- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The calls for a new green revolution may result in a windfall for U.S. companies and a disaster for poor farmers. While the first green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s produced record yields, it also produced record hunger. During the heyday of the green revolution, food production rose 11 percent, but so did hunger per capita.

How could this be? Green-revolution technologies are expensive. The fertilizers, seeds, pesticides and machinery needed to cash in on productive gains put the technology out of reach of most small farmers, increasing the divide between rich and poor in the developing world. Poor farmers were driven out of business and into poverty-stricken urban slums.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, and researcher Norman Borlaug’s call for reinvestment in agriculture is much needed, but the method - genetically engineered crops - will do nothing to alleviate poverty and hunger. Instead, Mr. Lugar’s proposal may make matters worse by forcing impoverished farmers to depend on expensive patented seeds. A recent World Bank/Food and Agriculture Organization report called for exactly the opposite strategy: a renewed focus on small-scale, ecological agriculture; locally adapted seeds; and low-input agriculture. The Lugar proposal instead would direct billions of dollars to U.S. corporations to produce goods for private patent. This sounds more like another corporate subsidy than charity.


Policy analyst

Institute for Food and Development Policy

Oakland, Calif.

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