Outline of the Argument

This book sketches the development by plant breeders of high-yielding varieties of wheat, which was a major part of the green revolution. The story, however, could not be confined to the traditional borders of the green revolution. Changes in the agriculture of less industrialized areas were linked too strongly to events elsewhere to be understood in isolation. Highly industrialized countries also developed and adopted high-yielding varieties of wheat in ways that had important links, scientifically and politically, to events in the third world.

Wheat production is a large and important global industry, much too vast to examine here in its entirety. For reasons that are explained in chapter 1, this book focuses on selected events in wheat production in the United States, Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom. Thus the research for this book was built around an effort to understand the plant-breeding science behind high-yielding varieties of wheat in four particular countries, during the time period from about 1900 to 1980. As I worked through archival documents, reports, publications, and personal interviews, however, I realized that an originally unanticipated theme emerged and was essential to any explanation of how and why wheat breeders formed their conclusions. This theme was the immense importance of agriculture in general and the cereal crops in particular to the shape of human culture and the security of nations.

Understanding that wheat breeding had something to do with cultures and nations came from the recognition that political support for wheat breeding was linked to national security planning and to the need for countries to manage their foreign exchange.

I concluded that considerations of national security and foreign exchange were really important examples of an even broader concept: that wheat and people are two species that have evolved a complex codependency since their first major encounter in the Neolithic agricultural revolution. In the approximately 10,000 years in which people have intertwined their affairs with the wheat plant, we have created a situation in which neither species has a future independent of the other.

Codependency of people and wheat made my task more complex. In order to explain the importance of national security planning and foreign exchange management in the affairs of wheat breeding, I had first to lay the foundation that codependency had shaped both human culture and the wheat plant for thousands of years. Accordingly, the narrative begins in chapter 1 with an explanation of political ecology, a framework that opens the way to a consideration of codependency. Chapter 2 then outlines the physical nature of the wheat plant and how humans and this cereal have coevolved since the Neolithic agricultural revolution. Codependency sets the stage for an examination of the origins and the socio-political position of plant-breeding science, the subjects of chapters 3 and 4, respectively.

Wheat breeding was fully formed and recognized as an important activity by 1940 in the United States, Britain, and India. Events after 1940, however, sharply accelerated the pace of work and amplified the science's strategic importance. Chapter 5 begins this part of the story by explaining how and why the Rockefeller Foundation launched a major agricultural science project in Mexico, which launched wheat breeding into international prominence. This chapter also recounts how the Mexi can government embraced the Rockefeller Foundation program as its way of shaping national security and managing Mexico's foreign exchange. The strategic importance of wheat breeding was rationalized in the United States by a theory I call the population-national security theory, outlined in chapter 6.

Chapters 7, 8, and 9 move to reconstruct how three nations after 1945 each made a strategic decision to embrace wheat breeding as a way of managing its national security and foreign exchange problems. The United States (chapter 7) made commitments to promote wheat breeding as part of the cold war efforts to contain the former Soviet Union. In addition, the critical importance of agricultural exports in the U.S. economy made wheat breeding important for foreign exchange management. India (chapter 8) moved to embrace wheat breeding along the complex pathway it took to recover from the effects of British imperialism and the shattering of the economy of British India at independence. Security and autonomy of the Indian nation and foreign exchange considerations were the prime drivers in the national commitment to wheat breeding. Finally, the United Kingdom (chapter 9) vastly expanded its commitment to wheat breeding as it struggled to reconstruct its postimperial economy. Once again, considerations of national security and foreign exchange management drove the crucial decisions.

Chapter 10 reconstructs the science of high-yielding wheat in the United States, Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom. Mexico and India constitute the heart of what is usually considered the green revolution. At the simplest level, the material in this chapter provides the answer to the question about how farmers in these countries obtained higher yields from their land. My argument, however, is that a fuller explanation of how and why these higher yields came to be requires a larger framework. The scientists sketched in chapter 10 would not have had the support, nor would their products have been embraced as a matter of policy, without the perception of national leaders that wheat breeding provided important avenues to security and management of foreign exchange. This chapter also dramatizes the idea that the green revolution was a global phenomenon, not just an event in the third world.

Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to growing organic, healthy vegetable, herbs and house plants without soil. Clearly illustrated with black and white line drawings, the book covers every aspect of home hydroponic gardening.

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