The past 50 years have been the most productive period in global agricultural history, leading to the greatest reduction in hunger the world has ever seen. The Green Revolution, as this period came to be known in the developing world, has kept more than one billion people from hunger, starvation, and even death.
So began a Wall Street Journal op-ed article penned last Friday by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Dr. Norman Borlaug and President Jimmy Carter, praising the immense progress agricultural science has made in alleviating world hunger. “[N]ew high-yielding, disease- and insect-resistant seeds, new products to restore soil fertility and control pests, and a succession of agricultural machines to ease drudgery and speed everything from planting to harvesting” — the Green Revolution can boast all of these life-saving advances and more, according to the pair.
Not everyone’s happy about the continuing advances in food and nutrition, however. Borlaug and Carter’s editorial warns that “agricultural science is increasingly under attack by groups and individuals who, for political rather than scientific reasons, are campaigning to limit advances, especially in new fields such as genetic modification (GM) through biotechnology.”
These neo-Luddite activists even resort to violence to satisfy their agendas. One sadly typical example: When Kenyan biologist Florence Wambugu developed a virus-resistant sweet potato that promised to feed millions, the Earth Liberation Front destroyed her lab and her crops. In another blow to scientific progress, eco-fanatics bombed a Minnesota plant genetics center to keep it from producing life-saving agricultural research.
When activists don’t approve, poor people don’t eat. While this kind of obstructionism may seem harmless from the comfort of First World affluence, Borlaug and Carter note that Western political blockades of safe biotech crops “impede its acceptance in most poor, food-insecure countries.” Today’s Green Revolution isn’t over yet — there are still over 800 million hungry mouths left to feed.