What was the Green Revolution?

Definition of green revolution

Green Revolution is the name given to the set of technological initiatives that transformed agricultural practices and drastically increased food production in the world.

The Green Revolution began in the 1950s in Mexico. Its precursor was the agronomist Norman Borlaug, who developed chemical techniques capable of giving greater resistance to corn and wheat crops, in addition to optimizing agricultural production methods.

The methods introduced by Borlaug were so effective that in a few years Mexico went from being an importer to an exporter of wheat. Thus, other underdeveloped countries, especially India, adopted the new practices, which quickly became popular in the rest of the world.

In 1970, Norman Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize, as his work had great humanitarian consequences.

How did the Green Revolution start?

In 1944, Norman Borlaug moved to Mexico to work as a geneticist and plant pathologist. As an initial challenge, he battled so-called “stem rust,” a fungus that affected wheat crops, killing plants and severely reducing production.

Puccinia granimis fungus, known as ” stem rust “.

Borlaug managed to genetically cross two varieties of wheat: one resistant to the fungus and the other adapted to local conditions in Mexico. In just three years, Borlaug selected the successful crosses, adopted them as a model, and eliminated the fungus, thereby increasing productivity.

However, in addition to disease resistance, the new wheat responded very effectively to fertilizers, resulting in large, tall plants that eventually decomposed under the weight of the grains.

Example of a plant that could not support its own weight. The phenomenon is known in agriculture as “hosting”.

In 1953, through new genetic crosses, Borlaug obtained the so-called “semi-dwarf wheat”. This new wheat had shorter and stronger stems, capable of supporting the weight of the grains, maintaining resistance to diseases and high yields. This new species of wheat became known as “miracle seeds” and is, to this day, the most widely cultivated type of wheat in the world.

Norman Borlaug holds the new species of semidwarf wheat.

Thus, with the extreme increase in wheat production in Mexico, the Green Revolution began, which in a few years transformed the agricultural paradigm throughout the world.

Foundations of the Green Revolution

The Green Revolution relied heavily on elements such as:

  • genetic modification of seeds
  • production mechanization
  • intensive use of chemical products (fertilizers and pesticides)
  • Introduction of new planting, irrigation and harvesting technologies.
  • mass production of the same products as a way to optimize production

Disadvantages of the Green Revolution

Although the Green Revolution was extremely beneficial in its first decades, its negative aspects are easily observable, such as:

  • very high level of water use to maintain their methods
  • high dependence on technology from developed countries
  • reduction of genetic diversity (since the priority is to cultivate homogeneous products to optimize production and obtain greater profitability)
  • questionable sustainability
  • high level of environmental degradation
  • higher income concentration

Green Revolution in Brazil

Brazil adopted the methods of the Green Revolution in the late 1960s, resulting in the so-called “Economic Miracle” period. At that time, the country became a large-scale producer and began exporting food, especially soybeans.

Objective not achieved

Norman Borlaug worked in Mexico in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, whose company motto was the end of world hunger. Borlaug’s work is estimated to have saved one billion people from starvation, earning him several honors.

However, studies show that the Green Revolution is closely linked to the uncontrolled increase in the birth rate in the world, especially in underdeveloped countries.

Thus, over time, the population increase has outpaced the increase in food production. Today, the number of people suffering from hunger is greater than the number of people in this situation before the Green Revolution.

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