Lessons from the Green Revolution for the Biotechnology Debate

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Thus, alternative weeding control methods, including human labour, were usually not ... and focus on the effects on smallholder farmers (Braun, Bouis, and Kennedy 1994; ..... Although plant breeders have bred new varieties for increased pest ...

Lessons from the Green Revolution: Effects on Human Nutrition

Rachel Bezner Kerr

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Current debates about the potential positive and negative implications of agricultural biotechnology for human nutrition do not seem to be well informed by lessons learned from the Green Revolution. This paper will examine the following question: what was learned from the Green Revolution concerning its effects on food consumption and/or nutrition? 2) In what respects is the agricultural biotechnology issue similar to the Green Revolution? 3) In what respects is it different? 4) Under what circumstances (if any) do you think it would be appropriate to introduce genetically engineered crops into the farming systems of developing countries? 5) What are the pros and cons of the preceding recommendation?

Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework used for this analysis integrates the causes of malnutrition (UNICEF 1990), the extended model of care (Engle, Menon, and Haddad 1999) and the sustainable livelihood framework (Adato and Meinzen- Dick 2002). In addition, it incorporates some aspects of the framework used to assess the effects of commercialization on nutrition (Braun, Bouis, and Kennedy 1994). Starting with UNICEF’s model of the causal mechanisms of child malnutrition, the conceptual framework attributes direct child nutrition to both adequate nutrient intake and good health (lack of disease). These factors are in turn affected by a broad spectrum of caregiving behaviors, including child feeding, hygiene practices and food preparation and storage, that are found to be critical in child nutritional outcomes (Engle, Menon, and Haddad 1999). This framework then tries to break apart the ‘cultural, political and social context’ that influences the food and economic resources available for care at the household level. In doing so, I try to integrate the broader social, economic and political processes that interact at the household level, in turn affecting child and family nutrition. In particular I emphasize the means by which changes in agricultural technology might interact with other factors that affect food consumption, such as income, prices, non-food expenditures, time allocation and other factors (Braun, Bouis, and Kennedy 1994). In addition, broader processes and structures such as government policies, international trade regimes and the private sector need to be considered in this discussion, since all of these factors influence consumption and nutrition at the household level (Adato and Meinzen-Dick 2002). The critical component lacking from most models that examine the effect of an agricultural technology on nutritional outcomes is the political context, and the related access to power and control over resources, both within and beyond the household, that influence overall outcomes. This paper will try to integrate the broader political factors into the discussion in an attempt to break the impasse.

Green Revolution Defined

Most definitions of the Green Revolution focus on the technical aspects, in particular the high-yielding maize, rice and wheat varieties developed in the 1950s and 1960s by international agricultural research centers in Mexico and the Philippines (Conway 1997). However in this essay, the term will refer to the particular historical, technical, political and social aspects of the Green Revoluion. Many authors suggest that the Green Revolution began with a joint venture between the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1943, in which American and Mexican scientists worked to develop synthetic and hybrid corn and wheat varieties that were high-yielding in comparison to local varieties (Conway 1997; Lipton 1988). In 1961, the International Rice Research Institute began operations in the Philippines with assistance from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, developing high-yielding hybrid rice varieties. However, the origins of the Green Revolution lay in a particular combination of business interests (i.e. agro-chemical companies), philanthropy, scientists and politics that originated primarily in the United States (Kloppenburg 1988). The institutional approach of the Green Revolution, in which International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) carry out research in collaboration with national governments, is a model similar to the a US Land Grant system for agricultural research (Kloppenburg 1988). In both cases, political interests had a major influence on the plant breeding approach and outcomes to the technical intervention, as will be discussed below. Furthermore, the Green Revolution involved the dissemination of the high-yielding seeds in combination with fertilizer, pesticides and often irrigation. That is, most farmers took up a ‘package’ of inputs, including fertilizer and pesticides, and the majority of the seeds were utilized under irrigated or high rainfall conditions (Conway 1997). Although researchers later developed high-yielding seeds that performed well under moisture stress and low nutrient inputs, the highest yields were initially seen under high input water and nutrient conditions (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). The majority of high-yielding varieties were also screened for performance under herbicides, usually provided as a free service by herbicide manufacturers to the international and national research institutions, in order to help promote their herbicide products. Thus, alternative weeding control methods, including human labour, were usually not considered by researchers (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). In the minds of most farmers, development experts and government planners at the time, the seeds were inextricably linked with fertilizer and pesticide use, and often irrigation (Gupta 1998; Pearse 1980). This issue of the ‘package of inputs’ will be discussed in the light of implications for consumption and nutritional outcomes below. Many government planners, who themselves often had political connections with large landholders, felt that the ‘Green Revolution’ should initially occur under ‘ideal’ conditions of large landholders, and the extension advice and credit opportunities were made more available to these more politically powerful groups (Gupta 1998). The Green Revolution was also an ideological approach to solving social problems with technology, and was part of a broader ‘development’ or ‘modernization’ approach to problems in the Third World. Modernization theory posits that poor countries and regions need to make the transition from backward, traditional societies to modern, advanced industrial societies through technological change(Peet and Hartwick 1999). The Green Revolution was seen as part of an overall strategy to help the Third World transition into modern societies through technological changes in agriculture.

