Whenever I’ve learned about the Green Revolution in school, I’ve mostly heard about India and a little bit about China. We learn about how great the Green Revolution was and how rice technology spread throughout India and China. India had been on the edge of a huge famine until high yielding varieties of rice and wheat were introduced. Even with India’s growing population, the country was able to fight its way back from a famine and grow so much food that it was eventually able to begin exporting food.
We learn about some of the negative effects the Green Revolution had as well, on India. With the new varieties, farmers were required to purchase seeds from big companies every year, they couldn’t save any seeds. Also, they had to buy very powerful fertilizers for the plants since they couldn’t survive without them. The seeds and fertilizer were very expensive and only the rich farmers could afford to buy them on a yearly basis. This caused many small farms to go under, benefitting big farms/agribusiness because then they were able to purchase the small farms for cheap. In India especially, there were reports of many farmers committing suicide because they couldn’t afford to provide for their families anymore and couldn’t face the disgrace.
Until I started researching for this paper, I had never really thought about the Green Revolution being anywhere else but Asia. I knew that it had benefitted other countries, including the US, but it wasn’t something I really thought about. During the course of my research though, I learned that the Green Revolution had started in Mexico and if it weren’t for experiments done there on wheat, rice, and corn, the Green Revolution probably wouldn’t have taken off. In the early 1940s, Mexico was in trouble because its population was growing and couldn’t afford to keep importing enough corn and wheat for everyone. The Mexican Ministry of Agriculture reached out to the Rockefeller Foundation for help and together the two organizations essentially started the Green Revolution. They developed a very sturdy, high-yield variety of Mexican dwarf wheat that could grow almost anywhere, with a lot of fertilizer. This wheat was grown all over Mexico as well as sold elsewhere in the world until 94% of the high yield variety wheat was planted in Asia, hence why people focus on Asia when talking about the Green Revolution.
I understand why Asia is the main focus of the Green Revolution since it had a very big impact on the people there. But what I don’t understand is why there’s almost no mention of Mexico and the fact that basically all the technology that made the green revolution possible was developed there. I wonder if the reason credit wasn’t given to Mexico was because the Rockefeller Foundation took the credit. Even if that was the case, I think Mexico’s role in the Green Revolution should be taught.