Are we Running out of Nutrient-dense Foods? The Danger of Monocultures

Studies Show that Fruits and Vegetables do not Provide the Same Nutrients as 50 Years ago, this Could be Due to Modern Agricultural Processes such as Monocultures, Which Threaten the Health of the Soil.

Person harvesting a seed

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LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: ¿Nos estamos quedando sin alimentos con nutrientes? El peligro de los monocultivos

At the beginning of this year, the magazine "Foods" published a study in which samples of different fruits and vegetables in Australia were analyzed to compare their nutritional value with respect to the same foods from 50 years ago. The results showed that the levels of both proteins and minerals were reduced considerably, between 30 and 50%. In fact, other investigations carried out in different parts of the world have concluded that crops lack phosphorus, calcium, riboflavin, iron and vitamin C, compared to crops from decades ago.

This is alarming, since it implies that the main source of energy and well-being of human beings is falling short. But, what are the causes and how does this affect the diet of our species?

Monocultures: the greatest threat to soils

It is no secret to anyone that one of the main objectives, if not the main one, of the agricultural industry is to satisfy demand and for this the production chains must be fast and efficient. But since it is a production that depends on an organic growth process, this can take time and production is hampered. The solution, then, is to have farming practices that speed up processes and are specifically designed to increase crop yields.

One of these practices is monoculture, which basically consists of planting a single crop of the same species over a very large area. This allows the cultivation methods to be the same for the entire plantation and, in that order of ideas, the production to be faster, more efficient and, of course, more economical and profitable. The axis of this type of production lies in uniformity.

However, as good as it may seem, monoculture is a practice that brings with it many consequences. First of all, this is one of the main drivers of deforestation around the world. Millions of hectares of ecosystems are constantly being destroyed to make room for these crops. In this process, species of trees, animals and opportunities to naturally regenerate the air are lost. Likewise, due to the procedures used for the efficiency of the crop, water sources and soils are contaminated, putting at risk not only wildlife, but also the life of rural and, eventually, urban communities.

Soil regeneration and association with fungi is the fundamental basis for cultivated foods to obtain nutrients. But monoculture greatly hinders this natural cycle, which means that there are not enough sources of nutrients. In turn, one of the most important purposes of monoculture is the planting of food for livestock animals, and as has been shown, the main responsible for the climate crisis are the livestock and fishing industry, for which this type of cultivation widely stimulates the release of greenhouse gases.

What can be the consequences?

First, the consequences for human health can be extremely serious. We may be depending on expensive and highly polluting pharmaceutical procedures in order to survive, since the food we produce would not be enough to satisfy our physiological needs. In addition, although we might think that people who follow vegan or vegetarian diets are the most affected, the truth is that, as we already mentioned, monocultures are the main source of food for cattle, so these animals would also be affected due to the lack of nutrients and, again, it would be necessary to resort to methods that can put the life of the human who consumes the animal at risk. We already see it, the need to produce on a large scale and quickly is not only the main cause of climate change, but also the one that has the most direct consequence on the health of our species.