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Green Revolution

GREEN REVOLUTION

GREEN REVOLUTION. The Green Revolution was the notable increase in cereal-grains production in Mexico, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and other developing countries in the 1960s and 1970s. This trend resulted from the introduction of hybrid strains of wheat, rice, and corn (maize) and the adoption of modern agricultural technologies, including irrigation and heavy doses of chemical fertilizer. The Green Revolution was launched by research establishments in Mexico and the Philippines that were funded by the governments of those nations, international donor organizations, and the U.S. government. Similar work is still being carried out by a network of institutes around the world.

The Green Revolution was based on years of painstaking scientific research, but when it was deployed in the field, it yielded dramatic results, nearly doubling wheat production in a few years. The extra food produced by the Green Revolution is generally considered to have averted famine in India and Pakistan; it also allowed many developing countries to keep up with the population growth that many observers had expected would outstrip food production. The leader of a Mexican research term, U.S. agronomist Norman Borlaug, was instrumental in introducing the new wheat to India and Pakistan and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

Borlaug (b. 1914) was hired in 1944 to run a wheat-research program established by the Rockefeller Foundation and the government of Mexico in an effort to make that country self-sufficient in the production and distribution of cereal grains. Borlaug's team developed varieties of wheat that grew well in various climatic conditions and benefited from heavy doses of chemical fertilizer, more so than the traditional plant varieties. Wheat yield per acre rose fourfold from 1944 to 1970. Mexico, which had previously had to import wheat, became a self-sufficient cereal-grain producer by 1956.

The key breakthrough in Mexico was the breeding of short-stemmed wheat that grew to lesser heights than other varieties. Whereas tall plants tend both to shade their neighbors from sunlight and topple over before harvesting, uniformly short stalks grow more evenly and are easier to harvest. The Mexican dwarf wheat was first released to farmers in 1961 and resulted in a doubling of the average yield. Borlaug described the twenty years from 1944 to 1964 as the "silent revolution" that set the stage for the more dramatic Green Revolution to follow.

In the 1960s, many observers felt that widespread famine was inevitable in the developing world and that the population would surpass the means of food production, with disastrous results in countries such as India. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization calculated that 56 percent of the human race lived in countries with an average per-capita food supply of 2,200 calories per day or less, which is barely at subsistence level (cited by Mann, p. 1038). Biologist Paul Ehrlich predicted in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb that "hundreds of millions" would starve to death in the 1970s and 1980s "in spite of any crash programs embarked upon" at the time he wrote his book (Ehrlich, p. xi).

In 1963, just such a devastating famine had threatened India and Pakistan. Borlaug went to the subcontinent to try to persuade governments to import the new varieties of wheat. Not until 1965 was Borlaug able to overcome resistance to the relatively unfamiliar crop and its foreign seeds and bring in hundreds of tons of seed to jump-start production. The new plants caught on rapidly. By the 19691970 crop seasonabout the time Ehrlich was dismissing "crash programs"55 percent of the 35 million acres of wheat in Pakistan and 35 percent of India's 35 million acres of wheat were sown with the Mexican dwarf varieties or varieties derived from them. New production technologies were also introduced, such as a greater reliance on chemical fertilizer and pesticides and the drilling of thousands of wells for controlled irrigation. Government policies that encouraged these new styles of production provided loans that helped farmers adopt it.

Wheat production in Pakistan nearly doubled in five years, going from 4.6 million tons in 1965 (a record at the time) to 8.4 million tons in 1970. India went from 12.3 million tons of wheat in 1965 to 20 million tons in 1970. Both nations were self-sufficient in cereal production by 1974.

As important as the wheat program was, however, rice remains the world's most important food crop, providing 3580 percent of the calories consumed by people in Asia. The International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines was founded in 1960 and was funded by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the government of the Philippines, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. This organization was to do for rice what the Mexican program had done for wheat. Scientists addressed the problem of intermittent flooding of rice paddies by developing strains of rice that would thrive even when submerged in three feet of water. The new varieties produced five times as much rice as the traditional deepwater varieties and opened flood-prone land to rice cultivation. Other varieties were dwarf (for the same reasons as the wheat), or more disease-resistant, or more suited to tropical climates. Scientists crossed thirty-eight different breeds of rice to create IR8, which doubled yields and became known as "miracle rice." IR8 served as the catalyst for what became known as the Green Revolution. By the end of the twentieth century, more than 60 percent of the world's rice fields were planted with varieties developed by research institutes and related developers. A pest-resistant variety known as IR36 was planted on nearly 28 million acres, a record amount for a single food-plant variety.

