Monoculture is a word that has in itself several connotations that are context specific – thus having different usage depending on place, language and arena. So, what is monoculture? Like the word ‘culture’ (from the Latin cultura – meaning cultivation), monoculture comes from agriculture, to describe the practice of focusing on the cultivation of a single homogeneous crop or livestock species in farming (and the opposite of ‘polyculture’ which focuses on variety). It has been adopted in thinking about society, particularly in the social sciences, and so for many, it is understood in the societal and political senses of the word, to talk about patterns of social behaviour.

Agriculture is the practice and livelihood of cultivating plants and livestock. The practice was an essential development in sustaining human civilisation, as farming of domesticated species led to large enough quantities of food to enable people to live in cities. Industrial-scale agriculture based on monoculture techniques in the twentieth century dominate agricultural production. Crops in particular have a certain capacity to adapt to local cultivation conditions and to human-nutritional requirements and tastes; something that brings both food security, health and culinary gratification to communities. By inbreeding plants for several generations, it has been possible to empty them from almost any genetic variation. This is referred to as ‘modern plant breeding’, which is also protected by legislation. Since the UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) convention, which brought legislation of restrictions on intellectual property for new plants of 1962, only distinct, officially recognised plants are allowed for commercial cultivation within countries that have signed the convention, including all the members of the EU.

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