1) Lessons learned about the GR’s effects on food consumption & nutrition a) General arguments Proponents of the Green Revolution argue that the high-yielding varieties of the world’s major food staples have led to an increase in total world food outputs, and a consequent decrease in world food prices, which has had a positive effect on food consumption levels (Conway 1997). Certainly there is ample evidence that agricultural yields have increased for the major staples in many parts of the world following the onset of the Green Revolution, in part due to new varietal types, in part due to increased fertilizer application and irrigation, both of which have been major features of the Green Revolution (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). However regional yield increases and outcomes for particular social groups depends on a host of other factors, and is a subject of much dispute. This section will address two related questions through an examination of several case studies: a) has producing more grain improved overall food consumption? b) Has the GR improved nutrition? How much increased grain production has led to improvements in food consumption, particularly for the poor, is a subject of intense and polarized debate. Proponents point to average per capita increases in food consumption globally and regionally except in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (Conway 1997). Critics argue that food consumption figures are inflated by excessive consumption in the North, including livestock feed, and that although the total food production per person has risen in the last two decades, the number of hungry people has not been substantially reduced in many regions of the world, particularly in South Asia and Sub- Saharan Africa (Rosset, Collins, and Lappe 2000). Many times the numbers vary widely between the two opposing sides. One of the problems with this issue is that it is difficult to attribute causality in the analysis, because there are many other factors in addition to the Green Revolution that influenced food consumption levels, and because there are few opportunities to do empirical studies looking at regions before and after the onset of the Green Revolution. Any empirical studies undertaken look at a village or a particular region, and so generalizations are hard to make. Nonetheless, this section will examine the limited studies that have been carried out to weigh the evidence, and will include examples from Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as different crops and social groups. Most of the studies, which examine the causal linkages between agricultural changes, including the Green Revolution, and nutrition, are small case studies in rural communities, and focus on the effects on smallholder farmers (Braun, Bouis, and Kennedy 1994; Lipton and Longhurst 1989). Much of the critiques surrounding the Green Revolution, however, revolve around broader social trends brought about in part by the Green Revolution, including changing land tenure arrangements that favour the wealthy, widening gaps in income distribution, reduced real wages and considerable environmental effects (Griffin 1974; Pearse 1980; Shiva 1989; Spitz 1987). Although the nutritional outcomes are usually not measured in these studies, presumably changes in these social and environmental factors would have effects on nutritional outcomes, and hence will also be considered in the discussion below. b) Case studies A series of studies by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) examined the effect of commercialization of cropping systems on income and nutrition (Braun and Kennedy 1986; Braun and Kennedy 1994). Although not focused on the effects of the Green Revolution technologies per se, the studies did examine the effects of changes in the agricultural system, typically towards higher yields of particular crops, in a given region in terms of income and nutrition. Overall the studies found that, although in many cases the new agricultural technologies increased the incomes of some members of a given community or region, there was a small, weak link between increased income and calorie consumption (Braun, Hotchkiss, and Immink 1989; Braun, Johm, and Puetz 1994; Braun and Kennedy 1986; Braun and Kennedy 1994; Braun, Puetz, and Webb 1989; Braun and Webb 1989). Furthermore, women’s roles in terms of agricultural labour, childcare and control over income appeared to be crucial if positive nutritional outcomes were to be found. Thus, there was no clear trend between increased commercialization and nutritional outcomes; instead, it depended on the particular historical, social and political context under which the changes took place. The importance of context will be examined in more detail in the two case studies outlined below, West Africa and South India, representing regions with different effects from Green Revolution technologies. A study by IFPRI in the Gambia examined an irrigated rice scheme introduced in the 1980s by the Government of The Gambia. The project, owned and managed by the state, provided households with ploughing services, fertilizers and hybrid seeds on a credit basis (Braun, Johm, and Puetz 1994). The smallholder farming families associated with the project were registered as tenants, and there were multiple technological options for the farmers, including small-pump irrigation schemes and partly water- controlled conditions in leveled fields, both with modest yield increases, to fully water-controlled conditions in lands that are