Green Revolution and GMO's

Is it truely debatable?

What were the causes and results of the Bengal Famine in 1943?

The first theory, created by the British, stated that the Bengal Famine was a result from an acute decrease in food production at that time. Today, we know different. One of the most aggresive voices on this issue, Indian economist Amartya Sen, explains that while a food shortage contributed to the problem, other issues were more important. The mass hysteria that occured after World War 2 made food production in India a low priority for the British. This hysteria, fueled by Indian traders who hordered food to sell at inflated prices, were the main cause of the Bengal Famine.

The Bengal Famine resulted in an estimated 4 million deaths due to starvation in eastern India. In order to combat the growing number of deaths, India took legislative measures to keep traders from hording food for reasons or profit. Also, India experienced a Green Revolution!

What were the 3 basic elements of the Green Revolution in India?

The 3 basic elements that contributed were the continued expansion of farmland, double-cropping existing farmland, and using seed with improved genetics (HYV). Begining in 1947, the area of land in India being used for agriculture started to increase. While this is not the main point of India's Green Revolution, it played a role in the increase of food production. Double-cropping can be defined by two crop season per year, one natural season that corresponds with India's natural monsoon and one artificial season created by an artificial monsoon. The incorporation of irrigation facilities and dams to hold natural, and otherwise wasted, monsoon water contributed immensly to the Green Revolution. Lastly, the reorganized Indian Council for Agricultural Research developed new strains of seed, mostly wheat, rice, corn, and millet, that had high yield value. These advanced seeds, especially the wheat K68 variety created by Dr. M.P. Singh, helped define India's Green Revolution.
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Two Positive Results of the Green Revolution

1) An after effect of the Green Revolution resulted in a record grain output in 1978-79 of 131 million tons. These numbers established India as one of the world's biggest agricultural producers. This amount of success has been unreachable by any other country in the world.

2) Yield per unit of farmland grew more than 30% from 1947 to 1979, the time in which the Green Revolution is considered to have contributed the most.

3 Positive Results (Economic, Sociologic, and Political)

Economic: The increase in irrigation created need for new dams to harness monsoon water. The stored water not only saved otherwise wasted water but it also created hydroelectric power. All this in turn boosted industiral growth, created jobs, and improved the quality of life of people in small villages.

Sociologic: The Green Revolution created jobs for agricultural workers and industiral workers by creating lateral facilities like factories and hydro-electric power stations that required manual labor.

Political: Through the Green Revolution, India emerged from a starving nation to an exporter of grain. This earned admiration for India in the comity of nations, exspecially in the Third World.

Limitations of the Green Revolutin in India

One, the concept of high-yield value seeds does not currently extend to all crops nor all regions. HYV seeds are largely confined to foodgrains, not all the needed variety of agriculture produce. Regionally, only areas like Punjab and Haryana exhibit the impressive results of these seeds. Some regions exhibit no or minimal increase. Two, even today, places in India still are experiencing famine-like conditions. In places like Kalahandi, starvation deaths reports are still being reported. These conditions are not a result of the accessability of foods, but they still question the 100% success of the Green Revolution.

Concerns of the Green Revolution

One concern of the recent Green Revolution in India is the rising numbers of children under the age of 5 that suffer from serious malnutrition. This problem is not caused by a lack of food per say, but it can be directly correlated to the Green Revolution. With the surplus in food production, India's population has been increasing rapidly. A term coined "bioregionalism" states that a region should only support as many people as it is able to on its own, with no imports or advanced varieties. With the Green Revolution, India goes against this perspective by supporting a growing population even when the numbers are too large. The great numbers of people in such a small region results in incredibly poor sanitation which then, in turn, leads to malnutrition. Another concern deals with water pollution, dangerous pesticides, and soil fertility. The increase of fertilizers, rich in nitrates and phosphates, end in an increase of fertilizers in lakes and rivers. Here, the artificial nutrients spark algae bloom which causes oxygen depletion and kills wildlife. Also, pesticides (like DDT) can pollution drinking water and food sources, offering danger to those under the age of 1. Lastly, soil fertility has become a huge issue. The continuing use of agricultural land with HYV results in a decrease of the nutrients in soil and capacity of the land to support crops. The more people who farm with these detriment-inducing supports, the more the land is being depleted.
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Positives of GMO's

  • Insect Resistance: Certian GMO foods have been combined with a toxic bacterium that makes them insect repellant, yet at the same time completely safe for human consumption. The result is a decrease in pesticide chemicals used on plants and a reduction in exposure of pesticides to the environment and populations.
  • Environmental Protection: GMO crops and animals require less artificial, dangerous chemicals, less time, and less tools to look after. These special benefits help to reduce environmental pollution, promoting better air and water quailty.
  • Added Nutrition: A lot of GMO foods have been engineered to be more nutritious in terms of mineral or vitamin content, helping to battle malnutrition in many places of the developing world. An example is vitamin A-enhanced rice which is currently helping to reduce vitamin A deficiencies.
  • Longer Shelf Life: Many GMO foods have added genetics that allow them to stay fresh for longer periods of time. This short period of time can cause fresh produce to cost less money, allowing more people to have access to fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Increased Yield: Foods that have been genetically engineered provide a much higher yield than those that have not. This results in a surplus of food that can support much larger populations, helping to eliminate deaths due to starvation. Also, access food can be exported, stimulating a country's economy.

Still not getting the debate? Try this visual instead!

PRI: Golden Rice Answer to Childhood Health Problems

Negative of GMO's

  • Allergic Reactions: Genetic modifications of GMO foods often mix and add proteins that weren't indigenous to the suposed originals plant or animal, stimulating new allergic responses. Sometimes, proteins from a plant or animal that contains know allergens can be added to a new organism, prompting the same reactions as the first plant or animal.
  • Decreased Antibiotic Efficiency: Often times, GMO foods contain antibiotic features built into them to make them immune or resistant to dieases or viruses. When eaten, these antibiotic markers can stay in the body making antibiotic medicines less effective. Today in hospitals all around the world, this antibiotic resistance is being seen.
  • Gene Transfer: The most well known risk of GMO foods is that the modified genes of enhanced organisms can escape into the wild. Herbicide resistend genes in certian crops can breed and cross into wild weeds. These potentially "superweeds" could theoretically be impossible to kill with modern day herbicides. Also, new super organisms resulting from a cross breed of GMO foods could complete with natural plant and animal populations driving species to extinction.
  • Increased Toxicity: Already most plants produce substances that are toxic to humans, only in such low dosages that they do not harm us. The creation of new GMO foods produces the risk of toxic plants being altered in a way that causes an increase in toxicity. An example are disease resistent potatoes that produce higher levels of the toxin glycoalkaloid.
  • Small Business Competition: The creations of GMO foods puts large commerial businesses at large advantages, producing more food for cheaper costs. Because HYV seeds are more expensive, many small farmers cannot afford them. As a result they cannot complete with larger commercial companies, and lose their land. As the number of local farmers are diminishing, corporate companies can control the market.
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