Let's pretend you decide to replant, but you really want this potato thing to work because that's what your family likes. You spend extra money on a genetically modified potato that is resistant to this disease. This time, though, there is a major drought. Not only do you lose 90% of your crop, but you're also out the extra money you spent on this supposedly more resilient potato. NOW what?
You have time to plant another crop, but not enough money to buy more seed potatoes. That's okay, the 10% that survived is very strong and you can just plant some of those once they mature. But wait - that's actually illegal. The seed company owns the patent on those potatoes. You can eat them - but you cannot replant them. You have to buy new seed potatoes, or you are breaking the law, and they can sue you.
So, what do you do? You could borrow money for a new set of seed potatoes. The loan is not that big, and you should be able to sell some of the potato crop to pay it back. You plant a second crop, it comes in, and you save some to take to the market.
You find out that over half of everyone at the market is selling potatoes. You cannot get enough money selling yours to pay back your loan.
If you're a farmer in India, you kill yourself.
The world-renowned Indian environmental leader and thinker Vandana Shiva on climate, diversity, GMOs, seeds and the monocultures of the mind. She also addresses the farmer suicides.
Change only ONE thing about this scenario, and we have a more positive outcome. Let's go back to those potatoes. This time plant several different varieties. Ambo is a white potato that is particularly drought resistant, and high yielding. Harmony is highly resistant to black dot disease. Saxon is a baking variety that is resistant to pests as well as many diseases. There are about 500 different varieties of potato to choose from. When you plant different kinds, you naturally increase your chances that one or more varieties will thrive when something wipes out the others.
Even better? Plant a bunch of varieties of potatoes, and then plant a bunch of DIFFERENT CROPS ENTIRELY, so that if something wipes out ALL the potatoes, you don't have another Irish potato famine.
"Monocultures clash with basic biology. Most junior science students at secondary school would be able to tell you the problem with a lack of variety within a plant species. When plants are all the same then the species struggles to adapt to environmental change from weather (rain, temperature, wind and so on) or disease attack. On the other hand a variety of plants mean only some succumb while most survive when pests attack or the weather changes.
In the latter half of last century monocultures of high-yield varieties of grain were promoted as the way to dramatically increase food production when starvation was a regular occurrence in many parts of the world. Higher-yield varieties of staples such as rice and wheat were promoted in underdeveloped countries. The so-called "green revolution" was unsuccessful because not only did the high-yield varieties require more water, herbicides and insecticides but the real problem was the price of food. The same applies today. The world produces close to double the grain needed to feed the entire human population but we have starvation because the poor can't afford the prices in the marketplace. Much of that grain is used as animal feed for meat production for the developed world." - John Minto, "Kiwifruit a victim of monoculture farming".
This is how mother nature herself works. Ever wonder why you look different from your siblings even though you have the same parents? This is because every time a uterus makes an egg, or a testicle makes a sperm, it mixes up the chromosomes a bit, making different blends from that person's mother and father, so that one egg might have the genes for blue eyes from dad while another egg might have brown eyes from mom. Each egg and sperm is a unique combination of traits, and if that combination ends up being a good one, the resulting child, be it human or ape or dog, will be stronger and have a better chance of surviving.
This is GENETIC DIVERSITY, and it's how life thrives on planet earth.
"Genetic diversity is the variation of heritable characteristics present in a population of the same species. It serves an important role in evolution by allowing a species to adapt to a new environment and to fight off parasites. It is applicable to domesticated species, which typically have low levels of genetic diversity. Studying genetic diversity in humans can help researchers form theories on human origins.
Living things contain in their cells the basic instructions, or blueprints, for their own development. Many of these instructions, which are called genes, result in physical characteristics that affect the way organisms interact with their environment. Variations in such characteristics within the same species give rise to genetic diversity. For a species to adapt to an ever-changing ecosystem, a significant level of variation must be present. Those individuals that possess favorable characteristics will go on to reproduce, while those that don’t do not tend to pass on their characteristics to many offspring.
Domesticated species often have low levels of genetic diversity. This is caused by the artificial selection, or preferential breeding, of crops and animals for traits that humans find preferable. While this can have positive short-term results, such as a richer harvest, low genetic diversity among domesticated species poses risks. A newly-evolved virus or bacteria strand can invade a population of nearly identical organisms very rapidly. The protection that genetic diversity generally offers in wild populations is lost in this scenario." -Wise Geek, "What is Genetic Diversity?"
This random post is brought to you by some random guy on Facebook who thinks mono-culture increases yields and is therefore the greatest thing ever. When I responded with some basics of evolution and sex cell division and told him to go take a Biology 101 class, his response was "F*** You I have a biology degree." Literally, that's what he wrote, but without the stars. Apparently my one biology class at my community college was more thorough then his entire degree.
Bio-Diversity is a critical component to the continuation of life on earth. Google it. Read about it. It is a fundamental truth that people over-look when making short-term decisions concerning large-scale farming and food production.
The Botany of Desire PBS lesson plan based on the book of the same name by Michael Pollan.
Monocultures, Monopolies, Myths and the Masculinisation of Agriculture, by Dr. Vendana Shiva