Introduction to agricultural systems

The Green Revolution and Environmental Sustainability Problems

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8.2.2 The Green Revolution and Environmental Sustainability Problems (Clark, 1986; Shiva, 1991).

Pests and disease problems have increased because crop rotations and the numbers of crop varieties grown are reduced. The same high yielding varieties are grown side by side, year after year. Blanket spraying has resulted in development of resistance and the destruction of natural enemies, such as the epidemic increase of plant hoppers in Java in the 1970s which set back the rate of increase of rice yields. Because of the favourable climate for insect and disears growth, integrated methods of pest, disease, and weed control are more important in the Tropics than in Temperate areas. However, much of the indigenous knowledge about pest control is being lost with the new and growing dependence on biocides. The HYV required larger inputs of fertilizer, and ground water pollution with nitrates has resulted in some regions. The traditional varieties were often more efficient in terms of yield per unit of fertilizer and water used.

Green Revolution was based on a package of purchased seeds and technology. The 10,000 years of selection by farmers and peasants for suitable varieties was replaced by the miracle seeds; traditional strategies that enhanced genetic diversity were replaced by uniform crops. The change involved a shift from a farming system controlled by peasants to one controlled by the companies that owned the seeds, fertilizers and pesticides; seeds went from a free resource produced on the farm to a purchased input.

World Bank finances were used to spread HYV. In India in 1963 a World Bank loan of US$13 million started the TeraiSeed Co. and other companies were stared with World Bank loans to support the Indian National Seeds Project to produce HYV in India. Figures 6-12 and 6-13 show how the farming system changed from one of internal inputs to external inputs (Shiva, 1991, pp. 71 and 73) with the introduction of the Green Revolution technologies. HYV are sensitive to inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation water. They are referred to as Ahigh-responsive varieities@.

Summary. Traditional systems based on genetic diversity, multi-cropping, crop rotations and a large diversity of crops were largely replace by HYV of rice, produced using higher levels of fertilizer and pesticide inputs. Yields increased dramatically until reduced by disease and pest problems. Cropping systems based on diversity and internal inputs were replaced with systems based on uniformity and external inputs.

Social Sustainability Problems.

The shift from internal to external inputs changed the structure of social and political relationships, from local obligations and exchange to dealing with banks, seed and fertilizer agencies, electricity and irrigation systems. The scarcity of purchased inputs created competition between large and small farmers and social classes.

A In those regions where the new technology has been most extensively applied, it has accomplished what a century of disruption under colonial rule failed to achieve, the virtual elimination of the stability residuum of traditional society - the recognition of mutual non-symmetric obligations by both the landed and the landless classes@ (Frankel, 1972).

The inequality built into the Green Revolution favoured the best regions and farmers who could afford to use the new technology profitably and could purchase the required inputs. Short-term economic advantage and high profits for the progressive farmers, and cheap and assured food supplies were gained at the price of social change and environmental damage.


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