India’s Food Situation



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India’s Food Situation

The world's worst recorded food disaster happened in 1943 in British-ruled India. Known as the Bengal Famine, an estimated four million people died of hunger that year alone in eastern India. The initial theory put forward to explain that catastrophe was that there was simply not enough food produced to feed all the people. At the same time, many Third World nations in other parts of the globe were also experiencing food shortages, so groups of scientists began to study crops and seeds. These farming advancements created the scientists introduced new science into agriculture and is known as the Green Revolution.

Green Revolution = an effort over the last 40 years to improve the amount of food available to harvest from farms around the world. This has been done by:

  • Replacing multiple crops growing in the same field with a single cash crop on each field that could be sold around the world

  • Using genetically-altered seeds that science has developed resulting in larger grains/vegetables

  • Increasing the amount of fertilizer and water applied to fields as well as the number of machines used to harvest the crops


Achievements of the Green Revolution

The Green Revolution resulted in a record grain output of 131 million tons in 1978-79. This established India as one of the world's biggest agricultural producers. No other country in the world which attempted the Green Revolution recorded such level of success. India also became an exporter of food grains around that time.



The Green Revolution in agriculture helped food production to keep pace with population growth. Without the Green Revolution, agriculture would not be able to meet the basic food requirements of the world's current population. According to some estimates, the Green Revolution has saved almost a billion human lives.

In one of India’s most important states, Punjab, the statistics are awesome:

1950

2000

Wheat production

1 million tons

12 million tons

Rice production

0

8 million tons

Irrigated land

0

91%

Fertilizer use

0.005 million tons

1.1 million tons

Tractor use

1,392

260,000

The Green Revolution has other hidden economic benefits. Because the genetically altered seeds of the Green Revolution require more fertilizer and more pesticides, manufacturing industries grew to support these needs, which resulted in new jobs. Because the increase in irrigation created need for new dams to harness monsoon water, the dams could also be used to generate electricity. This in turn boosted industrial growth, created jobs and improved the quality of life of the people in villages.

Criticisms of the Green Revolution

Critics of the Green Revolution often focus on the loss of plant diversity that results from this process. Because fields that use to grow multiple crops are replaced with one crop, farmers are dependant on trade. Farmers use to be able to use these multiple crops to feed themselves, but with only one crop in the field, farmers are forced to trade it for money, which they use to buy food.

Historically, farmers would reserve a small percentage of their harvest each year to use as the seed to plant a new set of crops the next year. The genetically altered seeds of the Green Revolution however have been changed so that these plants do not create their own seeds. This means that farmers must buy new seeds each year rather than use the seeds that naturally occur within a plant. As a result the companies that produce genetically altered seeds profit greatly from farmers need to buy new seed each year.

Socially, the Green Revolution put many small family farmers out of business, because they could not compete with the powerful companies that could afford to purchase expense seeds, fertilizers, and equipment. So not only are poor farmers forced to compete with large, modern farming companies, but the poor of a country who used to help harvesting, have lost their jobs to tractors. As more food is produced the cost that it can be sold for drops. This may be good for consumers, but it is bad for farmers who need to make as much money as possible to feed their family.

The Green Revolution may actually be making India’s poorest citizens poorer.





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