THE GREEN REVOLUTION
P.Fitzgerald-Moore and B.J. Parai Foreword
This chapter started life as lecture notes and graphical displays prepared by Douglas H. Norrie (with data up to 1975) for his class "Technology in Contemporary Society." In 1984 Fitzgerald-Moore amplified the notes and started an annual revision of the data. In 1996, the notes and graphs were turned over to Brian Parai to form the basis of a term paper under Fitzgerald-Moore's supervision. Parai's paper has been extensively quarried during the revision of this chapter in the series "Lectures on Technology". We wish to thank the following who provided additional input : Parampreet Singh Sekhon; Ravi Bhalla ; and Zaheer Baber. Research is still in progress; many reference materials are not locally available; the paper must therefore be treated as an incomplete first draft. Readers' comments would be welcomed.
Introduction The Green Revolution was the technological response to a world-wide food shortage which became threatening in the period after WWII. The Green Revolution transformed farming practice in many regions of the tropics and sub-tropics where the principal food crops were rice, wheat and maize, but the brief account that follows will be mainly focused on the Indian sub-continent. The ambivalence which is characteristic of all technology is expressed in this example by undesired ecological consequences, which are well documented, and by socio-economic consequences about which there is much less agreement. From the time of independence in 1947 until 1965, agricultural production in India was unable to meet the country’s needs. Severe droughts in the mid-1960s threatened famine which was averted only by substantial shipments of food grains from the United States.1 "By the late 1960s, however, it had begun to look as if salvation was at hand." according to a popular account by Reay Tannahill2 of the experimental work for which Norman Borlaug was awarded a Nobel peace prize in 1970. Tannahill continues:
"Twenty years earlier the Rockefeller Foundation, in cooperation with the Mexican Government, had embarked on a wheat development programme that, in the intervening period, had increased Mexico's per-acre wheat yields by 250 percent. One of the great barriers to increased grain production in hot countries is that when traditional plants are heavily fertilized, they shoot up to an unnatural height and then collapse. If they are grown closely enough together to prevent this, one plant shades the other and the yield is reduced. During the Mexican experiments, however, and after tests involving 40,000 crossbreeds of plant, it was found that if a short stemmed grain were thickly sown at the right depth and adequately irrigated, it could take massive doses of fertilizer without becoming lanky and give spectacularly high yields. In 1962 the International Rice Research Institute was set up in the Philippines to find a rice as miraculous as the Pitic 62 and Penjamo 62 wheats, rice being at that time the main item of diet for six out of every ten people in the world." Early trials of short-stemmed rice produced strains susceptible to the stem borer but eventually strains were produced with inbred resistance to some of the worst pests. The introduction of these new high yielding varieties (HYVs) of wheat, rice and maize became known as the Green Revolution.3 The area of its most successful application has been mainly in the tropical wetlands of "less developed" or "newly industrializing" countries such as India,
GREEN p.2 Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and China. HYVs were not the product of genetic engineering: they were the result of traditional plant breeding methods, in which hybrids are produced by cross pollinating unrelated parents. Where they were properly introduced, HYVs resulted in increased crop production and reduced dependency on food imports Production Increase Due to their ability to respond with higher yields to increasing...