centrally irrigated and drained (Braun, Johm, and Puetz 1994). The project organizers specifically tried to maintain what had been traditional use rights of women farmers for rice land, by prioritizing land rights for women during official registration of plots. Although this study did not occur during the historical period associated with the Green Revolution, it does utilize high-yielding varieties, fertilizers and irrigation. The centrally managed aspect of the project makes it considerably different from the experience of the Green Revolution in many other regions, but will make for useful comparisons in terms of institutional approaches to managing technological change and the related effects on nutrition and consumption. Two major studies were done: an extensive cross-sectional survey of 900 farmers in 10 villages in 1985-86 and 1987-88 (Braun, Puetz, and Webb 1989), and an intensive qualitative examination of intra household dynamics of 22 households over the period of one year (Webb 1989). The large survey does not have a baseline, and thus has to control for confounding variables through multivariate analysis, which makes it difficult to attribute causality. The qualitative study, with such a small sample, and with no baseline to compare to, also suffers from a problem of confounding variables, and causality is particularly difficult to attribute in this study. These research design limitations should be kept in mind in considering the authors’ findings. The large survey found that there was a loss of 531 calories in other crops for every 1000 calories in rice production, leading to a net gain of 47% in calories produced on-farm for those involved in rice production. Rice production increased real incomes by 13% per household, and an additional 10% of income increase led to a 9.4% increase in food expenditures, and a 4.8% increase in calorie consumption. Thus, overall it appears that the use of higher-yielding rice varieties led to considerable increases in food consumption. In addition, however, there was a much higher cost per hectare to undertake the irrigated rice plots, namely 15 times the swamp rice, due to the costs of fertilizer, seeds, irrigation, hired labour, transport and threshing needs (Braun, Puetz, and Webb 1989). Thus, although the project led to increased yields, the overall benefit in terms of consumption and nutrition were limited due to the additional non- food expenditures (i.e. fertilizer, pesticides) to the household. Women’s agricultural labour was increased slightly, while men’s agricultural labour decreased slightly. Upland cereals and groundnut production were reduced due to reduced labour allocation to these crops by women, and the reduced control of women over the food crops was found to reduce consumption levels significantly (2.2%) during the wet season, the period of greatest food shortages in the Gambia. Thus the issue of intra household control of income was inextricably linked to consumption and nutritional outcomes, and in this case the ‘package’ of inputs led to negative consequences. Women involved with the irrigated rice scheme were more likely to bring their youngest child with them to the rice fields in the wet season, but less likely to take their older children with them into the field. These aspects of childcare were not integrated into the model, so it is difficult to know what effects they had on child nutritional status. However, other studies of the effects of reduced childcare time of mothers, often replaced by older children, increases the likelihood of wasting or stunting, particularly for children ages 6 to 18 months (Begin, Frongillo, and Delisle 1999; Gryboski 1996; Kennedy and Cogill 1988). The following characteristics were found to be determinants in who got access to project land: location of village, size of compound, ethnicity, length of residence in village, higher status of household and status of woman in household (Braun, Puetz, and Webb 1989). Clearly the benefits from the project were not experienced equally in this region, with the better- off household benefiting more. Despite attempts by the project to maintain women’s right over traditional rice lands, the survey and qualitative study found that the irrigated rice plots were considered communal rice plots, and as such were placed under the control of the male household head (Webb 1989). Decision-making responsibilities over crop storage and disposal were primarily men’s for the irrigated rice plots. Only 10% of pump irrigated plots were controlled by women, although they controlled 77% of the partly water-controlled fields (Braun, Puetz, and Webb 1989). This change in land allocation meant that more time was spent by women and men on these communal (irrigated) rice plots, and less time on private plots, including groundnuts, swamp rice and other cereals. There were several important nutritional outcomes noted from the study (Braun, Johm, and Puetz 1994). First of all, women’s weight-for-height, an indicator of seasonal low-energy intakes and high energy expenditures during the rainy season, fluctuated less for women with the most access to the new rice technologies: 1.1 kilograms, compared to 2.9 kilograms for those with least access to the new technology. Less weight fluctuation between the rainy and dry season, combined with an additional 500 calories, would likely lead to improvements in birth weights, as previous studies on dietary supplementation of pregnant women in the Gambia have indicated (Lawrence, Coward, Lawrence, Cole, and Whitehead 