The New Green Revolution

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The New Green Revolution

Nearly fifty years ago, in 1968, Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, one of the most erroneous, yet consequential books in human history.  Its inflammatory statements included “the battle to feed all of humanity is over” and “hundreds of millions of people” are about to starve to death in spite of any large-scale attempts to boost agricultural production.1 

But then, a miracle of technology occurred; we call it “the green revolution.”  Building on research that started in the 1930s, agronomists enabled a quantum leap in agricultural productivity.  For instance, the productivity of grains, including wheat, rice, and corn, nearly tripled.

Consequently, even though world population more than doubled, hunger dropped precipitously, and starvation became almost solely a byproduct of geopolitical factors preventing available food from reaching the people who needed it. 

In just the past quarter-century, the percentage of people afflicted by hunger has dropped by nearly half, from 23.3 percent to 12.9 percent.2 

However, the job is not completely finished.  The best estimates show that mankind still faces the challenge of improving the diet of roughly 800 million malnourished people worldwide.  Even though India and China are the two countries with the largest number of undernourished people, the Economist Intelligence Unit reports that sub-Saharan Africa rated worst in 2015, in terms of the affordability, availability, quality, and safety of its food supply.

Furthermore, the gains achieved through the original Green Revolution, and the incremental progress since then, have not been sufficient to stay ahead of increasing demand.  For instance, since the late 1980s, Asia’s rice yields have barely kept pace with population growth...

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