Reply To: Dear farmers: For those city-bred professionals who have taken to farming, it’s time to turn your back on green revolution

Forums Communities Farmers Dear farmers: For those city-bred professionals who have taken to farming, it’s time to turn your back on green revolution Reply To: Dear farmers: For those city-bred professionals who have taken to farming, it’s time to turn your back on green revolution


The Green Revolution was initiated in the 1960’s to address the issue of malnutrition in the developing world. The technology of the Green Revolution involved bio-engineered seeds that worked in conjunction with chemical fertilizers and heavy irrigation to increase crop yields.

The technology was readily adopted in many states in India and for some it was a great success.However, there were many farmers who could not afford the inputs necessary to participate in the Green Revolution and gaps between social classes therefore widened as wealthy farmers got wealthier and poor farmers lagged behind.

The Green Revolution technology employed the use of new high-yielding varieties of seeds as well as chemical fertilizers. The problem with indigenous seeds was not the fact that they were not high-yielding, rather it was their inability to stand up to heavy applications of chemicals. The new varieties were created in conjunction with the fertilizers to work together with heavy irrigation to produce higher yields. Independently, the seeds as well as the fertilizers were fairly ineffective, but used together they were promised to double or even triple crop yields(this has been documented)

To employ the methods, Punjab (areas that followed the Mahalwari system or colective co-operatives) was chosen as the initiation site in India. Although it is relatively dry, there had been extensive development of irrigation canals during the colonial period. Additionally, Punjab was home to many large wealthy farmers who would become the first to receive the Green Revolution packages

The fact is without the green revolution many born in the 1970′ would now have been dead due to malnutrition the Green Revolution had also led to a change in dietary habits, as fewer people are affected by hunger and die from starvation, Research indeed has established that almost 60% of yearly deaths of children under age five in developing countries are related to malnutrition

The creators of the Green Revolution seemed to have had the best intentions at heart–they were working to develop technologies that would increase productivity of farms in developing countries to combat hunger and poverty. They were not completely unsuccessful, either–the modern varieties of seeds that they produced did, in many cases, increase yields and increase profits for farmers as well as reduce prices to feed the hungry. However, with these gains were also setbacks. It was (is) the lack of a stable agrarian system in India has made it difficult for Green Revolution technology to impact everybody positively. This is because of a rigid social structure which makes it difficult for those without “access” to improve their social conditions. Those with more access (and therefore more money or land) can afford the seeds and chemicals necessary to compete in the Green Revolution market.

Farmers with less access(including money) cannot afford to buy the necessary technology and resort to the local money-lenders to purchase on credit. They then find themselves in debt and paying exorbitant interest rates. They buy the technology on credit to keep up with large farmers and stay competitive in the market(FOMO- Fear of Missiing Out), but the net present value of that debt(adjusted to future yields) alone negates any possible financial success they can achieve by adopting Green Revolution technology.

Once a farmer does acquire the tools necessary to compete in the post-Green Revolution market, he or she is then trapped in a cycle that is nearly impossible to break. The modern varieties of seeds that were developed for the Green Revolution require heavy irrigation and applications of chemicals to be successful. Once a farmer applies these chemicals to the soil, the soil degrades and is left depleted of essential nutrients. To make up for that loss, the farmer needs to use even more fertilizers to make up for what is lacking. Additionally, the use of pesticides leads to the creation of pesticide-resistant pests. This vicious cycle leads to the need for more chemicals to keep up with the changing chemistry of pests and pesticides. In the end it is the Chemical Engineer who always wins!

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