By Nathan, on September 6th, 2011
Corporate farming, the standard of agriculture since the 1950s, is not very tenable. It can’t last in the long-run. The tenets of corporate farming: mono-culture and seed engineering; they just can’t be sustained. Moreover, when they collapse, it will be catastrophic for the society that depends on them.
Nature, while working in scientific principles, does not neatly fit into the mathematic equations in which business thrives. Nature thrives on variability, evolution and flexibility. These don’t work out in corporate farming, where quality stability is paramount. The soil needs to be replenished on a seasonal basis, hence the crop rotations that have been the backbone of farming for two millennia. Corporate farming circumvents this with synthetic fertilizers (developed by military technology), using the Haber process. The natural earth has a balance of nitrogen and other gases, which helps to balance the amount of life this planet can hold. When (literally) hundreds of extra tons of nitrogen are poured onto the soil and then make their way into the water tables, not only do they force food to go grow that has no nutrition whatsoever (because plants gain their characteristic nutrients from the soil), but also by creating the capacity for more life (with no nutrients to support it).
So what about monoculture growing? Well, plants have ways of adapting to defend themselves from disease and pests. And this produces different varieties of plants within the same family, much the way it is generally considered a good thing to breed outside of your family tree to produce more ably healthy young. So when a corporate farmer is encouraged to grow corn, and the exact same variety of corn, from engineered cloned seeds, year after year after year, what happens to the resistance to disease and pests? It disappears. To correct this, the seeds are engineered to be resistant to pesticides and poisons, or even to produce their own.
This monoculture then creates monoculture eating and buying. Almost everything in a can, bag, or box contains corn. If you don’t believe me, check the label. Chances are it is full of corn. Now, when most of what corporations are buying, governments are subsidizing is corn, that is what farmers will be growing.
And it is bankrupting them. It costs more to grow corn than they can sell it. Thus consigning the corn farmer to mass debt. So shifting to organic methods will in fact have lower yields per harvest, but the land on which crops are grown in rotation, with no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, but with natural pest control, will produce crops for far longer and more healthfully.