In addition to Mexico, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines, countries benefiting from the Green Revolution included Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Malaya, Morocco, Thailand, Tunisia, and Turkey. The Green Revolution contributed to the overall economic growth of these nations by increasing the incomes of farmers (who were then able to afford tractors and other modern equipment), the use of electrical energy, and consumer goods, thus increasing the pace and volume of trade and commerce.

As successful as the Green Revolution was, the wholesale transfer of technology to the developing world had its critics. Some objected to the use of chemical fertilizer, which augmented or replaced animal manure or mineral fertilizer. Others objected to the use of pesticides, some of which are believed to be persistent in the environment. The use of irrigation was also criticized, as it often required drilling wells and tapping underground water sources, as was the encouragement of farming in areas formerly considered marginal, such as flood-prone regions in Bangladesh. The very fact that the new crop varieties were developed with foreign support caused some critics to label the entire program imperialistic. Critics also argued that the Green Revolution primarily benefited large farm operations that could more easily obtain fertilizer, pesticides, and modern equipment, and that it helped displace poorer farmers from the land, driving them into urban slums. Critics also pointed out that the heavy use of fertilizer and irrigation causes long-term degradation of the soil.

Proponents of the Green Revolution argued that it contributed to environmental preservation because it improved the productivity of land already in agricultural production and thus saved millions of acres that would otherwise have been put into agricultural use. It is estimated that if cropland productivity had not tripled in the second half of the twentieth century, it would have been necessary to clear half of the world's remaining forest-land for conversion to agriculture (Brown, Eco-Economy ).

However, the rates at which production increased in the early years of the program could not continue indefinitely, which caused some to question the "sustainability" of the new style. For example, rice yields per acre in South Korea grew nearly 60 percent from 1961 to 1977, but only 1 percent from 1977 to 2000 (Brown et al., State of the World 2001, p. 51). Rice production in Asia as a whole grew an average of 3.2 percent per year from 1967 to 1984 but only 1.5 percent per year from 1984 to 1996 (Dawe, p. 948). Some of the leveling-off of yields stemmed from natural limits on plant growth, but economics also played a role. For example, as rice harvests increased, prices fell, thus discouraging more aggressive production. Also, population growth in Asia slowed, thus reducing the rate of growth of the demand for rice. In addition, incomes rose, which prompted people to eat less rice and more of other types of food.

The success of the Green Revolution also depended on the fact that many of the host countriessuch as Mexico, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Chinahad relatively stable governments and fairly well-developed infrastructures. These factors permitted these countries to diffuse both the new seeds and technology and to bring the products to market in an effective manner. The challenges were far more difficult in places such as Africa, where governments were unstable and roads and water resources were less developed. For example, in mid-1990s Mozambique, improved corn grew well in the northern part of the country, but civil unrest and an inadequate transportation system left much of the harvest to rot (Mann, p. 1038). According to the report by David Gately, with the exception of a few countries such as Kenya, where corn yields quadrupled in the 1970s, Africa benefited far less from the Green Revolution than Asian countries and is still threatened periodically with famine.

The Green Revolution could not have been launched without the scientific work done at the research institutes in Mexico and the Philippines. The two original institutes have given rise to an international network of research establishments dedicated to agricultural improvement, technology transfer, and the development of agricultural resources, including trained personnel, in the developing countries. A total of sixteen autonomous centers form the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which operates under the direction of the World Bank. These centers address issues concerning tropical agriculture, dry-area farming, corn, potatoes, wheat, rice, livestock, forestry, and aquatic resources, among others.

