The Consequences of an Industrial Food System: A Cross-National Examination of the Role of Mechanization in the Rising Obesity Epidemic

Abigail Gendler


Research suggests that physical inactivity, trends toward increasing urbanization, and changes in the agriculture employment sector, can strongly inform us about the causes of obesity in modern society. However, they fail to link the rise of obesity in today’s society to changes in the modern processes of food production, and particularly, to the broader trend toward mechanized agriculture that characterizes the current food production system, across both poorer and affluent nations. This paper employs structural equation modeling to test both the direct and indirect effects of causal factors to the increasing prevalence of obesity across nations. Findings indicate that the mechanization of agriculture is an important underlying factor in explaining cross-national trends in overweight males and females. It directly contributes to declines in employment in the agriculture sector, which leads to increased urbanization and physical inactivity, which are interrelated and acting as driving forces in the growing obesity epidemic. Integrative models provide a holistic view of the world’s food system and the potential implications for how factors of globalization spur obesity in populations worldwide._

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