Back to Did the benefits of green revolution technology outweigh the costs?
What is the Green Revolution?
Starting in the 1970s, farmers throughout the world began adopting crop varieties bred for greatly increase yields. The short stature of these High-Yielding Varieties (HYV's) enables them to support larger amounts of grain than older varieties, which were prone to falling over, or "lodging" when the seed head became too large. Most of the subsequent advances in crop yield have been due to such "dwarfing" and similar modifications which increase a the proportion of total plant biomass devoted to grain.
The dissemination of HYV's, and of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that were necessary to maximize their yields, has come to be known as the "Green Revolution." High yielding wheat and rice are now planted on about 70% of the developing world's land. In the Philippines, where HYV rice originated, the adoption rate is over 90%. In Bangladesh and Thailand, however, the rates are only 50% and 10%, respectively.
There is broad general agreement that green revolution technology increased crop yields. On the downside, it is indisputable that these increases were distributed unevenly among regions and socioeconomic classes, as well as highly dependent on irrigation, land quality, government support, markets, and infrastructure. The debate is over whether the benefits of higher yield outweighed the costs of uneven distribution and the exclusion of other approaches to agricultural development.