1987; Prentice, Cole, Foord, Lamb, and Whitehead 1987). Secondly, the increase in food energy consumption at the household level was significantly associated with the weight-for-age Z score of children aged 7 to 120 months. Diarrhea, as expected, was also an important explanatory variable in the regression analysis, as was the child’s position within the household. Children of the compound head were significantly better off in terms of weight-for-age compared to other children within the household. Thus, this study indicates that, under the specific social and institutional conditions of this project, the families involved with irrigated rice production using hybrid rice varieties can improve the consumption and nutritional levels both at a general household level and for women and children. Although women’s control over rice land significantly increased consumption and children’s weight-for-age, women’s control of rice land was lessened in the project, despite attempts to maintain their rights over rice land. In addition, the effect of diarrhea on child nutritional status continued to hold despite improved consumption levels, as expected from the conceptual framework. Further improvements to child nutritional status would need to address these two aspects, as well as examine who did not benefit from the project because of social inequities already inherent in the community. The authors conclude that efforts to improve nutritional status with agricultural approaches need to focus on broad-based policies, such as rural infrastructure, agricultural input delivery systems, labor saving technologies, protecting women’s productive role in agriculture particularly in terms of credit. Rural sanitation and health services also need to be considered, especially drinking water (Braun and Webb 1989). Some unanswered questions from the study include what the effects of the project were on landless families, particularly in terms of wages, and whether their nutritional status was improved. It is noted that many women lost access to private crops as a result of the project, and became hired labourers, but the implications of this change for child nutritional status are not measured. In addition the switch from groundnuts and other cereals to rice might have additional nutritional consequences, but since there is no dietary measurement in the survey, it is not known what outcomes there might be for intakes of micronutrients and protein, for example. The overall cross-sectional design of the project provides limited insight into the long-term effects of the agricultural project for the region. A study in South India carried out surveys in 1973/74 and 1982/83, as well as a smaller survey in 1983/84 (Hazell, Ramasamy, Rajagopalan, Aiyasamy, and Bliven 1991). The ‘Green Revolution’ in India was already well underway when the initial survey was conducted, so this study does not provide a baseline, but it does examine changes over time in 11 villages that experienced the effects of the Green Revolution, so some broader conclusions can be made. An additional problem with the survey design is that 1982/83 was a high rainfall year, so yields were higher than normal. However the additional resurvey in 1983/84 of the poorer villages provides some basis for their conclusions. The study finds little overall change in food production, since increases in paddy rice production were offset by reductions in groundnut production (Hazell et al. 1991). Labour and fertilizer costs are increased while net farm incomes are decreased for both large and small farms, indicating the role of non-food expenditures, namely fertilizer and labour costs, at least partially offset any gains in income and/or yields. Total crop employment decreased for small farms and increased for large farms, but there was little overall increase in farm employment because of mechanization. This finding supports critics of the Green Revolution, in that the combination of pesticide use, monocropping, and the association of the Green Revolution technologies with large landholding farmers meant that mechanization increased, particularly for large farms (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). Herbicide spraying and the introduction of tractors and two-wheeled power tillers have increased dramatically throughout the South (Conway 1997). A study of northern Indian states estimate that combines led to a 95 per cent reduction in employment, particularly difficult for seasonal migrants coming from poorer states (Conway 1997). Declines in labour demand has also been noted for the Philippines and Indonesia for rice cultivation, from mechanical direct seeding, multi-row transplanters, rotary weeders and mechanized threshing and milling (Conway, 1997). Although mechanization does not have to be associated with high-yielding seeds, it often is in practice, because of the strong linkages between access to credit, scaling up farm sizes, and the political strength of large landholders in many regions (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). Hazell et al. (1991) note in the South India case study that net wage earnings declined for hired farm labour, although overall income increased by about 30% for farmers and labourers and 20% for non-agriculturalists. The distribution of land overall appears to be worsened, although not statistically significantly, while some villages have statistically significant changes in land distribution. The extent to which these changes can be directly attributed to the Green Revolution is unknown, since