Monoculture is defined as “large areas of land cultivated with a single crop, either a plant or tree, using methods that employ a high use of inputs such as agrotoxic chemicals and machinery. It has been used for thousands of years to maximize the yield of food crops useful to mankind."
While any use of monoculture compromises natural biodiversity, the model employed by small, family farms has proven to be sustainable for millennia. It is only since the dawn of industrial technology that systematized monoculture of vast geographic areas for a mass global market of foodstuffs has reached the level where it seriously threatens biodiversity over much of the world. Modern global monoculture requires the application of synthetic fertilizers, highly toxic herbicides and insecticides, the diversion of natural resources such as water, and the depletion of microbes and erosion of soil, among a host of other consequences. It now takes only “a few people to cultivate thousands of acres of corn or soybeans as far as the eye can see in a fraction of the time it was done in the past.” (“The Future of Monoculture”: factory-farming.com)
Although it has greatly increased the yield and often lowered the cost of key crops, the gains realized through monoculture all too often have NOT gone to solving problems like world hunger as is often maintained.In fact it exacerbates many of the problems by using up arable land for lucrative but shortsighted folly such as government-subsidized ethanol, in addition to depriving much of the world’s people of former livelihoods in agriculture.
“Another downside is loss of nutrients in the soil, especially trace minerals. The heavy use of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK) as the primary chemical fertilizers result (sic) in nice looking produce but seriously deficient in key nutrients.” (“The Future of Monoculture”: factory-farming.com)
Recent developments show a strong, growing opposition to the industrial monoculture practices of the major agritech giants like Monsanto, such as recent resolutions brought forth by the company’s shareholders. It is also increasingly clear that the industry’s major claims of greater quality and efficiency attributed to monoculture and bioengineering are more likely the result of having extracted genetic material from crops produced by old-fashioned cross-breeding. In fact the future of monoculture may well resemble the past of monoculture as enough people become aware of the consequences and get involved--either by protesting, divesting, or practicing and supporting the old organic methods of farming which kept monoculture down to a smaller, more sustainable practice.