Janet R. VoEnglish 7H/EWP 190Mr. MarxJanuary 7, 2018How does Agricultural Monoculture Affect Consumer Patterns?In 1997, Jamie Kabler developed the Hollywood 48 Hour Diet which consisted of an orange colored drink, a complete food replacement for 48 hours. First, the dieter would sip the mixture over the course of four hours four times per day refraining from diet sodas or caffeine, and after the two day period, he or she would technically achieve a 10 lbs weight loss from the diet that also claims to cleanse and rejuvenate the body. Since then, more than 10 million people have used this method and its line has grown to include other types of meal replacements ( ). The Hollywood 48 Hour Diet is one of the many diet fads that was the paradox of the American people obsessed with a healthy lifestyle. It was a quick and easy way to combat obesity, however, it also presents a solution to a problem that can be prevented. One’s diet is influenced by far more than taste and culture; it is also caused by an external factor that the common man can not control– agricultural monoculture. Monoculture, the agricultural practice of producing or growing a plant of livestock species in a farming system at a time, has changed the way people eat. According to Michael Pollan, plants are thought to have domesticated people, instead of humans having the superiority over their crops. Monoculture is a practice that has made humans slaves to their food since it has affected many aspects that go beyond from just the plate, such as presenting a debate on whether ecological devastation must occur for the sake of meeting the increasing global food quota. Section I: Why is Agricultural Monoculture Being Used? The Green Revolution during the 1960s and the 1970s helped to “double the world’s average yields of corn, rice, and wheat” ( ) in the mid-twentieth century by introducing new agricultural technologies, however, by our current rate of consumption, there would be a need of another revolution in 10 years. Due to the agricultural productivity growth of 1-2% each year ( ), which is insufficient to meet the increase of population and demand, the world has been consuming more food than it has been producing. Therefore, the main and recent concern with agriculture has been attaining high yields of crops, and monoculture provides the most efficient way to mass produce food compared to the method of polyculture where a variety of crops are grown in the same space and interval of time. In order to achieve this, governments often offer incentives to factory farms, such as the government interference after the protests of Tiananmen Square ( ). In addition, monoculture is used because certain crops, such as corn, are easy to breed and manipulate. Corn’s reproductive process has made it relatively easy to breed corn to have certain physical characteristics that make use in industrial or processed food easy ( ). Section II: The Consequences of Monoculture Monoculture threatens biodiversity and local ecosystems because genetic diversity is vital for maintaining pest and disease resistance in major food crops and to improve drought tolerance and flavor. For instance, varying tobacco plants ensures the survival of the tobacco and the surrounding field because of its defenses ( ). Plant gene variations can benefit a whole plant population when those genes have important ecological functions. Also, exploitation deplete marine fisheries and livestock breeds as crop genetic resources are decreasing one to two percent per year ( ). There also arises an economic paradox where corn would take up more farmland and its abundance would decrease its market value. However, farmers would grow more corn to compensate for the profit loss, digging themselves a deeper hole in poverty. The George Naylor farm, for instance, which used to harbor a variety of crops, now only grows corn and soybeans ( ). Naylor is going broke, living off of his wife’s paycheck and his subsidy payment since the value of corn does not exceed the cost to grow it. What he grows has to be processed or fed to the livestock before it can be eaten, yet despite what growing corn has cost him, his cornfield is where most of our food comes from. Monoculture contributes to the rise of biotechnology and the power of agrochemical corporations. New seeds and better technology is controlled by a handful of corporations, including Monsanto who sell proprietary products in northern markets ( ). Some enterprises, on the other hand, can not afford these products; as a result, these developing countries are left with no option and face possible starvation. Monsanto, for instance, developed an insect resistant gene for cotton and rice but India was not able to afford it ( ), which shows how the monopoly of agricultural technology by powerful corporations can exert enormous influence in the stability of countries, especially developing countries. This causes farmers to have little say in how their crops are grown and sold since seeds are owned by fewer corporations. A third of the corn supply in the U.S. is owned by Cargill and ADM, both of which have great influence in every step of their corn’s process, ranging from the type of pesticide farmers’ use and which crops to grow ( ). This influence has