sent those who bring wild animals into city markets deeper into remote forest areas, resulting in human exposure to novel pathogens.

What’s more, animals confined in factory farms are perfect incubators when these pathogens spill over — unsanitary, cramped conditions among animals with…