THE GREEN REVOLUTION: Agriculture’s double-edged sword

The Green Revolution was a movement in history dedicated to ending world hunger through new advances in agriculture. Between the 1930s and 1960s, a series of research and technology initiatives helped to drastically increase food productivity; the development of high-yield crops and multiple cropping, the expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and the distribution of hybridized seeds, to name a few. The creation of new chemical fertilizers, synthetic herbicides and pesticides also played a major part in increasing productivity. With these new techniques adopted by farmers all over the world, unprecedented quantities of food were produced to feed the booming human population, and many poor countries were able to grow enough food to feed their population. Scientist Norman Borlauf – Father of the Green Revolution – was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his research into wheat varieties in Mexico that helped prevent widespread famine in the developing world.

To this day, farmers still use the methods of the Green Revolution. There was however a downside to this period of frenetic development. As time went on, some of the new types of seeds became less productive. The pesticides and fertilizers were harmful to humans and polluted land and water. What’s more, the Green Revolution reduced agricultural biodiversity by just relying on a few species of each crop. Monocultures of cereal grains, for example, reduced the genetic diversity of crops and made them more susceptible to bug infestations. So while the world benefitted, the food sovereignty of many farming communities, such as the Quechua people of Peru, became endangered.
Jul 11, 2016
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