Agroecology: what is it and why we should all be talking about it.

Ana C
8 min readNov 11, 2020
Photo by dmitriy ostretsov on Unsplash

“The thing the ecologically illiterate don’t realize about an ecosystem,” Kynes said, “is that it’s a system. A system! A system maintains a certain fluid stability that can be destroyed by a misstep in just one niche. A system has order, a flowing from point to point. If something dams that flow, order collapses. The untrained might miss that ” — Fragment from “Dune” by Herbert, Frank.

Just the other day I was struggling with the fact that I didn’t know how to write if I didn’t write from the heart. Concocting easy-read pieces that you could enjoy under a blanket, over a cup of tea, were the things that came easiest to me. But I have also this hunger to write about stuff that matters. Everything matters… art, poetry, feelings, science, love… but we created Eclecthical to dive into subjects that we felt we should all be discussing. Conscious-living, sustainability, mindfulness, wellness through healthier lifestyles and choices are some of the subjects that embody most of our philosophies.

The question now was; how to incorporate writing from the heart into more informative pieces? I realized that I could write thought-provoking pieces while still staying true to my words. And the best way to do this was to write about things that mattered to me. As is the case of ancient grains and agroecology. Here is why.

I am the daughter of an agronomical engineer and the grand-daughter of a tree forester. I grew up making pit-stops along the highway so my father could inspect the condition of a crop of corn that was planted alongside of it. He would park the car, and spend minutes that felt like hours pacing the parcels up and down. He was kind, funny, hard-working, and silently wise. He had his own home garden full of chards and carrots and zucchini and loved to spend his Sunday mornings tending them. He was also a GMO representative and advocate.

I grew up around the world of Monsanto. My father’s work with Monsanto fed me, clothed me, and gave me the education I am so grateful to have today. Unfortunately, my father died almost a decade ago, and at seventeen I had not the same curiosity I have now so I didn’t ask many questions about his work. I wish he were around so we could have a heated discussion about this topic because I believe his MBA-educated self would be amused by her chef-turned-writer daughter questioning his life’s work. He was such an essentially good person, one of the best I have known, that I find it hard to believe he would knowingly support such a rotten system as the GMO’s scheme seem to encompass.

What is agroecology?

“Agroecology is defined as the study of the interactions between plants, animals, humans, and the environment within agricultural systems: agroecology as a discipline therefore covers integrative studies within agronomy, ecology, sociology, and economics.” — Definition by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Photo by Luke Thornton on Unsplash

Why is it important?

We live in a world with finite resources. Mother Earth is very generous but we have been taking too much from her lately. And we seem to forget, more often than not, that her resources are limited and that she might collapse because of the abuse of our species.

The agricultural sector plays a critical role in our ecosystem because the way we have been consuming, further away from home gardens and closer to big supermarket chains, has been degrading our ecosystems.

The introduction of genetically modified organisms into crops has been proven to be unfavorable for the ecosystem on numerous main factors. The first is that biodiversity in crops is key to maintain a healthy balance in the ecosystem around it (from worms that live on the ground to bees that pollinate the neighboring plants). Agroecology makes biodiversity a priority and aims to balance the resources so that it achieves a healthy ecosystem. It uses natural resources such as different varieties of plants to serve as pest repellents, while industrial agriculture incorporates chemicals and pesticides that damage the ecosystem.

Industrial agriculture makes biodiversity fall into endangerment because it favors only a few varieties of seeds with the promise of better yield rates and more food. Although this has been proven to be false as agroecologist Vandana Shiva claims fervently in several of her books. Not only do fewer varieties of seeds jeopardize biodiversity, but they also degrade the nutrients of the soil making it less and less optimal for farming.

What is the current problem? Why should we care about it?

Big multinationals control most of the seeds that exist today as the industrialization of food has fallen into the corporate world. They have pushed to approve laws that put farmers in the most hazardous of conditions. Pushing for patents, launching lawsuits and controlling the seeds they have shortened farmers opportunities to break free of this tampered model.

