Green Revolution was a historical phenomenon which was developing steadily from around 1960, however in the second half of the 1960s, its growth escalated rapidly. In the year 1968, new terms such as “Green Revolution”, “Agricultural Revolution” and “Seed-fertilizer Revolution” was commonly used when the mindset towards food switched from negative to positive, especially in the United States. Then, in 1969, the term “Green Revolution” gained global attention. The term “Green Revolution” started to be known in the United States in 1968, it received attention globally in 1969 (Saito, 1971). This essay discusses more in depth about the Green Revolution and its main impacts especially on a global scale. Green Revolution has similar definitions according to different authors. Moving on to how it affected the world, Green Revolution not only contributed positively but it also brought negative effects.
(Sumberg, Keeney & Dempsey, 2012) referred Green Revolution as the necessity and capability to swiftly improve crop productivity to reduce poverty. Similarly, Evenson (2004) described Green Revolution as the production of high-yielding varieties for developing countries and the following adoption of high-yielding varieties by breeders. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), located in the Philippines, and the International Center for the improvement of Wheat and Maize (CIMMYT), located in Mexico are the first two International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) which were involved in the development of high-yielding varieties. (Saito, 1971) interpreted Green Revolution as a modern direction towards elevated agricultural production and development drove by high-yielding varieties. A public agronomist, Norman Borlaug was claimed to be the ‘father of the Green Revolution’ (Sumberg, Keeney & Dempsey, 2012). In 1954, Norman Borlaug developed new varieties of wheat, which was spread worldwide together with other crops, noticeably rice in the 1950s and 1960s by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations with the aid of the United States government, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 (Patel, 2013).
One of the most important effects of the Green is the introduction of high-yielding varieties by Norman Bourlag. This was also a contribution of Japanese breeders which incorporated dwarfing genes into spring wheat germplasm in the 1930s. The first rust resistant semi-dwarf varieties were made accessible to farmers in Mexico in 1962. The benefits of these dwarf high-yielding varieties were that the possibility to fall over is lower even with the usage of nitrogen fertilizers, and the conversion of fertilizers into additional grains was more effective. This gave a substantial rise to crop productivity (Sumberg, Keeney & Dempsey, 2012). In addition, these high-yielding varieties expend most of their energy in growing grains and comparatively little in growing straw or leaf material (Evenson & Gollin, 2003), also they had shorter growing duration and decreased photoperiodicity which allowed increased multiple cropping (Evenson, 2004). Also, compared to traditional varieties, these high-yielding varieties had a better respond to fertilizers (Evenson & Gollin, 2003). Besides rice and wheat, other food crops such as beans, cassava, maize and sorghum have developed into high-yielding varieties in developing countries (Pinstrup?Andersen & Hazell, 1985). High-yielding varieties is the proof of one of the pioneer technology development and also the main contribution of the Green Revolution.
Besides that, Green Revolution improved productivity which led to increased food production. The introduction of high-yielding varieties did not determine the success of Green Revolution, but adoption of high-yielding varieties by breeders is what led to increased productivity (Evenson & Gollin, 2003). From 1968 to the early 1980s, there was a rapid adoption of high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat in Asia and Latin America (Evenson, 2005). Evidence shows that agricultural output in all developing countries increased 208% for wheat, 109% for rice, 157% for maize, 78% for potatoes, and 36% for cassava between 1960 and 2000. This brought about the increment of 12-13% of food supply in developing countries between 1960 and 1990 (Pingali, 2012). During that period, food production successfully outweighed the population growth when global grain production increased by 174% while global population increased by 110% (Patel, 2013). Over the past three decades, the phenomenal improvement in rice and wheat crop yield were the main reason of increased food grain production (Janaiah, Hossain & Otsuka, 2006). Green Revolution played a part in increasing the food supply chain to meet increasing food demands. Higher productivity led to lower food price and therefore food becomes more accessible to people.
