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Plants are an essential part of lives on the planet and a crucial source of economic prosperity for almost every country. They provide directly or indirectly almost all the food of man and animals. They also supply industrial raw material, for instance, timber, paper, rubber, products for the chemical industries such as starch, sugars, oils and fats, energy in the form of fuel wood, starch and sugars which are sources of ethanol, methanol, etc., and massive numerous valuable drugs, fragrances and other fine chemicals. Plant growth also has a massive influence on environment. Because of all these roles, Policymakers should be continually developing policies for the use of plants to protect the earth's environment and to feed the growing populations.(1)
The Historical Phenomenon (Green revolution)
The term "Green Revolution" has begun to be used in 1960s refers to the renovation of agricultural practices by some Third World countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America, beginning in Mexico in the 1940s. Because of the use of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of wheat and rice which increase food crop production. Green revolution technologies spread worldwide in different terms as "agricultural revolution" and "seed-fertilizer revolution", which led to a substantial increase in the amount of calories produced per acre of agriculture in 1960s.(*light green, H2)
The green days of the Green Revolution (History and Development)
In 1970 the American botanist, Norman Borlaug, Director of the Division for Wheat Cultivation at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center or CIMMYT in Mexico, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was honoured for having set in motion a worldwide agricultural development, later to be called the 'Green Revolution' (*light green). In the 1940s, N. Borlaug began conducting research in Mexico and developed new disease resistance high-yield varieties of wheat. By combining Borlaug's wheat varieties with new mechanized agricultural technologies, Mexico was able to produce more wheat than was needed by its own citizens, leading to its becoming an exporter of wheat by the 1960s. Prior to the use of these varieties, the country was importing almost half of its wheat supply.(net)
Due to the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico, its technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s. The United States for instance, imported about half of its wheat in the 1940s but after using Green Revolution technologies, it became self-sufficient in the 1950s and became an exporter by the 1960s.(net)
A renovation of the history of the Green Revolution shows that the international agricultural research institutes played an important role in progressing of using Green Revolution technologies. Such as, in 1959, the CIMMYT instituted in Mexico, which was founded by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and the Mexican government provided the land. Also, in 1960, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Manila, which was joint effort of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundation Several more international institutes were established and funded by government agencies as the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). After that, in 1971, all the international agricultural research institutes were brought under the umbrella of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).(4)
The development was based on the genetic improvement of particularly productive plants. Borlaug's so-called "miracle wheat" doubled and tripled yields in short period of time. Similar increases were soon achieved with maize and, at the (IRRI), with rice (IR8) that produced more grain per plant when grown with irrigation and fertilizers.(2)
The success of the newly developed strains appeared limitless. They were introduced in several Asian countries in 1965, and, by 1970, these strains were being cultivated over an area of 10 million hectares. Within three years, Pakistan ceased to be dependent wheat imports from the United States. Sir Lanka, the Philippines, and number of African and South American countries achieved record harvests. India, which had just avoided a severe famine in 1967, produced enough grain within five years to support its population, and became one of the world's leading rice producers.(2) However, despite the success of the Green Revolution in increasing yields per hectare in India, this success has largely bypassed Africa. The reasons for this include the fact that both wheat and rice are relatively unimportant staple crops in Africa; that Africa's main staples of maize, sorghum, millet, and cassava have experienced only modest productivity gains; and that Africa's infrastructure is not sufficiently well developed to support significant agricultural change.
The witness of the Green Revolution (Plant Technologies)
Agricultural technology development can be characterised as passing from primarily "land-related" technologies, through mechanisation to bio-chemical technologies (associated with new varieties and relatively large amount of agro-chemicals). It is now moving towards a "bio-technology' phase. (green p 72)
The crops developed throughout the Green Revolution were high yield varieties (HYVs), which means they were domesticated plants in high response to chemical fertilizers and produce more grain per plant when grown with irrigation.( H2)
They were insensitive to photoperiodicity and matured in about 110 days rather than 180 days; it was thus possible to grow two or even three crops in a year. The yield potential of these varieties was greater in the temperate regions of Asia and in the dry season in the monsoon region than in the humid tropics, because of the longer hours of sunshine and hence the greater potential photosynthesis available to the plant. (H2)
Benefits & Criticism (Consequences of the Green Revolution)
Agricultural development thinking in the 1960s and 1970s was preoccupied with the problem of feeding a rapidly increasing world population. Then, the obvious solution was to increase per capita food production. The resulting green revolution has had a dramatic impact on the Third World, particularly in terms of increasing the yields of the staple cereals - wheat, rice, and maize. However, despite impressive success, it also suffers from problems of equity and failures in achieving stability and sustainability of production.( 5 After)
Since the 1940s, the fossil fuel-based Green Revolution has greatly increased the production of a few selected commodity grain crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans and rice, achieved through high-input, monoculture cropping practices. Based upon the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and irrigation, the industrial Green Revolution worked only as long as fuel was cheap and water was abundant. The transitory benefits of increased short-term food production have come at too great an ecological price as carbon is extracted from the soil and emitted as global-warming carbon dioxide in our air instead of remaining in the soil to nurture crops. Petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical pesticides have also polluted water resources and increased toxicity in the environment.
