The Scourge of the “Green Revolution”

Came across this shocking article (which appeared in the Illustrated Weekly of India in 1986) today.

Many people realize today that the so called “Green Revolution” was a short sighted strategy(though perhaps deemed necessary at that time) as three decades later, it has left our soils depleted, yields decreasing and our farmers ever more dependent on fertilizers and pesticides. This recently formed dependence on high-input agriculture is one of the main reasons behind the mass farmer suicides today. Perhaps it helped overcome some misery back then, but it’s only helped to set us up for a much bigger disaster.

But what is shocking about the article is the little known(at least among the people of my generation) scandals over the varieties of rice, how our incredible wealth of diversity in rice was depleted and robbed by vested political and commercial interests from abroad and within. How M.S.Swaminathan, whom we revere as the Father of Green Revolution, actually might be just another of those “scientists” who overlook and bend facts in return for the promise of money. How there was one scientist Dr.Richcharia (former director of Central Rice Research Institute), whom very few of us would have even heard of, who sacrificed a lot to fight this robbery and preserve our indigenous varieties of rice.

In hindsight, this article doesn’t really shock me that much. It’s just so identical in pattern to the innumerable scandals which have orchestrated by the developed world, in the name of globalization and progress.

Disclaimer: I know this is just one article by just one person, with some allegations against something which has been widely accepted by our society as a boon. As my friends warned me when I showed them the article, you should never form an opinion based on just one side of the argument. But for me, this single article is enough, of course assuming that the facts it mentions are true- not least because the author is a person with reasonable credentials- but mainly because the “other side of the argument” is something (which usually consist of loose ends tied together, hardly more credible, even less) which I’m seeing and hearing all the time through the mainstream media, and such counterpoints usually cut through a lot of crap and make perfect sense.(eg: Stiglitz on Globalization)

P.S. This post was written in a flurry of emotion after reading the article. M.S. Swaminathan may or may not be a great scientist. I was just overcome by a feeling of anger and injustice that M.S.Swaminathan has become a household name as a saviour, while Richharia, who fought for our indigenous varieties of rice at such personal cost, has almost been forgotten forever. Regarding our situation today, we need to move beyond the mindless petroleum-driven farming of the past few decades if we are to have a future.

8 thoughts on “The Scourge of the “Green Revolution”

  1. >> M.S.Swaminathan has become a household name as a saviour, while Richharia, who fought for our indigenous varieties of rice at such personal cost, has almost been forgotten forever. Regarding our situation today, we need to move beyond the mindless petroleum-driven farming of the past few decades if we are to have a future.

    In general, In my humble opinion, I think the first approach to any matter should be one of “patience and forgiveness” and then as and when facts become available proceed towards “anger and resentment” rather than the reverse :-). That will be the most productive way of thinking and productive way of getting things done. So with that approach, if I think of this same matter that you are discussing about – if there are N thousand people (or N million people) going to die tomorrow or the next month or in one year and there is one quick solution out which can prevent that but might be detrimental in the long run, what would anyone with a simple feeling heart and mind do ? I would think anyone would say “forget what happens after 10 years, lets save these people now”. I think thats quite a natural human tendency when faced with a calamity of any sort.

    So now, once the “quick fix” is applied and maybe the quick fix did fix the immediate problem, the question is when to take off the quick fix and say that “lets get back to the basics now, enough of quick fixes”. There again the tendency is that “forget the future, lets live with this quick fix”. Now whether that tendency was as a result of MS’s lack of vision or MS’s “greed” or was it MS’s helplessness to control a problem which had got out of control – that is tough to say.

    Along the same lines, there are a lot of arguements that Gandhiji made the wrong decision agreeing for partition – probably he saw that as a “quick fix” to try and reduce the blood shed and mindless killing at that point. But people argue that in the long run it became detrimental – now whose fault is that ? Can we just blame Gandhiji for that ? Given any man in his shoes who is witnessing a holocaust, what will that person do – think of 50 years ahead of think of saving people immediately ? And if that decision goes bad, is he/she to blame ? Tough questions, I dont have the answer, and no one can or should judge such people faced with tough questions unless he/she was himself/herself in those shoes!!