Future advances in agricultural productivity depend on the development of new varieties of plants such as sorghum and millet, which are mainstays in African countries and other less-developed areas, and on the introduction of appropriate agricultural technology. This will probably include biotechnologythe genetic alteration of food plants to give them desirable characteristics. For example, farmers in Africa are plagued by hardy, invasive weeds that can quickly overrun a cultivated plot and compel the farmer to abandon it and move on to virgin land. If the plot were planted with corn, soybeans, or other crops that are genetically altered to resist herbicide, then the farmer could more easily control the weeds and harvest a successful crop. Scientists are also developing a genetically modified strain of rice fortified with vitamin A that is intended to help ward off blindness in children, which will be especially useful in developing countries. While people have expressed concern about the environmental impact of genetically modified food plants, such plants are well established in the United States and some other countries and are likely to catch on in the developing world as well.

See also Agriculture since the Industrial Revolution; Biotechnology; Crop Improvement; Ecology and Food; FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization); Food Safety; Food Supply and the Global Food Market; Food Trade Associations; Government Agencies; High-Technology Farming; Horticulture; Hunger, Physiology of; Inspection; International Agencies; Political Economy .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Borlaug, Norman. "The Green Revolution, Peace, and Humanity." Nobel Lecture. Delivered 11 December 1970. Available at http://www.nobel.se.

Brown, Lester R. Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth. New York: Norton, 2001.

Brown, Lester R., et al., eds. State of the World 2001: A World-watch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society. New York: Norton, 2001.

Dawe, David. "Re-Energizing the Green Revolution in Rice." American Journal of Agricultural Economics 80 (1998): 948953.

Easterbrook, Gregg. "Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity." The Atlantic Monthly 279, no. 1 (January 1997): 7582.

Ehrlich, Paul R. The Population Bomb. Revised and expanded. New York: Sierra Club / Ballantine, 1971. A reprint of the 1968 edition.

Gately, David. "Backgrounder: The Past 25 Years: Successes, Failures, and Lessons Learned in Feeding the World." International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C., 2001. Available at http://www.ifpri.cgiar.org/2020/backgrnd/25years.htm.

Lappé, Frances Moore, Joseph Collins, and Peter Rosset. World Hunger: 12 Myths. New York: Grove Press, 1998.

Mann, Charles. "Reseeding the Green Revolution." Science 277 (1997): 10381043.

Walsh, John. "The Greening of the Green Revolution." Science 242 (1991): 26.

Richard L. Lobb

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Green Revolution

Green Revolution


The "green revolution" refers to the widespread introduction of industrial agriculture into developing countries that began in the 1940s. As seen in Norman Borlaug's work on world hunger, its early promotersled by the Rockefeller Foundationassumed that increased food production would alleviate hunger in poor countries and thereby help prevent "red" (i.e., communist) revolutions. Although the green revolution has led to impressive increases in agricultural production over the years, critics such as Amartya Sen have argued that poverty and inequality must also be vigorously attacked since the poor typically cannot afford to buy enough food. Others, like Kenneth Dahlberg and Vandana Shiva, have argued that its high social, environmental, and energy costs of the green revolution make it unsustainable.

United States and European seed-breeding technologies devised in the 1930s were used from the 1940s onward to develop high-yielding varieties (HYVs) adapted to the climate and soil conditions of different developing countries. Research on maize (corn) begun in Mexico in the 1940s by the Rockefeller Foundation was extended in 1959 to rice in the Philippines in partnership with the Ford Foundation. By the 1960s, fears of famine in Asia caused by rapid population growth led to major aid programs to increase agricultural production though a package of inputs (HYVs, fertilizers, and pesticides) and financial support. Plant breeder Norman Borlaug, who led the Mexican research, was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the green revolution. A network of international agricultural research centers managed by the World Bank was also created to further spread the green revolution.

A new phase of the green revolution began in the mid-1980s in response to two emerging global developments. The first was growing international concerns about the increasing gap in wealth between the rich countries of the northern hemisphere and the poor countries of the southern hemisphere, the continuing population explosion, discrimination against women, environmental degradation, the loss of genetic diversity , and global warming . The international response has been that vigorous pursuit of sustainable development is the only answer to these problems. Interest in sustainable agriculture and food systems that are more energy efficient and less socially and environmentally destructive has grown rapidly in all countries. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, is promoting proposals, made by Conway in his work The Doubly Green Revolution, which seeks rural development of the world's poorest regions though sustainable farming systems developed with full farmer participation, including women subsistence farmers.

