In the ‘60’s, we weren’t growing enough wheat and rice. To combat malnourishment, Government of India introduced a) High-Yielding Varieties (HYV) of seeds to farmers to increase the crop yield and b) a new set of policies that criminally favored chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and bioengineered seeds over organic farming.
However, as with any complex issue that needs clear understanding of the problem and relative factors, this one also needed strict scientific evidence and rigorous approach, but the Corporates and so-called Experts failed us.
Instead of encouraging farmers to use centuries-old knowledge and take up organic farming while solving deep-rooted issues like logistics (nearly 40% of all fresh food produced in India perishes before it can get to customers) and unequal land distribution (5% of the farmers own 32% of the land), government relied on a cheap technological trick.
The worrisome thing is even the original proponents of “Green Revolution” have changed their position but the government is still dolling out subsidies for chemical farming.
So What Happened?
Let’s examine. A short-term increase in yield gave us following issues:
1) Compared to heirloom seeds, Hybrids/GMOs needed pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and more water to sustain and grow. Obviously, farmers started buying these on regular basis making them completely dependent on big fat, monster corporates. In the name of GMOs/HYVs, farmers got tricked with one-trick pony instead of a data-backed, thoroughly tested scientific invention
2) Moreover, hybrid seeds couldn’t be saved since they don’t produce uniform offsprings next year (i.e. they just don’t grow like their parents) and give wild crops forcing farmers to go back to source (read: companies like Monsanto) requiring seed purchase for every cultivation
3) Farmers who were self-reliant suddenly became dependent on corporates. Many farmers couldn’t (and still can’t) afford buying fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides every year requiring them to take huge loans which in turn forced them to either commit suicide or migrate to a city. Sadly, even today, this death cycle hasn’t stopped
4) The massive migration of people from village to cities gave birth to a whole slew of complex issues like income-inequality, pollution, unemployment etc.
5) Extremely short-sighted set of policies/program gave us good results for wheat (and only for the next 10 years) making farmers to only grow wheat. And hence production of other nutrient-rich food like Ragi, Jowar dropped significantly resulting in a loss of biodiversity in crops and malnutrition in people. Biodiversity is very important for consistently high crop yield so what gave good results in a short run has now endangered the entire agriculture sector
6) Poor nutrition coupled with sedentary lifestyle has resulted in a generation of people that’s dependent on health care (voila, you must have spotted more hospitals/clinics than gardens in your city) instead of healing organic food (one of the main things it does is strengthen your body’s immune system)