The Green Revolution and its Violence

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The initiation of the Green Revolution connotes the renovation of agricultural practices, in particular, which began in Mexico in the 1940s. Because of its success in producing more agricultural products there, Green Revolution technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s, significantly increasing the amount of calories produced per acre of agriculture. With this motive of ‘improving’ agriculture in India too, the revolution advanced here with the introduction of high yielding wheat in 1968 by American agronomist Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. Although, it has been heralded as a political and technological achievement, unprecedented in human history.

Norman Borlaug

                   Earlier, when the best of western scientists were sent to ‘improve’ Indian agriculture, they found nothing that could be improved in the principles of farming, which were based on preserving and building on nature’s process and nature’s patterns. In fact, Indian agriculture suffered a set back during World War I to independence as a consequence of complex factors including reduced exports due to worldwide recession, depression, and the partially paralysed exporting during World War II. Moreover there were land partitioning which resulted in replacement of the commercial crops like sugarcane and groundnuts with the food grains which were shifted to poorer lands having low yield per acre. Thus, India faced a severe food crisis during this period.

                   The then Indian scientists and policy makers went busy working out for self-reliant and sustainable ecological alternatives just for the regeneration of agriculture in India. Besides another vision of agricultural development was taking shape in American foundations and aid agencies which was based not on cooperation with nature and its processes, but on its conquest and intensification of credit and purchased inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides;  based not on self-reliance and diversity but on dependance and uniformity. There were mainly three groups of international agencies involed in transferring the American model of agriculture to India, viz., the private American Foundations, the American Government and the World Bank. With these, the Ford Foundation had been involved in training and agricultural extension since 1952. The Rockfeller Foundation had been involved in remodelling the agricultural research system in India in 1953. In 1958, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute  which had been set up in 1905 was reorganised, and Ralph Cummings, the field director of the Rockfeller Foundation, became its first dean. In 1960,, he was succeeded by A B Joshi, and in 1965 by M S Swaminathan- who is known as the “Father of the Green Revolution in India”. During the introduction of the revolution in India, the only supporter was C Subramaniam who became agriculture minister in 1964, and some younger agricultural scientists trained in the American paradigm of agriculture. Moreover,  India was on the brink of mass famine in the early 1960s because of its rapidly growing population. Borlaug and the Ford Foundation then implemented research there and they developed a new variety of rice, IR8, that produced more grain per plant when grown with irrigation and fertilizers. Today, India is one of the world’s leading rice producers and IR8 rice usage spread throughout Asia in the decades following the rice’s development in India.

M S Swaminathan

                   Although the vision and strategy got minor obstructions and questioned up by the Planning Commission and some leading economists like B S Minhas and T S Srinivas initially,concerning to risks to diseases and displacement of small peasants, later it was overwhelmingly introduced. This seems not as an introduction but more than a conquest of the Americans over India!

                   The measures that were mainly adopted under the strategy of the revolution includes use of High Yielding Varieties (HYV) of seeds, multiple cropping, dry farm technique, use of sprinklers or drip irrigation, use of chemical insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers, consolidation of holdings, land reforms, improved rural infrastructure, supply of agricultural credits, etc. The semi-dwarf high yielding variety of wheat created by Borlaug enhanced the revolution to a global mark as it assured ‘abundance’ through the name of ‘miracle seeds’. The dwarf genes for wheat were derived from a Japanese variety called Norin 10 and the dwarf genes for rice came from a Taiwanese variety called Dee-Geo-Woo-Gen. The crops developed during the period were domesticated plants bred specifically to respond to fertilizers and produce an increased amount of grain per acre planted. For more than 10,000 years, the Indian farmers and peasants had produced their own seeds, on their own land, selecting the best seeds, storing them, replanting them, and letting nature take ts course in the renewal and enrichment of life. With the Green Revolution, peasants were no longer to be custodians of the common genetic heritage through the storage and preservation of grain. The ‘miracle’ seeds transformed this common genetic heritage into private property, protected by patents and intellectual property rights. The shift from indigenous varieties of seeds to the Green Revolution varieties involved a shift from a farming system controlled by peasants at one point of time, to one controlled by agrichemical and seed corporations, and international agricultural research centers.

                   Moreover, from the social viewpoint, there grew personal as well as regional inequalities. The income of rich farmers increased considerably whereas the poor farmers couldn’t reap any benefit. The new technology was successfully implemented in the wheat-producing belt of the country whereas the rice producing zones were not at all affected by this Green Revolution. Economically, it effected in the increase of the agricultural production and productivity, created more amount of employment opportunities in agricultural sector, the farmers are made market-oriented and the demand for industrial products like fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides increased which gave rise to industrialization of the economy.  Apart from these social and economical impacts it also have some positive ones too. Likewise it includes the increase in production per unit cropland; improvement in the economic conditions of the poor and marginalised farmers through better yield, control of insects and pests; proper use of lands by employng two to three crop pattern; application of better scientific methods as per requirement, development of more new seeds with disease resistant characters and better yield. But these positive effects were suppressed by more number of negative effects. Degradation of land has been recorded in major crop growing regions of Punjab and certain areas in America also. Weedy plants have increased and pest infestion have taken its heights as pests which we used to control by bio degradable methods have become resistant to many pesticides and now these chemical pesticides have become non effective. Addingly, there is loss of biodervity as many birds and friendly insects have become extinct due to use of chemical fetilisers and pesticides. The chemicals which we have been using in our farms go down and contiminated ground water which effect our and our children health. The water table has gone down due to lack of water harvesting systems and now we have to pull water from 300 to 400 ft. depth which was 40 to 50 feet earlier. Loss of old seeds have taken place as we started using newer seeds giving better yield but leading to loss of important genes.

                   Perhaps, Norman Borlaug who is known to start this revolution should have the final word. In the first press conference he gave after his Nobel Prize was announced it is reported that he said that the work of his institute, and any similar work “would only win us all perhaps twenty years breathing space. The potential resources of food were limited. Unless the growth of population could be controlled, then we should destroy the species.”