The Green Revolution – A mixed blessing?

Social Impacts of a new agricultural strategy in India

Term Paper, 2007

12 Pages, Grade: A+


Table of Contents

I. Introduction – The Emergence of a world food sytsem and the industrialization of agriculture

II. The Green Revolution Strategy in India

III. Impacts of a new Agricultural Strategy
1. Economic Effects
2. Ecological Effects
3. Social and Cultural Implications

IV. Conclusion

V. Bibliography

I. Introduction - The Emergence of a World Food System and the Industrialization of Agriculture

The Green Revolution is a substantial part of the Second Food Régime that emerged with increasing industrialization after World War II. “Capital replaced labour and land as the primary factor of production” (Atkins/Bowler 2001: 27). Agriculture was increasingly based on technology and global interdependence rise. The worldwide economic system has been dominated by US hegemony until these days and the well-being of the Thrid World depends on the goodwill of the richer nations. International Institutions such as the World Bank emerged, all dominated by the US and other wealthy countries.

“Interdependence of species with local configurations of soil and water was, in part, substituted by interdependence of specialized regions linked by trade” (Friedmann: 487). The Green Revolution conquered the nature. Agriculture based on science and technology replaced traditional forms of production. Regional specialization took place, the spread of capitalism altered the conditions of life in virtually all parts of the world and continues to penetrate all spheres of human life (cp. Wolf 1982). Subsistence farming became almost impossible under the modern conditions so that even peripheral rural regions became somehow related to the global market. The binary scheme of global and local melted into a world of local globalization.

In this context, food is often used as a weapon to perpetuate imperial relations. Food aid programs are tied to condition that on second glance involve a multitude of social and cultural changes. This is the case for the Green Revolution, where the introduction of exogenous modes of production seriously effected old pattern of social organization.

A paradox in the World Food system consists in the fact that producing countries often suffer the burden of food shortages since most of their food is exported to the wealthy West (Cleaver 1972: 458). The movie ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ (Sauper 2004) illustrates these complex and paradox interrelations and the disastrous consequences of western superpower and economic interest.

This paper will look at the effects of the Green Revolution. As part of the imperial strategy of US foreign policy, the new agricultural strategy shows how the World food system does not only consist in food trade itself, but also comprises the industry of respective production factors. Through development strategies like the Green Revolution, the US manage to boost its own economy while pretending to have only altruistic and benevolent intentions. The interrelatedness of agricultural practices and the wider system of societal organization leads to the fact that this imperialism does not only impose economic standards but also affects the cultural sphere of the concerned countries.

II. The Green Revolution Strategy in India

Prior to the Green Revolution there have been attempts to foster agricultural development even though the main focus of the national development strategy always relied on industry. Building on Mohandas Gandhi’s emphasis on rural employment and development, Nehru launched the first Community Development Program in 1952. It involved the democratization of rural organization, attempts to redistribute land through land reforms and the abolition of intermediary tenants, collective farming, and the introduction of village councils called panchayat raj. “(…) India's approach to agricultural development was characterised by a commitment to two co-equal, yet often irreconcilable goals: the economic aim of achieving maximum increases in agricultural output to support rapid industrialisation; and the social objective of reducing disparities in rural life” (Frankel 1971: 3). Agriculture was seen as a means to the end of increasing industrialization. But this first strategy failed mainly due to lacking implementation efforts.

From 1961 on the improvement of agriculture received greater attention. Financed by the Ford Foundation the Indian government introduced a new developmental strategy, the Intensive Agricultural Development Program (IADP). This was the first effort to increase agricultural production in 15 selected districts by providing a new “‘package of practices’ (…) including credit, modern inputs, price incentives, marketing facilities, and technical advice” (Frankel 1971: 5). The second agricultural strategy focused on self-reliance and technological improvements and the IADP served as pilot project for following developmental programs. In 1965 the Intensive Agricultural Areas Program was launched in 114 districts. Thus the Green Revolution was born. Its main proponents were the Rockefeller Foundation that developed the newly introduced varieties, the Ford Foundation, the US government and the World Bank. Several agricultural scientists, economists and the Indian government were rather sceptical as they assumed the Green Revolution to threaten sustainability and national autonomy.

During the era of Nehru, the Indian government mainly solved its food scarcity problems through the import of food aid from the US. But the Johnson government changed its PL 480 policy and no longer provided unconditioned food aid. The new conditions involved “a shift of emphasis from industrialization to agricultural development, expansion of population control, and an open door to US investors” (Cleaver 1972: 179). The recurrent problem of hunger and famine thus forced India to adopt the new approach. The Green Revolution can be seen as an imperialist Cold War tool (McNeill 2000: 225). Besides the promoted goals of relieving hunger and making the countries independent of food imports, it served as an instrument to prevent social upheaval and political instability, especially communist insurgencies (Cleaver 1972: 17; Farmer 1986: 176 “the danger of a Red revolution”; Franke 1987: 455). The spread of capitalism and related values was a major effect of the Green Revolution along with boosting the US economy, namely the chemical industry and the production agricultural machines. The promoted goals cannot be regarded uncritically and prove to be less altruistic than alleged by the initiators of the new tactic.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


The Green Revolution – A mixed blessing?
Social Impacts of a new agricultural strategy in India
University of Otago  (New Zealand - Department of Anthropology)
Global Politics of Food
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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520 KB
Green, Revolution, Global, Politics, Food
Quote paper
Sonja Meyer (Author), 2007, The Green Revolution – A mixed blessing? , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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