The second development raising concern is the increasing global power of multinational corporations. Proposed responses have been divided along the same rich-poor lines as with other international problems. In agriculture, new plant genetic engineering techniques, plant and animal patenting, and free-trade agreements have combined to give multinational corporations a significant ability to shape agricultural policies, as well as the structure of food systems world wide. This power raises fundamental questions about the ability of governments to continue to set national food safety and labeling standards. These protect citizens and enable them to choose foods produced in a sustainable manner, which includes providing farm families and farm and food workers reasonable incomes and working conditions. Many farm, environmental, and consumer groups, as well as the poor countries of the world, are seeking ways to protect their food sovereignty and promote more equitable food systems.

Reconciling this increasing corporate power with the need to develop sustainable food and agricultural systems will be a serious source of contention for years to come.

see also Agriculture; Economics; Environmental Justice; Sustainable Development.

Bibliography

borlaug, norman e. (1997). norman borlaug on world hunger. san diego, ca: book-service international.

conway, gordon r. (1998). the doubly green revolution: food for all in the 21st century. ithaca, ny: cornell university press.

dahlberg kenneth a. (1979). beyond the green revolution: the ecology and politics of global agricultural development. new york: plenum press.

sen, amartya k. (1981). poverty and famines: an essay on entitlement and deprivation. new york: oxford university press.

shiva, vandana. (1991). the violence of the green revolution: third world agriculture, ecology, and politics. london: zed books.

steinhart, john, and steinhart, carol. (1974). "energy use in the united states food system." science 184:307316.


internet resources

consulative group on international agricultural research (cgiar) web site. available from http://www.cgiar.org.

rockefeller foundation web site. available from http://www.rockfound.org.

Kenneth A. Dahlberg

HIGH YIELDING VARIETIES (HYVS)

These new seed varieties were based on disease-resistant seed varieties found in the developing countries which were crossbred: 1) to make them respond more to fertilizer and irrigation, thus increasing their yield; 2) to make them less sensitive to annual variations in day length so that they can be used in many different latitudes and climatic zones, and 3) with rice, to make them mature faster so that two crops a year can be grown.

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Green Revolution

Green Revolution

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Green Revolution is the term applied to the introduction of modern crop varieties in developing countries beginning in 19641965. The Green Revolution was introduced at different rates in different countries. It was produced by more than five hundred National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in developing countries and supported by eight International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) located in developing countries. IARCs produced roughly 35 percent of Green Revolution Modern Varieties (GRMVs), which included highly productive lines of rice and wheat. NARS produced 60 percent of GRMVs. Private sector breeders in developing countries produced 5 percent of GRMVs. Developed countries did not produce GRMVs for developing countries.

Twelve countries with populations in 2000 of one million or more did not have a significant Green Revolution (these countries had less than 2 percent GRMV adoption in 2000). Nine of these countries were in sub-Saharan Africa. An additional eighteen countries had less than 10 percent GRMV adoption in 2000 (eleven of these were also in sub-Saharan Africa). Another eighteen countries had less than 20 percent GRMV adoption in 2000 (twelve of these were in sub-Saharan Africa). Forty-five countries had significant Green Revolutions.

The forty-eight countries with low levels of GRMV adoption had low levels of crop value per hectare because crop yields were low. They used very little fertilizer and had low rates of productivity growth. The UNIDO index of industrial competitiveness for these forty-eight countries was low. Most of these countries were small. By contrast, the countries with significant Green Revolutions were larger countries (including India and China).

In 1960 birth rates were similar for all developing countries. By 2000, birth rates in the successful Green Revolution countries had declined to roughly half of the birth rates of 1960. For the unsuccessful countries, birth rates declined by only 15 percent. Food consumption per capita (as measured by calories consumed per capita) increased by 10 percent for the unsuccessful Green Revolution countries and by 25 percent for the successful Green Revolution countries. The unsuccessful countries increased food consumption because the real prices of food grains in world markets declined. In 2000 the real prices of food grains in world markets were 40 percent of their 1960 levels. Child mortality rates improved for all countries because of better diets.

