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Increasing Yields: The Green Revolution. Sources:. Yields have increased. British wheat yields tripled in last 50 years 15X increase from 500 years ago Cereal yield worldwide doubled since 1960s. Reasons Yields Increase. Increased inputs

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increasing yields the green revolution

Increasing Yields:The Green Revolution


yields have increased
Yields have increased
  • British wheat yields tripled in last 50 years
    • 15X increase from 500 years ago
  • Cereal yield worldwide doubled since 1960s
reasons yields increase
Reasons Yields Increase
  • Increased inputs
    • Labor
    • Fertilizer
    • Machinery
  • increased output
    • Using technology
    • without increasing inputs
  • Increased efficiency
production function
Production Function
  • Initially, as input increases, output increases
  • Eventually, a point of maximum efficiency will be reached
  • Additional input will lead to diminished increases in output
  • Fertilizer
    • Can improve yields dramatically: 20-1000%
    • Diminished response if keep adding
    • Reduces growth at high levels
    • Effectiveness depends on
      • Water/Irrigation
      • Timing of application
    • Biggest increase will be in Africa
      • Dem. Rep. Congo uses 1% fertilizer used in South Africa

Cassava in Gambia

  • Animal Traction
    • 400 million draft animals in world
    • ½ World’s ag land farmed with draft animals
    • ¼ farmed with hand tools
    • ¼ mechanized


use of draft animals
Use of Draft Animals
  • Do the work of 3-4 humans
  • Increase land able to be farmed
  • Animal plowing breaks soil better than by hand
  • Source of fertilizer
  • Initial cost high
    • Profitable if can expand land


  • Poorest farmers will consider moving from hand tools to animals
  • Farmers using animals will consider using machinery
  • May not be efficient choice:
    • Credit limited
    • Gas expensive
    • Maintenance expensive
    • But labor cheap


big growers more efficient
Big Growers More Efficient?
  • Are big growers more efficient?
    • have the know-how to produce
  • Would redistribution of land would lower production?
    • hurt the hungry?

Brazil Farm

  • Big Growers are actually less efficient than small growers in yield/acre
  • Often land left idle by large landowners (89% in Brazil)
  • Big operations are fossil fuel intensive requiring 10 Calories for every one produced: NeoCaloric Ag
  • Small farmers use labor more intensively
  • Small farmers use space more efficiently
  • Small landowners more motivated for production and conservation


big growers
Big Growers
  • Advantages of wealth and size
    • Big farms can more easily survive
  • Large operations with absentee owners (investors) tend to:
    • Overuse the soil
    • Over-spray with chemicals
    • Remove wealth generated from the community
land reform
Land Reform
  • World Bank: productivity would be increased if land distribution more equitable
  • Land reform (redistribution) successful after WWII:
    • South Korea,
    • Taiwan
    • China
  • Recent success
    • Japan
    • Zimbabwe
    • Kerala, India

Kerala, India

green revolution
Green Revolution
  • 1960’s: improved wheat varieties gave dramatic increase in yield in Mexico
  • Varieties more responsive to irrigation and petrochemical fertilizers
  • Soon new rice and maize varieties
norman borlaug
Norman Borlaug
  • Joined Rockefeller Foundation team in Mexico 1944
  • Increased yield, rust resistance in wheat
  • Biggest contributor to Green Revolution
  • Won Nobel Peace Prize in 1970
green revolution1
Green Revolution
  • 1970’s: spread to millions of third world farmers
  • 1990’s: 40% of all farms in third world
    • 75% Rice in Asia
    • 80% Wheat in third world
    • 70% Corn worldwide
  • Improved standard of living for millions people worldwide
    • International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
    • In Mexico
  • Part of CGIAR
    • Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
criticisms of the green revolution
Criticisms of the Green Revolution
  • Green Revolution hasn’t alleviated hunger
  • Economic power, land controlled by few
  • Technology benefits wealthy
  • Therefore Green Revolution increases inequity
  • More hunger AND more food at same time
criticisms of the green revolution1
Criticisms of the Green Revolution
  • Food Insecurity of poor not addressed
  • Cash Crops: food flows from the poor and hungry nations to the rich and well-fed nations
  • Green Revolution not sustainable
    • destroys resource base on which agriculture depends
example india
Example: India
  • Self-sufficient in grain due to Green Revolution
  • But 1/3 of people poor
  • 5,000 children die each day
  • Poor cannot afford to BUY the food


