‘Green Revolution 2.0’ will improve our livelihoods
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 00:02
Entering the 21st century, agriculture faces many challenges. The world is full of hungry and malnourished people, environmental concerns plague farmers and their use of pesticides and herbicides, and agriculturalists are pushed to utilize more sustainable practices.
However, none of these concerns were evident to me, until I heard Prabhu Pingali discuss the necessity of a “Green Revolution 2.0” — the second green revolution.
The first green revolution, while it allowed for much greater yields and for farmers to control pests and weeds like never before, has not met the hunger and nourishment needs of the evolving world. Agriculture will have to adapt and transform — as it has in the past — if it is to meet these new needs of the world. And it begins in the second green revolution.
The needs of the world have changed significantly since the last green revolution. According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there were 925 million hungry people in 2010. In 2012, 870 million people did not have enough to eat, according to the World Hunger Programme. While this number of hungry people has fallen since 2010, it is still staggering, and poses a significant challenge to agriculture.
The greatest cause of hunger in the world is poverty. Approximately half the population of sub-Saharan Africa and 40 percent of South Asia live “on $1.25 a day or less,” according to the World Bank estimates in 2008.
Working to alleviate those living in poverty will be a challenge for the world, and agriculturalists in the next century.
The first green revolution was both praised and criticized. The first green revolution allowed yields to increase tremendously, helping us fight world hunger in new ways. The increased availability of herbicides and pesticides allowed farmers to combat insects and weeds more efficiently, which also contributed to increased yields.
These increased yields did not come without criticism. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the excessive and inappropriate use of pesticides and fertilizers led to poisoning of agricultural workers, polluted waterways and killed beneficial insects. Some also criticize the depletion of groundwater for the irrigation of crops.
The effects of the green revolution went far beyond increased yields and environmental concerns. There were also social concerns. Smaller farmers did not have the same access to equipment or land the bigger farmers had. The “unnecessary” mechanization led to lower rural wages and employment, according to International Food Policy Research Institute. This merely suggests the necessity of a second green revolution to address issues not resolved in the first green revolution.
Pingali argues the second green revolution is already taking place. In 2007 and 2008 investment donations in agriculture increased after a decline in investments from 1985 to 2005. Yields of rice increased, yet the area farmed remained constant. This increase in productivity and efficiency is the formula that can end world hunger.
Poverty is another issue to be addressed. While there is only so much agriculturalists in the U.S. can do, it can advocate for agricultural-incentive programs in poverty-stricken areas, like India and Africa. There should also be a push to help agriculturalists in poor areas gain access to land and modern technologies so those countries can reach their agriculture output. An increase in agricultural production might help create jobs, which in turn would improve the economy and fight poverty in these areas.
Environmental concerns can be addressed with the use of alternative weed and insect control practices: the use of no-till practices, non-thermal weed management, biopesticides and allowing fields to fallow. Biopesticides are pesticides derived from natural materials like animals, plants, bacteria and minerals, according to the EPA. These practices may help alleviate the environmental impact and concerns regarding the use of herbicides and pesticides. While often more time intensive, they are also less expensive.
Agriculture will have to remain adaptable and malleable to face these challenges in the future. This means adapting or investigating topics, which are controversial. For instance, genetically modified organisms. We will have to utilize techniques that will allow agriculturalists to grow more nutritious foods more efficiently.
We can learn from the mistakes of the first green revolution. To meet the challenges the second green revolution faces, agriculturalists will have to address both environmental and social issues facing the world today. The United States and other countries need to help developing countries expand their agricultural sector, and help them feed themselves. While there are many challenges agriculture faces in the next century, we can correct the mistakes we have made and improve the livelihoods of millions of people in the process.
Tyler Pike is a junior in agricultural sciences. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Pike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.