Agriculture has become a global economic factor more than a subsistence issue. Those countries with the most productive land and technologies gain the greatest market share. The disappearance of traditional swidden systems as local agriculture becomes subsumed into the global trade in commodities is a major cause of rainforest destruction. As roads are built into forests, farmers are encouraged to convert from subsistence farming (small quantities of a number of crops) to cash cropping of a few species. Under global pressures, large companies and interests purchase land from small farmers, and use this land for monocropping of marketable species for export. In this competitive atmosphere, modern agricultural techniques are used – fertilizers, pesticides, and new crop varieties, often genetically-engineered. Thus, the landscape not only becomes deforested but homogeneous. An ancillary – if unintended – consequence of the reduction of crop species is the loss of “support” species – mycorrhizae, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, pest predators, and pollinators. Modern agricultural conversion of rainforests not only removes forests, but it endangers biodiversity too, by utilizing only a few species at the expense of all the others, and by disrupting the ecological webs among organisms.

Share