Sunday, January 31, 2010

History of the Green Revolution

By Michael Duggan

The green revolution is credited to the transformation of agricultural practises in the late 1940s in Mexico. It successfully increased crop yields throughout the country eventually spreading worldwide in the 1950s and 60s.
An American scientist, Norman Borlaug, is attributed with the birth of the green revolution as he developed disease resistant crop varieties that greatly increased the yield of Mexico's wheat industry. This discovery enabled Mexico to reduce its wheat imports and eventually become a major exporter of wheat worldwide.

Borlaug began experimenting with wheat varieties in the early 1940s and his work coincided with a nation wide food shortage in Mexico as a result of its rapidly expanding population. The improved wheat strains coupled with new mechanised agricultural practises allowed Mexico to meet its food demands. The techniques pioneered by Borlaug were soon adopted in America and a number of institutes were created in both Mexico and America to contribute to further crop development.

In the 1960s India was on the brink of mass starvation and work from American and Mexican institutes resulted in the development of a rice variety that greatly increased the yield of India's rice paddies. This averted a nationwide famine and led the country to be one of the world's largest exporters of rice by the late 1970s. This modified rice strain was also introduced in the Philippines and a number of other Asian nations, providing a stable food supply and a source of income for each country.

The new strains of rice, wheat and other staple crops produced a greater yield of food than traditional varieties. However they also required fertilizers and additional irrigation to achieve these higher rates of food production. The intensive agricultural practises used to grow the new modified crop varieties required the use of more pesticides, which had negative impacts on the environment. Irrigation techniques have also led to environmental degradation of natural waterways and disruption of under-ground water supplies.

More recently the green revolution has concentrated on alleviation of food shortages in the world's developing nations, particularly African nations. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been instrumental in coordinating actions to combat malnutrition and bring global media attention to the issue. Its findings claim that another major advancement in crop yields and agricultural techniques is required to prevent global food shortages occurring on a large scale in the near future.

While some negative environmental impacts have resulted with the use of modified crop varieties and the agricultural practices required to grow them, the benefits have also been great. The increased production of food has allowed many nations to meet its food requirements and support a successful export market.

Michael Duggan is the Managing Director of the FWR Group Pty Ltd, a niche consulting, coaching, education and training business specialising in the emerging sustainability sector. Mike general manages FWR Group on a day to day basis, ensuring strategic development and business growth. Mike provides expertise in education for sustainability, sustainable development, business and strategic sustainability.

Mike is a young and motivated individual, and through his work with FWR Group, and his continuing role in education and development, he is committed to sustainability, and facilitating its uptake in the mainstream through the development of progressive, lifelong-learning and continued education in all areas of endeavour.

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