Agribusiness is another type of mining

The following is an excerpt from the article ‘The United Republic of Soybeans: Take 2’, published by GRAIN.

Industrial agriculture is like mining in that it considers soils to be an inert substrate from which nutrients (proteins and minerals) can be extracted with the addition of technology and chemicals. It has no use for soils as living organisms nor does it ever restore the nutrients extracted. The soil mining aspects of agriculture are expressed most brutally in genetically engineered soybean cropping. All the propaganda about “no-till” agriculture cannot hide the crude reality that soybeans do not even remotely return to the soil all the nutrients that they extract, nor can no-till methods sustain the soil’s structure and water retention capacity.

Here are a few figures for Argentina alone (the numbers are not available for the other countries):

Soybean monoculture without crop rotation causes intense soil degradation, with a loss of 19 to 30 tons of soil depending on management techniques, slope, and weather. Soybean growing in 2006/2007 (which yielded 47,380,222 tons) involved a net extraction of:

——1 148 970.39 tons of nitrogen;
——255 853.20 tons of phosphorus;
——795 987.73 tons of potassium;
——123 188.58 tons of calcium;
——132 664.62 tons of sulphur, and
——331.66 tons of boron.

Each exported annual soybean harvest also removes 42.5 billion cubic metres of water (data from 2004/2005 season).