“How Better Rice Could Save Lives: A Second Green Revolution”
The Economist, May 10-16, 2014, p.14
“When, in 1961, the government of India asked a celebrated wheat breeder, Norman Borlaug, for advice about new seeds, the subcontinent was thought to be on the verge of starvation. China actually was suffering from famine. Borlaug persuaded India to plant a new semi-dwarf variety of wheat in Punjab. … [It] caught on like smartphones. Over the next 40 years the green revolution spread round the world, helping ensure that, where its seeds were planted, famines became things of the past. Now a second green revolution is stirring in the fields of Asia. It will not be the same as the first one, since it will depend not on a few miracle varieties but on tailoring existing seeds to different environments. But it promises to bring similar benefits—this time to the poor lands and poorer farmers that the first version passed by… Such lands are poor because they are prone to floods, drought and salinity. New seeds have been developed which can survive flooding, and soon there will be varieties that tolerate drought, extreme heat and saltiness, too, making the poorest lands fertile. So the second revolution could do even more to cut poverty than the first. This revolution is all the more vital because the gains of the first are plateauing. Annual yield growth has fallen to less than a third what it was in the green revolution and below the current rise in population. Meanwhile demand for rice is rising by almost 2% a year in Asia and soaring by 20% a year in Africa.”
Quickie Analysis: A good look at how science is continuing the fight against hunger and poverty.