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From the Green Revolution to the GM Revolution

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Scientist Norman Borlaug is known, though not enough, as «the man who fed the world.» During the 1950s and 60s, he made innovations in agricultural production that were dubbed the «green revolution,» increasing the amount of food per planted hectare. Borlaug developed new strains of various cereals that germinated earlier, grew faster and were more resistant to disease and drought ensuring harvests survived in adverse climates. This allowed many areas to produce two or three harvests a year, when before they were lucky to get one.

The Green Revolution also incorporated other elements, like water management and the use of fertilizers and pesticides. In 1960, for example, insects consumed almost a third of rice harvests in Asia. Since that time, rice production per hectare has increased 122 percent, corn production 159 percent and wheat 229 percent. The same land is now able to feed many more people. Naturally, environmentalists hate this.

Borlaug’s work destroyed radical environmentalist groups like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth’s (not of man) most beloved catastrophic predictions. The great famines that were to reduce world population never happened; it wasn’t even necessary to increase the amount of cultivated land, which has grown less than 2 percent since 1950. Any sensible person would think this was good news, but not environmentalists. They criticized the evils of pesticides and fertilizers, as if the minuscule percentage of deaths linked to them weren’t ridiculous compared to the lives the Green Revolution saved, estimated at 1 billion.

Borlaug now defends genetically modified food as a natural extension of his work since they create new variations faster and with greater precision. His methods, «based on hybridization and selection, were much slower and more primitive: Along with the beneficial gene many others, including some that could have negative effects, slipped in too.» Biotechnology doesn’t have this problem.

For Borlaug, environmentalists’ criticism of these new methods has a clear origin: «They say this because their stomachs are full. Environmentalist opposition to biotechnology is elitist and conservative. As usual, the critics come from the most privileged backgrounds: they live in comfort in Western societies, those that have never known famine up close.» He knows this well: his efforts to introduce in Africa the innovations that had saved so many lives in Asia did not receive the necessary funding because of «environmental» concerns. In other words, foundations that had invested in his work were scared off by the threat of environmental activists’ criticism.

By imposing the self-contradictory precaution principle on the commercialization and production of genetically modified foods, the European Union has bolstered the hysterical screams of environmentalists. People who do not produce a single gram of food want to control how it should be done. These busy-bodies want to ensure their prophecies of mass starvation are realized in the future by banning the tools human creativity has developed to avoid it. And there are still those who praise «their good intentions.»

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