This affects everyone not only in the obvious ecological way but on a small scale; this makes biodiverse produce less available, therefore more expensive. Organic products often are more expensive not because it is more expensive to grow them with natural methods but because the conditioning of the industry makes it more laborious, therefore more restricted.

Also, the transition of food to commodities has made our ecosystem weaker and weaker. Farmers have been forced to plant either corn or soybeans to keep up with the high demands of the markets, and while these two work well together, monocultures have been proven to degrade the soil, weaken the nutrients in the ground and make farming even harder to sustain in the long run.

Where are we today?

There has been some progress in fighting this type of oppression from big corporations. Advocates for the ecosystem are more plentiful every day and the restrictions on big corporations are becoming governmental discussions. All is not lost. Yet there is still a battle to be fought. And everyone should be getting involved. From experts, students, activists, scientists, and politicians, everyone should make it their intention to advocate for the world’s biodiversity.

How can we change the problem?

For the sake of our bees and our varieties of corn, we should be having these conversations. The easiest way to fix a problem is sometimes not being a part of it. When there is not much we can do as individuals against the big multinationals, there is a lot we can de as a collective. A single voice might not be heard, but several loud cries might be harder to ignore.

  • Vote for candidates that propose the best ecological plans.
  • Go to the local farmer’s market instead of to the big chain supermarkets (at least on the week-ends).
  • Grow a home garden with your herbs and spices and even your veggies if you have the room for it.
  • Choose seasonal products instead of commodities that are available all year at the expense of a large carbon footprint.
  • Consume more consciously and less robotically. Dive into where your food comes from and how it is produced. If it takes the commodity route instead of the ecologically-friendly way, switch to a better alternative.
  • Join communities and rallies that support ecological causes and small farmers’ rights.
Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash

With our fast-paced globalizing world, it can seem very easy to feel like we don’t have control over anything. That no matter what we chose to do, the impact of a single person can not cause a large influence over the big scheme. But that is not true. Our world is up to us. How we decide to live in it, the conscious decisions we make every day, and how we choose to interact with our ecosystem. It is all in the little things. Like a Saturday trip to the farmers market.

In Eclecthical we like to be a propulsive platform for opening discussions while staying neutral to sides and opinions. We believe nothing is black or white but that there is just a deep-sea of grays and we have to do our very best to navigate to the lighter shades. And the best way to do it is through educating ourselves. Because we no longer accept to hide behind ignorance, the world is calling for an awakening and we have to rise to the challenge.

What wasn’t all that clear to me was the solutions proposed by the GMO’s companies. I went looking to the website of the biggest GMO producer (Bayer) and I found solutions like this one:

“As we continue seeking the future of agriculture, we’re finding innovative ways to protect farmers’ crops by tapping into the power of organisms already in the ground.”

The answer struck me as much generic as it did false. They weren’t showing any supporting evidence of their claims while the rest of the research I came on to was pretty conclusive in saying that GMOs are damaging the ecosystem and biodiversity of our planet. They are far away from “tapping into the power of organism already in the ground” as their statement claims.

There is an advocate that has dedicated her life to defend agroecology and her name is Vandana Shiva. She was born in India and studied her PhD in the United Kingdom. She is the daughter of farmers and has seen with her own eyes the negative impact that the system of agriculture for commodities has caused to her country, and her planet.

Vandana Shiva has dedicated her life to protect the seeds and the small farmers. She has written plenty of books on the subject and she is constantly at forums and conferences calling out on this big corporations’ claims. She is truly an inspiration and a role model of how we should be getting involved as a community and as individuals that inhabit this planet.

Let us remember that ignorance is no longer tolerated as an excuse for negligence. And that our planet is crying out for our help. Jumping ship and letting someone else steer the boat makes us as much as part of the problem as the ugliest of corporations. We need to take this tiny steps towards ecological farming and saving our biodiversity.


Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems by Stephen R. Gliessman

Seeds of Science by Mark Lynas

Soil not Oil by Vandana Shiva


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