Failure of the Green Revolution

Due to the laws of thermodynamics, there is not a direct correspondence between energy inflow and outflow in agriculture. Along the way, there is a marked energy loss. Between 1945 and 1994 energy input to agriculture increased fourfold while crop yields only increased threefold." Since then, energy input has continued to increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield. We have reached the point of marginal returns. Yet, due to soil degradation, the increased demands of pest management, and increasing energy costs for irrigation (all of which is examined below), modern agriculture must continue increasing its energy expenditures simply to maintain current crop yields. The Green Revolution is becoming bankrupt.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Green Revolution was promoted as the solution to world hunger. The rise in agricultural production was supposed to ensure that there was enough food for everyone and that no one on the planet would go hungry. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.


Energy can neither be created or destroyed;

The energy ofthe universe remains constant;

You can't win.


Without compensating changes elsewhere, heat can flow only from a hotter to a colder body;

With passing chronological time, the entropy ofthe universe tends towards a maximum;

You can't break even.


The entropy of any condensed substance, i.e., liquid or solid, has at zero absolute temperature the value zero;

Zero absolute temperature cannot be reached;

You have to stay in the game.

In spite of a 70 percent population increase, the Green Revolution has led to a 17 percent increase in calories available per person. Everyone in the world could have a daily intake of at least 2,720 kilocalories (1 kilocalorie = 1,000 calories) if food were distributed more equitably.12 Yet, there were still an estimated 798 million undernourished people in developing countries as of 1999-2000. This is a decrease of only 19 million from the 1990— 1992 estimate.13

In the United States, 11.9 percent of all households are considered to be "food insecure" — they are not sure if they will have a meal from one day to the next. For single-mother families, this figure soars to 31.7 percent. For the working poor it is 35 percent. Among American adults, the rate is 10.8 percent, while for children it is nearly double, at 18.2 percent. These percentages translate into nearly 35 million people, 13 million of them children, living hungry or on the edge of hunger. From 1999 to 2002, the number of hungry people in the US increased by 3.9 million, more than 1 million of them children.1*

The failure of the Green Revolution results from a misunderstanding of the causes of starvation in the world today. Hunger is not caused from lack of food, but from a lack of access to food. It is the failure of the profit-based market to distribute food equitably. Those who can afford food have a diet far in excess of their needs, while those who cannot afford food go hungry. The key to ending world hunger lies in social reforms, agrarian reforms, and true democratic reforms, along with the recognition that everyone has a right to a subsistence diet.15

The Green Revolution has, in fact, contributed to the inequity of our agricultural system by making it more difficult for farmers to compete with agricultural corporations. Not only does the Green Revolution fail in its stated mission, its industrial practices lead to degradation of the land and water supply. In the end, Green Revolution-type agriculture is unsustainable.

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