Until recently, monocultures, or the growth of only one variety of a species, were rare in agriculture. In the past, farmers learned to know what crops did well next to each other. It was necessary to rotate crops to allow nutrients like nitrogen to return to the soil. When science was able to synthesize nitrogen it reduced the need for crop rotations. At the same time, business was leaning how to profit from selling seeds. They learned to create hybrids whose seeds were useless to farmers in the next season. Any natural variation that might occur from these already inbred hybrids was squashed by the farmers who purchased new seeds rather than be surprised by the old, as new equipment demanded consistency.
Due to the rise to the rise of industry, and it’s requirements for uniform texture, growing patterns, and long shelf life, the number of varieties found in markets steadily decreased. While there are over 7,000 useful species of plants in our food supply, the agricultural markets have gravitated towards 150 that are heavily relied upon. (Thrupp, 1997) The reason for this is the industrialization of farming, as well as the export of those farming practices to regions that previously practiced polyculture farming. This globalization has resulted in a decrease of indigenous agriculture and local knowledge about plants ...
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..., only 14% of those are still being cultivated. (Thrupp, 1997) Fewer still are available to the consumer in markets.
There are still many obstacles to overcome in the diversification of our food supply. The biggest cause of the continuing dominance of monocultures in our supermarkets is the government and corporations who exert massive influence over the policies regulating agriculture and the sale of food.
Pollan, Michael. The omnivore's dilemma: a natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin Press, 2006. Print.
Thrupp, Lori Ann. Linking biodiversity and agriculture: challenges and opportunities for sustainable food security. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 1997. Print.
Shand, Hope. Human nature: agricultural biodiversity and farm-based food security. Ottawa: RAFI, Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1997. Print.
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