the authors do not do multivariate analysis and there are a multitude of confounding variables, including considerable annual variability in income and yields. A qualitative sub-study of 3 of the villages in 1983-84, one of which had been previously studied by the author, indicate a decline in the relative share of cultivation as a source of income, and an increase in the number of people depending on wage work (Harriss 1991). Harriss finds little evidence for increased income differentiation, but given the small sample size, and the fact that the region has proportionally far fewer tenants compared to the rest of India, his findings are unlikely to hold true at a broader scale. Another study in South India found that the ratio of rent to wage doubled in the 1970s, meaning that real wages declined (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). Even according to major proponents of the Green Revolution acknowledge that the major benefits from the technologies have gone primarily to the landowners rather than the labourers (Lipton and Longhurst 1989); (Conway 1997). The South India study also considered food consumption and nutrition changes, through the measurement of food expenditures during monthly purchase surveys (Pinstrup-Anderson and Jaramillo 1991). Since the researchers measured food purchase rather than food intake, it is difficult to assess the overall effect on food consumption, given the considerable ‘leakage’ of food through waste, exchange, gifts, payment to hired help and so on (Bouis and Haddad 1990). In addition it is not known how much food is gathered or produced at home, nor is it known the intrahousehold distribution of food intake from this method, thus making inferences in terms of nutritional outcomes difficult. Nonetheless, the authors found an increase in the purchase of meat, eggs, dairy and vegetables, while less rice was purchased. They then compared the food expenditure patterns to the required daily allowances, and concluded that there is an increase in calorie consumption in the high rainfall year (1983). There was no test of significance for the poor rainfall year (1982), and it appears that there is little difference between 1973 and 1982 in terms of calorie consumption, which makes any conclusions made about changes in consumption due to agricultural changes highly suspect. c) Effect on Food Prices One of the major expected results of the Green Revolution is a fall in prices of staple foods, due to an increase in production (Conway 1997). Lipton and Longhurst (Lipton and Longhurst 1989) argue that these benefits have been largely passed on to employers, who have depressed real wages as food prices have been reduced. In addition, they suggest that the expected increase in employment opportunities due to an increase in yields has been largely offset by labour-displacing technologies, such as weedicides and threshers. A recent study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) of the 49 least developed countries suggests that 307 million people live on less than a dollar a day, and that real wages have been depressed with increased globalization (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). The effects of the Green Revolution on wages or food prices is difficult to measure, given the limited ‘pre-Green Revolution’ studies, and few studies attempt to examine food prices or real wages at a regional or local level, or measure the potential nutritional effects. One study carried out in Bangladesh examined the effects of a dramatic fall in rice prices (as a result of explicit government policy rather than the Green Revolution) on child nutritional status (HKI 1996). They sampled over 180,000 children aged 6-59 months, measuring weight and height, over a period of 4 years, every 6 months, and compared this data to rice prices. They tried to control for confounding socio-economic household variables such as landholding, occupation, food expenditure, and consumption in their multivariate regression analysis. They found that children at all income levels showed relative improvement in nutritional status, but that children from the highest income quintiles tended to benefit the most. The authors conclude that the poorest households need to see improvements in purchasing power (i.e. wages) in order to be able to deal with fluctuating food prices. The question of whether a decrease in grain prices led to increases in consumption, therefore, remains unanswered to a large degree. Another critique of the Green Revolution is that the prices of other food crops, particularly pulses, have risen as these crops have become scarcer. In South Asia, production of pulses has declined by approximately 20% in since 1970 leading some authors to suggest that the decline may be a major cause of an increase in iron deficiency in the region during the same period (Welch and Graham 2000). Although rice prices have declined by 40%, the real prices of pulses, vegetables and animal products have increased by 25-50% in the last 25 years (Bouis, Graham, and Welch 2000). It is known that legumes have less iron available than meat products, however there are multiple factors that iron absorption, including vitamin C, ascorbic acid, fermented foods, and legumes may contain all or some of these factors (Hallberg, Rossander-Hulten, and Brune 1992). In addition, some of the grains that were increased by the Green Revolution, such as maize, contain high levels of phytates, which would reduce iron absorption (Hallberg, Rossander-Hulten, and Brune 1992).

