Courtesy Reuters

THE GREEN REVOLUTION: CORNUCOPIA OR PANDORA'S BOX?

The application of science and technology to traditional agriculture has begun to produce dramatic results, above all in Asia. The rapid expansion of certain food grains in the developing world is being particularly widely heralded, and justly so, as the "Green Revolution." The discussion of the phenomenon tends to cluster around two views. On the one hand, some observers now believe that the race between food and population is over, that the new agricultural technology constitutes a cornucopia for the developing world, and that victory is in sight in the "War on Hunger." Others see this development as opening a Pandora's box; its very success will produce a number of new problems which are far more subtle and difficult than those faced during the development of the new technology. It is important to give careful attention and critical analysis to both interpretations in order to be optimistic about the promise of the Green Revolution where justified, and at the same time to prepare for the problems that are now emerging. The Green Revolution offers an unparalleled opportunity to break the chains of rural poverty in important parts of the world. Success will depend upon how well the opportunity is handled and upon how alert we are to the inherent consequences.

It is now generally known that major technological breakthroughs in food production are believed to have lifted the spectre of famine in the immediate future and to have postponed the prospect of Malthusian population disaster. Startling developments have been accomplished in wheat, rice and corn-major food staples in much of the developing world. The possibilities for doubling or even tripling production are based upon new high-yield varieties coupled with adequate supplies of water, fertilizer, pesticides and modern equipment. Overnight, the image of agriculture in the developing countries has changed from that of an economic backwater to that of a major potential contributor to overall development. The new varieties are rapidly spreading both within countries and across national boundaries. A recent estimate

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