also extended outside of the U.S. as transnational corporations (TNC) play a role in developing countries. In Kenya, the country’s flower industry is concentrated around Lake Naivasha, however its exploitation had give rise to environmental concerns including deforestation and water volume extraction ( ). The Oserian Development Company, a major TNC in Kenya’s floriculture, adopted improved and environmentally friendly techniques ( ). Although this company may prove to be a benefactor for Kenya, the impacts of other TNCs entirely depends on their nature of participation because they can affect income distribution and cause poverty by driving out small-scale farmers ( ). Monoculture has given power to corporations who can affect other countries outside of the U.S.Section III: How Consumer Relationship to Food is Changing The rise of monoculture has faced its equal and opposite force of the organic movement. As more people want access to pesticide free foods, it fosters questions on the meaning of the term “organic” that originally referred to food produced from a model based on nature, not machines. Soon, this term has evolved to include broad definitions. “Big organic” or “industrial organic” has far more environmentally friendly growing practices than conventional farms, but it still has the same distribution techniques. On the other hand, “small organic” refers to local farms which adhere to their philosophy of organic and support smaller economies of scale ( ). This shows as the demand for organic produce increases, the definition of organic becomes diluted. If there is no standard definition, some fear that without direction, organic farming may end up mimicking the industrial scale model ( ). Whereas Pollan suggests that there are two main categories, in the U.S. there exists many standards of organic; there are 40 independent certification agencies and 33 different state labels in place ( ). This system of labeling brings about weak definitions of organic by attempting to conceal information from consumers, rather than informing them. Transgenic species could still be permitted to be labeled organic unless the USDA provides enough scientific evidence against it ( ). Without consolidating the standards, corporations allow profit to be the driver of consumer interest, which breaks the relationship of trust with consumers. In reality, this has been repeated over and over again with new FDA regulations. In the 1870s companies insisted that arsenic and lead were safe pesticides, and in recent times, they insist that biotechnology and irradiation are safe and necessary for a continued world food supply ( ). The techniques that large corporations use pick apart consumer protection laws, proving that their actions are not influenced for the benefit of the people. When TNC implemented new environmental standards in Kenya, it was done reluctantly since its culture of secrecy prevented collaboration with civil society organizations ( ). Even Whole Foods faces a problem on how to balance its foundation of pastoral ideals with the inevitable industrialization required to produce organic food on a larger scale ( ).The need to process and modify crops also continue to break the trust between consumers and their food. Similar to how the “local, sun-driven cycle of fertility” has been disrupted by synthetic fertilizer ( ), our connection between the food supply and the finished product is impossible to ascertain ( ). Labels do not help because they leave out how our food was made or who made it. In the supermarket, “…Instead of having infinite choice, as we thought, we are really presented with a wall of standard issue cans and pouches that distinguished only by the words and colors on their labels” (Lynn). 90 percent of the top brands of bottled tap water are sold by PepsiCo (Aquafina), CocaCola (Dasani and Evian), or Nestle (Poland Spring, Arrowhead…), and Campbell’s takes up most of the space in supermarkets’ canned food section ( ). In contrast, farmer’s markets’ place value beyond the price with social engagement and fresh, local produce in an attempt to revive this connection broken by industrial farming. According to a survey at a farmer’s market in Ontario, Canada, hundreds of shoppers prefer farmer’s markets enjoy the social aspect of meeting vendors and developing relationships by buying their produce. By allowing visually appealing products to dominate our food choices, we let conglomerates decide what we eat, prompting the movement of eating more wholesome and organic food.Section IV: Our Natural Food Habits and How They Have Been AffectedContinuing to alter corn results in new ways for corn to be implemented into the American diet, furthering the development of methods that only apply to it ( ). One way this crop has snuck into our diets is by the use of high fructose corn syrup as a cheap sweetener, which is often found in processed food ( ). Humans have a natural preference for sweet foods, and the use of corn syrup takes advantage of our system that was meant to consume less concentrated whole foods ( ). Consequently, corn, or its derivative, takes up most of the American diet ( ). In industrial farms, cows’ diet consist of 75 percent of corn that is coupled with heavy doses of medication ( ).