The Green Revolution was criticized by two groups. In the 1980s it was criticized because farmers adopting GRMVs used more fertilizer. The first two GRMV crops were wheat and rice, and indeed fertilizer use did increase for these crops. It was also widely perceived in the 1980s that GRMVs were adopted only in favorable production environments. The second round of critics, who appeared at the end of the 1980s, emphasized environmental factors and increased use of chemicals.

The Green Revolution is continuing as new generations of GRMVs are being developed, and overall GRMV production is increasing, not declining. For example, by the 1990s two IARCs, ICRISAT in India and ICARDA in Syria, had begun developing GRMVs for unfavorable semi-arid and dryland conditions. The Green Revolution is seen today as having had a major impact in spite of its uneven delivery.

SEE ALSO Food Crisis

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ehrlich, Paul R. 1968. The Population Bomb. New York: Ballantine.

Evenson, Robert E., and Douglas Gollin, eds. 2003. Crop Variety Improvement and Its Effect on Productivity: The Impact of International Agricultural Research. Wallingford, U.K., and Cambridge, MA: CABI Publishers.

Evenson, Robert E., and Yoav Kislev. 1975. Agricultural Research and Productivity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Griliches, Zvi. 1957. Hybrid Corn: An Exploration in the Economics of Technological Change. PhD diss., University of Chicago.

Wilson, Edward O. 1992. The Diversity of Life. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

Robert E. Evenson

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Green Revolution

Green Revolution, term referring mainly to dramatic increases in cereal-grain yields in many developing countries beginning in the late 1960s, due largely to use of genetically improved varieties. Beginning in the mid-1940s in Mexico researchers led by American Norman E. Borlaug developed broadly adapted, short-stemmed, disease-resistant wheats that excelled at converting fertilizer and water into high yields. The improved seeds were instrumental in boosting Mexican wheat production and averting famine in India and Pakistan, earning Borlaug the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Significant though less dramatic improvements followed in corn. The Mexican program inspired a similarly successful rice-research effort in the Philippines and a network of research centers dedicated to the important food crops and environments of the developing world. More recent research has sought to respond to criticism that the Green Revolution depends on fertilizers, irrigation, and other factors that poor farmers cannot afford and that may be ecologically harmful; and that it promotes monocultures and loss of genetic diversity.

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Green Revolution

Green Revolution

Green revolution refers to the breeding and widespread use of new varieties of cereal grains, especially wheat and rice. These semidwarf varieties boost yields when grown with high inputs of fertilizer and water. Green revolution agriculture became widespread in less-industrialized countries in the 1960s when international aid agencies sponsored scientific and educational projects promoting the green revolution. These programsincluding the adoption of new wheat varieties in India and Pakistan and new rice varieties in the Philippines and Indonesiasupported foreign policy objectives of the United States and were intended to alleviate hunger.

Supporters noted that the green revolution increased crop yields. India, for example, produced more wheat and rice, which helped avoid famines and save foreign exchange currency. Critics, however, charged that the green revolution increased inequalities: rich farmers became richer and poor farmers became poorer. Critics also complained that the green revolution encouraged increased environmental problems through the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation.

There were problems with both perspectives on the green revolution policies. Critics avoided providing realistic alternatives for solving national food deficits, and supporters avoided noting that poor individuals continued to be hungry, despite the increased supplies.

The green revolution was a change in agricultural practices with secondary social and political effects. Both industrialized and less-industrialized countries adopted the practices. Almost all wheat and rice grown today originated in the green revolution.

see also Borlaug, Norman; Economic Importance of Plants; Fertilizer; Grains; Rice; Wheat.

John H. Perkins

Bibliography

Perkins, J. H. Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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green revolution

green revolution A popular term referring to a particular type of technical change in Third World agriculture arising from improved genetic material, intensive fertilizer use, and controlled irrigation. Mainly associated with wheat and rice production and widely diffused in South and East Asia and Latin America, but not Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Green Revolution

Green Revolution Intensive plan of the 1960s to increase crop yields in developing countries by introducing higher-yielding strains of plant and new fertilizers. The scheme began in Mexico in the 1940s, and was successfully introduced in parts of India, se Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

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