In this paper we try to identify the roots of the persistent contemporary problems in our modernized agriculture: overproduction, loss of biodiversity and of soil fertility, the risk of large animal disease, social controversies on the lack of animal welfare and culling of animals, etc. Attention is paid to the historical development of present-day farming in Holland as an example of European agriculture. We see a blinkered quest for efficiency in the industrialization of agriculture since the Second World War. Key factor is the cultural mindset at the foundation of our modern society, originating from the ideas of the enlightenment. It makes people vulnerable to ideologies, causing them to focus on a certain goal without considering the consequences. Due to the overemphasis on efficiency, modern industrial agriculture has never been comfortably embedded in its ecological and social context, and as a result displays the characteristics of an ideology. The cause of the inability to solve today’s problems is therefore deeper than simply a failure to apply the right mix of standard remedies. Unless stakeholders in farming start to counter this very one-sided approach to efficiency, modernization will continue to cause all kinds of friction. The implications of the results for agricultural policy, farming and further research are discussed.