Skip to main content

Why is green revolution harmful for nutrition, food safety, environment, climate change

By Bharat Dogra* 

A lie repeated a hundred times will not turn a lie into a truth. The big media should realize this and stop perpetuating the lie of the green revolution saving India from hunger, long after the world has awakened to the reality of how harmful the green revolution has been from the point of nutrition, food safety, environment and climate change.
As recently many big newspapers have been full of how the green revolution saved India from hunger, it is important to re-emphasize that the green revolution was essentially the sudden and destructive removal of the rich traditional bio-diversity of our farms, the achievement of many generations of farmers going back to hundreds and in some cases thousands of years. 
This was done to serve the interests of rich countries and their agribusiness interests by dictating that only the crop varieties which respond well to high doses of chemical fertilizers and need chemical pesticides and weedicides are grown, while the diversity of traditional seeds well suited to the country’s conditions are phased out and discarded.
In agriculture the period after mid-sixties is generally regarded as the 'green revolution' phase of Indian agriculture. The most important feature of this is the introduction of green revolution seeds or GR seeds (mainly dwarf, non-lodging varieties which gave high yields when fed by high doses of chemical fertilizers). 
Along with the spread of GR seeds, as a part of the 'package deal', the use of chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides and agriculture machinery increased greatly. To spread and strengthen the new technology, investment in farm research, education and extension tuned to the new technology also increased rapidly and new agricultural universities for this purpose were opened one after the other generally on the American model.
An overview of the situation of farm productivity before and after green revolution is provided in the 12th Plan document in an important table (See Table below). Here we can see clearly that despite the much higher use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides etc. in the green revolution phase and the rise of other related expenditure as well, the growth of farm yield on the whole in the green revolution phase was in fact lower than in the previous phase, despite the fact that in the earlier phase India had faced several serious constraints and problems and had a much lower farm budget.
While the poor performance of the green revolution is very evident from this table, on the other hand we also have several studies by eminent experts who studied India's agriculture based on indigenous varieties and the accompanying technology and found that the farmers were making very good use of their resources and conditions, and that the technologies followed by them were very sound and suitable to their conditions.
We also have evidence that many indigenous varieties have yields higher than GR varieties without using the heavy doses of agro-chemicals needed by GR varieties.
What is more, it is known now that before GR seeds were introduced, far from facing emergency conditions, India's scientists were on the verge of a major breakthrough for raising yields based on indigenous varieties, at least in the case of the most important food crop rice. These scientists also pointed out serious flaws of GR seeds and technology, including the fact that these were highly susceptible to pests and diseases.
However, those scientists who tried to point out the flaws of G.R. technology were victimized badly. Those who promoted GR technology and welcomed the increasing pressures of rich countries for only a particular kind of farm growth were pushed to the top and given all the awards.
The green revolution technology phase has seen high rates of depletion of natural fertility of farmland, including alarming loss of several micro-nutrients, high fall in water table in vast areas, many cases of poisoning of people by pesticides and other agro-chemicals, as well as loss of other forms of life and spread of serious diseases, botanic holocaust in the form of loss of thousands of crop varieties and threats to others, loss of invaluable traditional wisdom relating to agriculture and seeds.
There have been several other adverse impacts including much diminished per capita availability of pulses and legumes, loss of taste and nutrition in food-crops, reduced availability of fodder, serious hazards and pollution in more intensive G.R. areas and high drain on foreign exchange from import of chemical fertilizers.
Clearly the GR approach to agricultural development should be given up. The following alternative approach should be emphasized.
  • Protecting vast diversity of indigenous seed varieties and organic, low-cost, ecologically protective, self-reliant, local resource based farming methods.
  • Using scientific knowledge including modern and traditional knowledge to promote the above approach and the 'agro-ecology' approach in better ways. Priorities of farm research and extension network to be entirely changed in this direction.
  • Land-reforms to be implemented effectively.
  • Much higher allocation for agriculture and allied activities with direct benefits to organic farmers and seed-savers, seed protectors.
It is very important to learn from past mistakes, particularly now that India’s farming system is on the verge of the second big threat, perhaps an even bigger disaster-in-the-making, in the form of GM crops.
In Africa billionaires of rich countries and their organizations are still busy promoting green revolution although all the evidence tells us that agro-ecology is needed here and many farmers’ organizations are also demanding this. 
Those who are spreading big lies about the achievements of India’s green revolution are also misguiding our African brothers and sisters by pushing them also towards ecologically destructive farming while their clear need is for agro-ecology.
*Honorary convener, Save the Earth Now. His recent books include “India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food”, “Man over Machine” and “Planet in Peril”



'Very low rung in quality ladder': Critique of ICMR study on 'sudden deaths' post-2021

By Bhaskaran Raman*  Since about mid-2021, a new phenomenon of extreme concern has been observed throughout the world, including India : unexplained sudden deaths of seemingly healthy and active people, especially youngsters. In the recently concluded Navratri garba celebrations, an unprecedented number of young persons succumbed to heart attack deaths. After a long delay, ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) has finally has published a case-control study on sudden deaths among Indians of age 18-45.

SC 'appears to foster' culture of secrecy, does not seek electoral bond details from SBI

By Rosamma Thomas*  In its order of November 2, 2023 on the case of Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India contesting constitutional validity of electoral bonds, the Supreme Court directed all political parties to give particulars of the bonds received by them in sealed covers to the Election Commission of India. SC sought that information be updated until September 2023. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Only 12% of schools RTE compliant: Whither 6% budgetary allocation for education?

By Ambarish Rai* Despite Indian state’s commitment of 6% GDP on education, the Finance Minister completely ignored right to education for children and strengthening implementation of RTE Act which makes education a fundamental right in her budget speech . The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, which is a collective of different stakeholders in education, condemns this neglect of a legal entitlement, which is unconstitutional and demand for overall increase in the budget to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and overall enhancement of quality education.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Ambiguous policy': India late in advocating EVs as energy storage in national grid

By Shankar Sharma*  This is regarding the points raised by the Chief Electricity Authority’s (CEA's) advocacy for usage of electrical vehicles (EVs) as energy storage technology, and few associated issues . An objective reading of what he states should reiterate the enormously growing importance of battery energy storage systems (BESS) in our need to transition to a net-zero carbon scenario for the country.

Union Health Ministry, FSSAI 'fail to respond' to NHRC directive on packaged food

By Our Representative  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed deep concern over the adverse health effects caused by packaged foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats. Recognizing it as a violation of the Right to Life and Right to Health of Indian citizens, the quasi-judicial body called for a response from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regarding its selection of front-of-pack labels aimed at providing consumers with information to make healthier choices.

How national chauvinism 'overtook' sport despite cricketing glory of World Cup 2023

By Harsh Thakor*  The recently-concluded cricket World Cup was a testimony or manifestation of the thrills, intensity, twists and turns in sport and evolution of the game of cricket. It carried on the trend of the World Cups of yesteryears. Possibly, this was the best ever Indian team in a World Cup, and arguably amongst the best ever to contest a World Cup.