    Love,
    Gopu.

    1. My post is not about the “quick fix” part of green revolution. Of course, I too feel that you can’t judge apparent mistakes of the past sitting in today’s comforts. But my post is not about that.

      I don’t know whether you’ve read the article mentioned. The post was about the mismanagement and robbery of India’s rich genetic diversity by the International Rice Research Institute(a body controlled by the US and with enough recent controversy around it regarding GM crops), a typical case of bullying by forces in developed countries for satisfying their greed for power and money.

      Have we even heard of Dr.Richharia?

  2. I did read the article, I think its too insufficient a data to incriminate “one person or a set of people”. Now coming to the question of “whom to blame”, is it really the “imperialistic/powerful external forces/IRRI” to be blamed or is it the leaders of our own country (and ourselves) to be blamed ? Another interesting article which ponders around that question as to what is causing our own subservience is http://www.mindtree.com/subrotobagchi/my-mother-is-an-ugly-woman/

    And nopes, I had not heard of Dr.Richharia before reading this article.

    Love,
    Gopu.

    1. As I mentioned in the disclaimer, I don’t expect everyone who reads the article to immediately change their views about green revolution. I just wanted more people to read it and realize that there *could* be another side to the popular story about green revolution.

      There are many other articles which describe the work of Richharia and the pressure applied by the World Bank to close down the MPRRI, which you can find if you search for “Richharia”, especially related to a controversy surrounding Syngenta in 2002-03. Sometimes there just isn’t enough data, as more often than not it’s the louder voice that always wins.

      As for who’s the culprit in these cases, yeah, our leaders are partly to blame. But if you follow the pattern of the entry of imperialist powers you can always see how they are very good at locating these power hungry elements within and using them to their advantage. Even if there are competent persons who resist the external powers, they will inevitably find a way to get rid of them, which *could* be what happened to Dr. Richharia.

      It’s the same strategy that was used by the european powers in colonialization 1.0 and which is being continued, albeit more subtly, by large corporations today (colonialization 2.0).

  3. >> As for who’s the culprit in these cases, yeah, our leaders are partly to blame. But if you follow the pattern of the entry of imperialist powers you can always see how they are very good at locating these power hungry elements within and using them to their advantage.

    Yup! That is true, but what I mean to say is that our country and countrymen have become “big enough” to be able to defend our own priorities and to be able to build our own destiny and If we still blame things (like colonization 2.0) on external powers, then thats not the entire truth. For example, look at the Google+China story and the way China responded to it – it dint budge ! Isnt our nation big enough to be able to do the same ?

    Love,
    Gopu.

    1. The India of today is very different from the India of 60’s and 70’s. Back then it was not the economic power it is today. Besides, I think the internet and democratic media has leveled the playing field at least slightly.

      Probably today we are in a much better position to defend ourselves, as the moratorium on Bt brinjal suggests.

      1. Yup! 60’s and 70’s were an entirely different story no doubt. But I was speaking more about colonization 2.0. If we are worried today that McDonalds is going to drive our local dosa shop out of business, the only reason I can find is that people’s tastes have changed and they just dont want to eat dosa any more 🙂 (I took the McDonalds example cause I dislike McDonalds from the core bottom of my heart ;-).

        Love,
        Gopu.

      2. Things like McDonald’s driving dosa shops out of business is not what colonialization 2.0 is about. In this scenario, at least the people have freedom of choice, and if they choose McDonald’s- tough luck dosawala- that’s all.

        Colonialization 2.0 is used to refer to things beyond the control of the people, decisions that are taken by goverments and corporations behind closed doors, the IMF forcing funding down the throats of developing countries with “strings attached”, corporations trying to push in GM crops through the “back door” etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s