d) Broad trends post-Green Revolution While it is difficult to point to specific empirical studies that document statistically significant changes in food consumption and nutrition,, due to the inherent difficulties of finding longitudinal studies that measured all the factors before and after the Green Revolution, it is possible to point to some broad trends about environmental and social conseqences that came about, at least in part, due to the Green Revolution. These broad trends are intimately linked to the modernization project of which Green Revolution was a part.

Environmental and Health Consequences

There are a host of environmental and health consequences, widely documented, directly linked with the model of agriculture that the Green Revolution espoused, and which have implications for food consumption and nutrition. Overuse of fertilizers, in combination with irrigation has led to excessive nutrient loading in water systems, eutrophication, groundwater depletion, contamination of groundwater systems with nitrates, salinization and other environmental effects. The varieties promoted during the Green Revolution were bred to be more efficient in nutrient uptake, and to convert more nutrients to grain, as opposed to stalks, leaves or roots. Consequently, more nutrients are drawn from the soil, particularly with poor farmers, who apply less fertilizer due to financial constraints, and who also often have less fertile soil (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). Nutrient depletion increases, particularly under poor farmer conditions, and if this process is done concurrently with monocropping, there is little organic matter returned to the soil. In addition, a focus on yield and ‘modernizing farming’ in many cases encouraged farmers to abandon other cropping practices that maintain good soil structure and organic matter, such as intercropping, crop rotation, manuring and incorporation of stubble. There is considerable evidence that soil fertility is declining in many parts of the South, where soils are often less fertile to begin with. One study in Java, Indonesia, estimated that rain-fed cropland had in excess of 50 ton/ha of topsoil lost per year (Magrath and Arens 1987). Although there are a number of problems with aggregating data at such a large scale, one study examining soil losses throughout Africa indicate that soil fertility is being depleted at a rate of 22 kg/ha annually, with particular regions having greater losses (Smaling, Nandwa, and Janssen 1997). Another study suggested that soil erosion in sub-Saharan Africa caused between 2-40% yield losses, and an estimated loss of 3.6 million tons of cereal production in 1989 (Lal 1995). A report by the Government of India suggests that crop productivity is declining in Haryana and Punjab states, regions where the Green Revolution technologies have been widely implemented (Government of India 1998). Furthermore, the non-grain outputs of crops, such as stubble, leaves and roots, have had important uses such as livestock feed and fuel, particularly for poor farmers (Shiva 1989). With an increased output in grain, there is a subsequent decline in biomass in other parts of the plant, which can mean a loss in fuel and livestock feed sources and an increased workload for women in gathering outside fuel and feed sources (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). Another critical environmental and health effect of the Green Revolution is the increased use of pesticides. Although plant breeders have bred new varieties for increased pest resistance, they have also tested the crops under pesticide use, and the seeds have typically been promoted with the use of pesticides (Lipton and Longhurst 1989). Furthermore, most high- yielding varieties have been grown under irrigation, and with the addition of fertilizer and monocropping, creates an ideal environment for pest and weed growth. Pesticide use rose to over half a billion tons in the developing world by the 1980s, accounting for 1/5 of global production, with a much higher rate of insecticides, which are more toxic to humans and other organisms compared to herbicides (Conway 1997). India expanded the hectarage of pesticide application from 6 million hectares in 1960 to 80 million hectares in 1980. Estimates suggest that there are over half a million cases of accidental pesticide poisoning and 2,300 deaths annually around the world, but these figures are likely underestimates, since the symptoms are often misdiagnosed with epilepsy, brain tumors and strokes (Conway 1997). In addition to the obvious human health implications, excessive pesticide use can increase pest outbreaks by increasing resistance in pest populations while eliminating natural pest predators (Conway 1997). Broader environmental effects resulting from the industrial model of agriculture put forward by the Green Revolution include acid rain, global warming and ozone depletion, due to the increased use of fossil fuels (via fertilizer production and increased mechanization), ammonia and nitrous oxide release from fertilizers and many other complex processes related to agriculture (Conway 1997). All of these environmental effects have implications for food consumption and nutrition, through complex and inter-related pathways.Pesticide residue on foods is linked to increased cancer rates. High levels of nitrates in groundwater can cause methaemoglobinaemia or ‘blue baby syndrome’, which deprives infants of oxygen and can cause mortality during the first few months of life. Excessive nutrient loading in natural water systems can reduce fish and other aquatic populations, which reduces the potential food sources for local populations. Hence some argue that there has been considerable decline in the environment, particularly for the poor, in the last 30 years in India (Agarwal 1994), and Conway, a major proponent of the technological advances of the Green Revolution, suggests that the environmental consequences are very grave on a global scale, and particularly in the South.

