Monocultures and monopolies have the upper hand over sustainable diversity in agribusiness currently. Wealthy companies and individuals have too much influence over policy makers and governmental rules.
Business reports for 2014 indicate three U.S. companies (Tyson, Cargill and JBS Swift) control 90 percent of domestic beef processing and wholesaling. These same three companies, along with Smithfield, control 66 percent of the pork available to consumers. Tyson, and three other companies oversee the production and marketing of 60 percent of the poultry available to consumers. Three corporate entities dominate the sale of dairy products in much of the U.S. Four companies (Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow) command 80 percent of the U.S. corn seed market and 70 percent of the soybean seed business, according to an October 4, 2013 article in Food Democracy Now. A 2012 Heritage Farm Companion magazine article indicated ten companies, including the US “big four,” control three quarters of worldwide commercial seed sales.
Monopolization encourages monocultures. In 2013, for example, 93 percent of soybean seeds planted in the U.S. were genetically modified organisms (GMOs), while 90 percent of planted corn was GMOs and over 90 percent of cotton, sugarbeet and canola seeds were GMOs, according to GMO-Compass. Monocultures aim to yield uniform products. Monopolies specialize in certain products, market control, undercutting or stifling competition any way possible, and making profits.
Nature likes diversity. Prairie ecosystems that remain in their native state contain a rich variety of plants, insects, animals and organisms of many kinds. These prairies are more likely to adapt to threats such as pests and unusual weather conditions than a field planted to a single crop. People benefit from diversity in many ways. For example, farm children who have been exposed to a variety of pollens and microbes of all sorts have fewer allergies than children who are protected from these substances by living indoors and using antiseptics frequently.
“We can't control whole systems,” says Iowa State Universityprofessor and agricultural ethicist, Frederick Kirschenmann, in Cultivating an Ecological Conscience. He goes on to say “our world is a complex adaptive system that is interconnected, interdependent, and constantly changing.” Diversity is key to resilience, Kirschenmann proposes, and resilience is necessary for survival. Unless people, crops, livestock, food production and systems in general are adaptable, they are ultimately doomed to extinction.