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Green Revolution is the term applied to the introduction of “modern” crop varieties in developing countries beginning in 1964–1965. The Green Revolution was introduced at different rates in different countries. It was produced by more than five hundred National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in developing countries and supported by eight International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) located in developing countries. IARCs produced roughly 35 percent of Green Revolution Modern Varieties (GRMVs), which included highly productive lines of rice and wheat. NARS produced 60 percent of GRMVs. Private sector breeders in developing countries produced 5 percent of GRMVs. Developed countries did not produce GRMVs for developing countries.
Twelve countries with populations in 2000 of one million or more did not have a significant Green Revolution (these countries had less than 2 percent GRMV adoption in 2000). Nine of these countries were in sub-Saharan Africa. An additional eighteen countries had less than 10 percent GRMV adoption in 2000 (eleven of these were also in sub-Saharan Africa). Another eighteen countries had less than 20 percent GRMV adoption in 2000 (twelve of these were in sub-Saharan Africa). Forty-five countries had significant Green Revolutions.
The forty-eight countries with low levels of GRMV adoption had low levels of crop value per hectare because crop yields were low. They used very little fertilizer and had low rates of productivity growth. The UNIDO index of industrial competitiveness for these forty-eight countries was low. Most of these countries were small. By contrast, the countries with significant Green Revolutions were larger countries (including India and China).
In 1960 birth rates were similar for all developing countries. By 2000, birth rates in the successful Green Revolution countries had declined to roughly half of the birth rates of 1960. For the unsuccessful countries, birth rates declined by only 15 percent. Food consumption per capita (as measured by calories consumed per capita) increased by 10 percent for the unsuccessful Green Revolution countries and by 25 percent for the successful Green Revolution countries. The unsuccessful countries increased food consumption because the “real” prices of food grains in world markets declined. In 2000 the real prices of food grains in world markets were 40 percent of their 1960 levels. Child mortality rates improved for all countries because of better diets.
The Green Revolution was criticized by two groups. In the 1980s it was criticized because farmers adopting GRMVs used more fertilizer. The first two GRMV crops were wheat and rice, and indeed fertilizer use did increase for these crops. It was also widely perceived in the 1980s that GRMVs were adopted only in “favorable” production environments. The second round of critics, who appeared at the end of the 1980s, emphasized environmental factors and increased use of chemicals.
The Green Revolution is continuing as new generations of GRMVs are being developed, and overall GRMV production is increasing, not declining. For example, by the 1990s two IARCs, ICRISAT in India and ICARDA in Syria, had begun developing GRMVs for unfavorable semi-arid and dryland conditions. The Green Revolution is seen today as having had a major impact in spite of its “uneven” delivery.
- Ehrlich, Paul R. 1968. The Population Bomb. New York: Ballantine.
- Evenson, Robert E., and Douglas Gollin, eds. 2003. Crop Variety Improvement and Its Effect on Productivity: The Impact of International Agricultural Research. Wallingford, U.K., and Cambridge, MA: CABI Publishers.
- Evenson, Robert E., and Yoav Kislev. 1975. Agricultural Research and Productivity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Griliches, Zvi. 1957. Hybrid Corn: An Exploration in the Economics of Technological Change. PhD diss., University of Chicago.
- Wilson, Edward O. 1992. The Diversity of Life. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.
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