Concentration of Power and Control

Many of the critics of the Green Revolution have pointed to broader trends of increased concentration of power in a few large agribusinesses, as a result of an increased dependency on fertilizer, pesticides and other inputs (Oasa 1987; Rosset, Collins, and Lappe 2000; Shiva 1989; Spitz 1987). The industrial model of agriculture used in the West and promoted as part of the Green Revolution is linked to a tremendous concentration of farms, agribusiness and food corporations in the United States and around the world (Lyson and Raymer 2000). A few transnational firms are coming to dominate agrochemicals, seeds, pharmaceuticals and animal products around the world(Lyson and Raymer 2000). In addition to the global picture, in local regions there has been an increase in corporate control and large farm concentration. Agarwal argues that the Green Revolution increased and entrenched social inequities in India, particularly along gender lines, by focusing on technical approaches to reducing hunger and poverty, and by linking the technology to purchased inputs and access to land (Agarwal 1994; Agarwal 1997). Although the Green Revolution cannot be causally attributed with this trend, there is a high probability that there are direct linkages between the processes of the Green Revolution and a higher concentration of agribusinesses’ power and control over the food system.


Thus, the case studies and general discussion above suggest the following: - consumption levels may have increased for farmers, but the costs of inputs may have offset some of the yield gains and it is not clear that the yield increases would have translated into improvements in child nutrition, due to the many factors between increases in food and resources and child intake. - consumption levels of the urban poor and landless may not have increased due to a decrease in real wages and reduced purchasing power; in addition, there may have been a reduction in intake of pulses, vegetables and meat due to prices increases in these foods, which may in some cases be linked to the Green Revolution; - the Green Revolution may have increased inequalities in communities due to increased mechanization and decreased labour opportunities for the poor; - there were severe environmental impacts from the Green Revolution, which have effects on consumption and nutrition for the poor. - Increased concentration of power and control over the food system is one outcome that can be linked, although not causally, to the Green Revolution.


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