The Green Revolution

The Green Revolution (GR) refers to the use of high-yield variety (HYV) seeds, which were invented by the crop geneticist Norman Borlaugh. HYVs are normally used as a part of a technological package that also includes biochemical inputs such as water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and often mechanical inputs. The GR, which started in the 1960s, is the last of the four agricultural revolutions in the world. It has been used in more than one hundred poor countries and has made possible a "revolutionary" increase in food production. The origin of the Green Revolution can be traced to the early twentieth century and the Malthusian fear that world food production would eventually fail to feed the growing population. This would result in a "red revolution" by the hungry. The implications of the GR for agrarian change, and especially for smaller farmers and laborers, have been widely debated.

Some scholars argue that since HYVs produce more food per acre, they have land-augmenting effects, and thus benefit smaller landholders. However, GR inputs are expensive, and smaller owners cannot make appropriate investments to increase output and reduce production costs as larger farmers can. So they incur losses and go into debt, which they have to clear up by selling their land. This is the classic mechanism of agrarian change from below. Larger landowners also lease land from smaller ones, who cannot afford to buy the inputs, causing "reverse tenancy" and an increased concentration of operational (as opposed to owned) land. Also, as cultivation with the use of hired labor and HYVs becomes more profitable, erst-while landlords often evict their tenants, enhancing proletarianization and encouraging agrarian capitalism.

HYVs mature sooner than traditional seed varieties, and thus allow multiple cropping, increasing the demand for labor per acre. This increased food production leads to increased demand for harvesting, threshing, and post-harvest labor (e.g., for food processing), and creates the possibility for increased wages in GR areas. However, multiple cropping encourages capitalist farmers to resort to mechanization in order to complete farm operations on time, and this can erode employment opportunities.

The GR has also been shown to have increased regional disparity between wealthier, irrigated areas and poorer drier areas, and to have caused ecological problems such as water depletion and toxicity.

Raju Das


Das, Raju J. (2002). "The Green Revolution and Poverty: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination of the Relation Between Technology and Society." Geoforum 33(1):55–72.

Lipton, Michael. (1989). New Seeds and Poor People. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Shiva, Vandana (1991). The Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology, and Politics. London: Zed Books.

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