Industrialized Monoculture
Jonathan Wang '10

Advances in technology have produced not only drastically processed, inventive foods, but also extremely enhanced farms. The products are not alone in their dependence and connection to technology; the very source of the food is intimately tied to the latest advances. Farms have historically relied on tools, gadgets, and techniques, such as the plow, terracing, and mechanized reaper, to introduce bursts of productivity and bounty from the Earth. However, the latest, modern twist on the face of the farm has greatly altered the way food production works.  Previously, farms underwent cycles of lying fallow and activity, of rotating crops and hand labor, in order to maintain the land's health; now, they rely on a certain set of modern practices that transform the traditional image of the farm into the industrialized monoculture. An industrialized monoculture is a style of farming where the land is used to grow only one or two crops (often corn rotated with soybeans in the Midwest of America) in order to increase yield and efficiency by relying on technology. However, it should be noted that the concept of monoculture is not new; grape vineyards, apple orchards, and berry fields are all examples of monocultures that have existed in the past, not necessarily dependent on technology. Often referred to as a factory farm, industrialized monocultures are the hallmark of modern agriculture, allowing food corporations the vast pool of commodity crops it needs to process America's sustenance. The introduction of artifical fertilizers, gas-powered tractors, and grain elevators clearly favors those farms that operate like an automated factor. Crops grow in rows, packed closer than is healthy for the plants, and are forced out of the ground by pesticides, irrigation, and artifical fertility. Crops have begun to be grown in a way that relies on technology for its very feasibility; the tight planting patterns destroy many chances of survival if not for genetic manipulation, the constant and unrelenting agriculture forces the soil to rely on artificial additives for cohesion and health, and the enormous number of continuous crops would drain the land dry of water if not for extensive networks of irrigation. The very farm relies on technology for its survival, and this dependence on technology leaks over and applies towards the land itself. Monocultures are preferred by modern corporations and farmers since the standardization of crops results in less waste and loss from inefficient harvesting and plating, as well as the feasibility of tailoring a certain seed's genetic make-up so as to work specifically for a certain area (whether for drought conditions, soil salinity, or growing season). Monocultures require specific technology to survive, but produce an immense yield that favors food processing. Just as a CAFO is alarmingly unhealthy for livestock, industrialized monoculture is terribly dangerous for the survival of the crops and the land; a forsaking of biodiversity and overreliance on technology twists crops into a strange, inedible commodity that is produced en masse as a form of corporate control over food production. The tendency towards substance abuse, whether the pesticide or the fertilizer, leaves the land in a state not unlike that of a drug addict in withdrawal. Industrialized monocultures often overload the soil with nitrogen to simulate the astounding fertility of volcano nations, and the introduction and subsequent, immediate usage of the precious element leaves the land in a sorry state, having disastrous environmental and health effects all around the area of the farm. The modern farm has become undeniably combined with the latest technology, and the automation and augmentation of the entire practice has led to enormously increased yield at a delayed, yet drastic, price. The short-term benefits are huge, but the long-term dangers are magnitudes of order more significant; industrialized monocultures wreak havoc on human health, water safety, and ecosystems by leaking dangerous chemicals all over the place, and degrading the soil's quality into that of a desert. The land relies now on science, and the removal thereof would result in a mini-apocalypse on certain lands.