criticisms of the green revolution2
Criticisms of the Green Revolution
  • Early, poor had little access to credit
  • Could not buy seeds, fertilizer, irrigation to make Green Revolution work
  • Wealthy invested, got richer, drove out poor
  • Now, more emphasis on loans for poor
there are still problems
There are still problems
  • Need good land (wealthy own)
  • Agrochemicals bad for health, environment
  • Expensive inputs: profits to global chemical companies
  • Rural people displaced from land
  • Mechanization reduces agricultural jobs
  • Not ecologically sustainable: depletes soil, pesticide race
philippines example
Philippines Example
  • Two villages studied:
    • large and small farmers invested in Green Revolution
  • Village 1 had more equal land holdings, solidarity
    • All benefited from Green Revolution
  • Village 2 dominated by a few wealthy landowners.
    • Wealthy increased land by 50% at expense of poor
farm squeeze
Farm Squeeze
  • Fertilizer use increases by huge amount
  • Yields do not increase proportionally
  • India: 6x rise in fertilizer use but 2/3 less production/ton fertilizer
  • Need more fertilizer, pesticide each year for same result
  • Thus cost go up faster than yields: cost-price squeeze
farm squeeze1
Farm Squeeze
  • U.S. true home of Green Revolution
  • Yields up 3x
    • but prices down
  • To survive, must expand acreage
    • to make up for lower per acre profit.
u s farm squeeze
U.S. Farm Squeeze
  • Since WWII
    • number of farms decreased 2/3
    • average farm size up ½
    • rural communities gutted
    • production costs up from 50% of gross to 80%
soil depletion worldwide
Soil Depletion Worldwide
  • Dramatic increases in yields during 1970s, 1980s
  • Soil now depleted, resulting in leveling off or dropping yields
  • 6% of Ag land in India now useless
  • Rice breeding at International Rice Research Institute: IRRI
rice problem
Rice Problem
  • 1968: IR8 rice had 2x yield increase
    • Short
      • need herbicides to compete with weeds
    • Uniform genetically
      • susceptible to pests
    • Brown plant hopper devastated rice
    • Insecticide spraying useless
      • brown hopper resistant
rice problem1
Rice Problem
  • 1973: IR26 Resistant to brown plant hopper
    • Worked 2 years
    • Then Biotype 2 of plant hoppers attacked
rice problem2
Rice Problem
  • 1975: IR32 Resistant to Biotype 2
    • Now Biotype 3 appeared
    • Insecticides again useless
    • Insecticides killed off brown hopper predators
    • Resulted in 40x increase in hoppers
  • Profits from Green Revolution go to
    • Middlemen
    • Banks
    • Chemical companies
    • Biggest growers
  • Grain prices fall
  • Farms get bigger


increased dependency
Increased Dependency
  • Poor countries must import:
    • Seeds
    • Fertilizer
    • Pesticides
    • Herbicides
  • Cost to India increased 600% 1960-1980
  • Biotechnology leads to more dependency
unsustainable agriculture
Unsustainable Agriculture
  • Industrial agriculture =
    • mining land to extract maximum output
  • “War” between humans and weeds, insects and disease
  • Market dictates weapons:
    • pesticides and chemical fertilizers
  • We are destroying our food- producing resources
destruction of ag resources
Destruction of Ag Resources
  • Desertification
  • Soil erosion
  • Pesticide contamination
  • Groundwater depletion
  • Salinization
  • Urban sprawl
  • Genetic resources shrinking
  • Fossil fuels depleting
sustainable agriculture goals
Sustainable Agriculture Goals
  • Environmental Health
  • Economic Profitability
  • Social and Economic Equity
  • Sustainable farming based on

ecological principles:

    • Diversity
    • Interdependence
    • Synergy
    • Complex interactions
  • Science to improve not displace traditional farming
  • Low energy, capital costs
  • Intercropping
    • Mixing annual and perennial crops
  • Crop rotations
    • Rotate cereals and legumes
  • Mixing of plant and animal production
    • Rice paddies with edible weeds, fish and rice
  • Not continuous production of one crop
  • Fragile soils must be protected
  • Could mix millet, cattle, and Acacia trees
  • Trees fix nitrogen, have deep tap roots
  • Cattle eat tree pods
  • Plant millet after leaves fall
  • Could support 2x population in Senegal
  • Aid agencies instead promoting new seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals, biotechnology, free trade

Evergreen Revolution

  • Swaminathan led Green Revolution in India
  • Agrees cannot maintain crop yields
  • Problems:
    • Excessive use of pesticides
    • Groundwater depletion
    • Pollution
    • Monoculture
  • Therefore, India needs sustainable agriculture
    • “Evergreen Revolution “

M.S. Swaminathan

World Food Prize 1987

vandana shiva
Vandana Shiva

"Ecological problems arise from applying the engineering paradigm to life."

critic of the green revolution in india
Critic of the Green Revolution in India
  • “The Green Revolution has been a failure.
    • It has led to reduced genetic diversity,
    • increased vulnerability to pests,
    • soil erosion,
    • water shortages,
    • reduced soil fertility,
    • micronutrient deficiencies,
    • soil contamination…

Vandana Shiva

critic of the green revolution in india1
Critic of the Green Revolution in India
  • “…reduced availability of nutritious food crops for the local population,
  • the displacement of vast numbers of small farmers form their land,
  • rural impoverishment and
  • increased tensions and conflicts. …

Vandana Shiva

critic of the green revolution in india2
Critic of the Green Revolution in India
  • “…The beneficiaries have been
    • the agrochemical industry,
    • large petrochemical companies,
    • manufacturers of agricultural machinery,
    • dam builders and
    • large landowners.”

-- Vandana Shiva "The Violence of the Green Revolution: Ecological Degradation and Political Conflict in Punjab." The Ecologist, 1991, 21(2):57-60

genetic engineering the next green revolution
Genetic Engineering:The Next Green Revolution ?

next green revolution
Next Green Revolution?
  • Biotechnology will help developing countries accomplish things that they could never do with conventional plant breeding”
  • “I believe genetically modified food crops will stop world hunger.”

Norman Borlaug Nobel Peace Prize

the next green revolution
The Next Green Revolution?
  • Biotechnology helps farmers produce higher yields on less land.
  • Technology allows us to have less impact on soil erosion, biodiversity, wildlife, forests, and grasslands
  • To achieve comparable yields (1950-1999) with old farming methods, would have needed an additional 1.8 Billion hectares of land

Norman Borlaug Nobel Peace Prize

biotechnology critic
Biotechnology Critic
  • Biotechnology development
    • Same vision as chemical industry:
      • Short term goals
        • Enhanced yields, profit margins
      • Nature should be dominated and exploited
        • forced to yield more
      • Prefer quick solutions
        • to complex ecological problems
      • Reductionist thinking about farming
        • Instead of integrated systems
      • Agricultural success means
        • Short term profits
        • Not long term sustainability

-- Jane Rissler, Union of Concerned Scientists