Monoculture: The Biological and Social Impacts

Varieties of asparagus grown in the United States in 1903 46
Number of turn-of-the-century varieties surviving by the 1980s, after the advent of large-scale monoculture led to a gradual suppression of genetic diversity* 1

Varieties of sweet corn grown in the United States in 1903 307
Turn-of-the-century varieties grown by the 1980s* 12

Number of jobs provided by 100 hectares of diversified agriculture in Brazil 1800
Number provided by an equal amount of land at the Bahia Sul Celulos monoculture tree plantation in the same region of the country 2

Quantity of farmed oceanic fish and shrimp raised in 1996 by using ground-up ocean fish as feed 1 million tons
Quantity of wild ocean fish that had to be ground up to provide the feed 5 million tons

Amount of fish caught per person, worldwide, and sold for human consumption in 1996 16 kilograms
Amount of sea urchins, sponges, and other marine life that was hauled up with the fish and discarded, per person (approximate) 200 kilograms

Amount spent to produce the food consumed in the United States in 1996 (farm cost) $126 billion
Amount spent on marketing it $421 billion

Sources: Asparagus and corn: Cary Flowler and Pat Mooney, Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1990); jobs in monoculture: “Paper Forests” (pp. 20-28, this issue); fish feed and fish waste: “Blue Revolution” (pp. 10-19, this issue); food costs: USDA.




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