by Dr. Mercola
A recent NPR article highlights the truly frightening environmental effect of monoculture.
NPR commentator and science writer Craig Childs decided to replicate a photo project by David Liittschwager, a portrait photographer who spent years traveling the world dropping one-cubic-foot metal frames into gardens, streams, parks, forests, and oceans, photographing anything and everything that entered the frame.
Around the world, his camera captured thousands of plants, animals, and insects within the cubes, with entirely different “worlds” of plants and animals living as little as a few feet away from each other.
Childs recruited a friend, and together they set out to replicate Littschwager’s “critter census” in a corn field in Grundy County, Iowa.
But whereas Littschwager’s camera captured several dozens of insects wherever he set up his frames, Childs and friend found nothing stirring among the genetically engineered corn stalks on the 600 acre farm in Iowa, where they spent an entire weekend crawling around on the ground. No signs of life with the exception of an isolated spider, a single red mite, and a couple grasshoppers.
“It felt like another planet entirely,” Childs said. “I listened and heard nothing, no birds, no clicks from insects. There were no bees. The air, the ground, seemed vacant.”
“Yet, 100 years ago, these same fields, these prairies, were home to 300 species of plants, 60 mammals, 300 birds, hundreds and hundreds of insects,” Robert Krulwich writes. “This soil was the richest, the loamiest in the state. And now, in these patches, there is almost literally nothing but one kind of living thing. We’ve erased everything else.”
How Monoculture Threatens the Future of Food
The "faster, bigger, cheaper" approach to food is slowly draining dry our planet's resources and compromising your health. The Earth's soil is depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced. We have already lost 75 percent of the world's crop varieties over the last century. Over the past 10 years, we've had 100 million tons of herbicides dumped onto our crops, polluting our soil and streams... And genetically engineered (GE) crops are now speeding up the destructive process by completely altering the composition of soil bacteria in the fields where such crops are grown.
It’s imperative to understand that agriculture is a complete 'system' based on inter-related factors, and in order to maintain ecological balance and health, you must understand how that system works as a whole. Any time you change one part of that system, you change the interaction of all the other components, because they work together. It is simply impossible to change just one minor aspect without altering the entire system, and this is in part why GE crops are not a viable alternative.
Dr. Don Huber's research, which spans over 55 years, has been devoted to looking at how the agricultural system can be managed for more effective crop production, better disease control, improved nutrition, and safety. The introduction of genetically engineered crops has dramatically affected and changed all agricultural components:
- The plants
- The physical environment
- The dynamics of the biological environment, and
- Pests and diseases (plant-, animal-, and human diseases)
One of the major modifications done to genetically engineered food crops is the introduction of herbicide resistance. Monsanto is the leader in this field, with their patented Roundup Ready corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beets, which can survive otherwise lethal doses of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup. The working premise is that by making the plants resistant to the herbicide, farmers can increase yield by cutting down on weed growth. This premise has been found to be severely flawed however, as farmers around the world are now losing acreage to glyphosate-resistant super-weeds at an alarming rate.
According to the British Institute of Science in Society, the US has fared the worst, now combating 13 different glyphosate-resistant weed species in 73 different locations.
But the introduction of glyphosate-resistance has also had a direct impact on soil microbes. While the link between an herbicide (which is directed toward plants) and soil microbes may not be immediately apparent, this ripple effect occurs because, again, it's an inter-related system. In a nutshell, herbicides are chelators that form a barrier around specific nutrients, preventing whatever life form is seeking to utilize that element from utilizing it properly. That applies both to plants and soil microbes—as well as animals and humans.
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