Furthermore, chemically-based conventional farming methods lead to human health risks. Pesticides have damaged wildlife, poisoned farm workers, and created long-term health problems such as cancers and birth defects. What cannot be economically calculated is the cost of destroying future generations' ability to produce enough food for their survival. When all costs are calculated the Green Revolution is not cost-efficient. While centralized, industrial agricultural methods reduce labour costs by substituting herbicides, insecticides and synthetically-produced fertilizers as well as farm machinery for application and crop maintenance, the energy costs are much higher than in organic farming systems.
Gene Revolution (Second Green revolution)
New biotechnology can affect every stage of plant life. Rapid biotechnology tests for contamination by crop disease organisms and for seed and crop quality controls allow for safer and more efficient crop breeding is likely to play an important role in securing the future supply of food. Crop germplasm improvement by the addition of new genes has been the goal of plant breeding since the beginning of agriculture. New efficient genetic modification methods could aim at increasing plant performance and plant resistance to virus and other disease, as well as to drought, salt, cold, heat, etc. They could also enlarge the land resource basis available for agriculture. Genetic modification might become the most important contribution of biotechnology to plants. From 1982, when the first single gene was successfully transferred, progress has been rapid; several dozen plants have since been modified in the laboratory.(1) There are essentially two techniques in modern biotechnology for plant breeding-molecular markers and genetically engineering transgenic crops. Molecular markers involve identifying specific genes from the DNA sequences in plant genomes with specific traits. Molecular marker tools are then used to screen varieties of plants for genes that confer resistance to specific diseases. Using this technique, plant breeders speed up the development of new varieties with the desirable traits. (Hr1)
Crop performance in the field, depends upon numerous factors, including environment, soil type, agronomy, external factors such as pests and disease and the plant properties themselves. Genetic modification of plants or micro-organisms can modify these factors, leading, for example, to better plant morphology , stress resistance, and biological fertilisation, as well as pest and disease control, which reduce chemical inputs into agriculture.( 1)
Plant characters frequently in need of improvement by exploitation of new genes in breeding programmes
Increase drought tolerance, Increase salt tolerance, Increase cold tolerance, Increase heat tolerance, Increase disease resistance, Increase pest resistance, Herbicide tolerance, Increase nitrogen utilisation, Increase acid/alkali tolerance, Increase metal tolerance, Modified day length responses, Modified vernalisation responses, Increase photosynthesis/respiration efficiency.
GMOs (Major issues)
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been introduced in the agricultural system and on the market of consumer goods in the last 10-20 years, initially in the USA but also increasingly in developing countries. . Since the discovery of genetic engineering, with its potential to modify DNA of living organisms, discussion and controversy have been abundant both cited in Europe has witnessed a particularly strong resistance to the introduction of GMOs in agriculture and for consumer food products, both from consumers, national governments and from the EU. The public objections had numerous causes, including the concerns about the risk assessment, the ethics and equity issues, power relations and the mistrust of technocrats and public authorities. The resistance in Asia, Latin America and North America has been generally weaker than in Europe, although some authors have voiced scathing criticism of the US governments and the industrial lobby for abusing famine in Africa to foster the spread of GM food to developing countries. In response to the criticism, the European governments have attempted to improve the risk assessment methods and its scientific basis, and to tailor public policies to the growing demand for transparency, accountability, and public participation.( second revo ref2)
Concerns about the introduction of GMOs in crops and in food concentrate on four mutually overlapping areas: environmental concerns; public health concerns; ethical concerns about "tampering with nature" and individual choice; and a combination of ethical and socio-conomic concerns related to the issues of patenting
Need of another revolution
The challenge facing the world today is to provide food, fibre and industrial raw materials for an ever growing world population without degenerating the environment or affecting the future productivity of natural resources. This challenge is even more pressing in a world of 6.5 billion people, where FAO estimates that a total of 925 million people are undernourished in 2010 (FAO SOFI report 2010). Experts project that the world food supply will need to double again over the next 40 years to feed our planet's population.(5)
It is sometimes said that the Gene Revolution will replace the Green Revolution. But this will not happen until and unless this mechanism enables breeders to produce "dynamic" gains in generations of varieties. Until such time, the Gene Revolution's GM products can only complement conventional Green Revolution breeding. This complementarily takes the form of installing "static" GM products on the dynamic generations of varieties produced by conventional Green Revolution methods.