The so-called “Green Revolution” brought American-style industrial agriculture to developing nations such as Africa and India a few decades back, promising to solve chronic food shortages through the use of high-yield crops and chemicals. But, as NPR reported last week, this resource-intensive system of food production has ultimately proven catastrophic for India’s farmers. Depleted water tables and exhausted soil have led to massive crop failures, driving nearly 200,000 Indian farmers to commit suicide since 1997, as the BBC recently reported.
And there was more bad news for biotech crops last week. A study from the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that “genetically engineered crops do little to improve yields and instead promote the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds that actually curb production.” Germany, meanwhile, went so far as to ban a strain of genetically modified corn from Monsanto, declaring it “a danger to the environment.”
Last year’s UNEP report on food security in Africa—which of examined 286 projects covering 37 million hectares in 57 countries—found that when organic and near-organic practices were adopted with all their ecological benefits, crop yields also increased by more than 100 per cent from previous practices. The old “green revolution” failed in Africa because soils were so depleted already.