Green Revolution affects the nutritional intake by increasing the calories availability to people, especially among the poor in developing countries. Farmers have replaced other crops on their land with wheat or rice due to their higher productivity relative to other crops and this replacement led to a net increase in calories, protein, and essential amino acids per unit cropland. (Pinstrup?Andersen & Hazell, 1985) The number of malnourished people globally decreased between 1960 and 1990. In Southern India, a 10-y research found that increased production of rice due to high-yielding varieties causes a significant increase in energy and protein intake of both farmers and landless labors (Pingali, 2012). Decline in staple prices due to Green Revolution increased the average calories consumption with improved health and lifespan. (Evenson & Gollin, 2003). For example, 1992 to 2000 in Bangladesh, the decrease in rice prices allowed higher expense per capita on non-rice food and this led to a substantial improvement in the children’s nutrition (Pingali, 2012). In other words, there is an obvious correlation between food prices and nutrition status. To sum it up, percentage of undernourished people dropped significantly because there is access to better quality food.
Increased employment as a result of greater labor demand was also one of the main contribution of Green Revolution. In India, Pakistan Bangladesh and Philippines, evidence shows that employment increased by about 50% with doubled agricultural output when an acre of high-yield variety wheat substituted traditional types of wheat. This increase due to the higher labor demand for weeding, fertilizers and pesticides application, cropping and threshing (Ahmed, 1976). Labor demand increased specially over a period of time because some processes have to be completed within a precise duration. Employments rose because high-yielding varieties reach maturity sooner than traditional varieties, therefore enabling multiple cropping. Moreover, increased expense of large farmers led to the development of non-agricultural field. They used hired labor instead of family labor to replace earnings with recreation (Das, 1998). However, experience has proved that long-term increment in employment can be sustained only if labor demand and yield improvement are balanced (Jacocby, 1972). Ultimately, increasing in employment is due to the improved varieties of grains and gain in income of landlords or larger farmers. This can reduce poverty as labor demand means job opportunities to the poor.
While Green Revolution had positive impacts on a global scale, there were costs to pay as it has some negative effects, for instance, environmental degradation. Issues such as groundwater pollution, emission of greenhouse gases, and eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems arises (Tilman, 1998). Additionally, continuous agricultural expansion into marginal lands, increased deforestation, and grazing in dry region excessively are expected to cause serious environmental problems. Land degradation and desertification caused by land erosion and depletion of organic materials will put on a challenge to the succeeding generation to achieve their demands for food, fuelwood, and other agricultural products (Pinstrup?Andersen ; Hazell, 1985). It is uncertain whether high-intensity agriculture can be maintained due to the soil fertility decline, soil erosion, increased emergence of agricultural diseases, and the high power and chemical inputs (Tilman, 1998). New technology must be developed to conserve current agricultural land, and to avoid harmful impacts on the environment while expanding croplands (Pinstrup?Andersen ; Hazell, 1985). Even though new developments are continuously increasing, deterioration of our environment should not be overlooked and care must be taken to improve the quality of our planet.
Moreover, over the past few decades, Green Revolution has reduced the genetic diversity in plant crops. Said differently, the theory of artificially selected genetic uniformity was the key to success of the Green Revolution. Cultured plants were once genetically diverse varieties before they became genetically uniformed which is known as monocultures. The diversity within these crops is disappearing because modern seed development is based on genetic engineering which produces high-yielding varieties at the cost of reduced genetic diversity besides the decreasing number of plants. Furthermore, mutations continuously occur in individual pathogens and if a previously resistant plant host is successfully infected by a mutated pathogen, the entire genetically uniform population would also be susceptible to the disease (Wilkes ; Wilkes, 1972). Green revolution has a greater impact on irrigated rather in rain-fed areas where drought is the most critical abiotic stress. Therefore, this narrowed the genetic variety of cultivated rice as a result of selection of Green Revolution against drought tolerance (Vikram et al., 2016). Conclusively, increasing genetically uniform varieties will lead to lost in ability to adapt in different environments and therefore in seriousness, extinction will occur.
In conclusion, Green Revolution has contributed widely on a global scale. Crop production was increased due to the discovery of high-yielding varieties, which had better traits compared to traditional varieties. Food became more accessible in terms of availability and ability to afford them as production was increased and food prices were reduced. This led to improved health due the increased nutrients intake from the grains. More job opportunities were also introduced due to increased labor demand in the agricultural field. By these efforts, Green Revolution supported the poor people and reduce poverty across the world, notably in developing countries. However, there were also downside of this revolution in certain aspects. Our environment was harmed by the activity of Green Revolution. Genetic uniformity was also enhanced due to the application of same seeds of the high-yielding varieties. All in all, even though there were prices to pay, it is no doubt that Green Revolution changed the world for the better.