Technology, Food Production, and
It is hard to imagine anyone opposing the green revolution. The increase in yields from the green revolution in rice alone has produced enough to feed one billion people (DeGregori 1987b). Growth in yields accounts for 92 percent of the increase in world cereal production since 1960 (Frisvold, Sullivan, and Raneses 1999). The world average for grain yields per hectare rose from 1.1 tons in 1950 to 2.9 tons in 1992 (Conko and Smith 1999). Without the increase in yields, it would have been necessary to bring another 3.6 billion hectares of land under cultivation, which would have almost doubled world cropland from “34 percent of the earth's surface (excluding Antarctica) to 61 percent” (Conko and Smith 1999).
The green revolution was in many ways a grain revolution— wheat, rice, and maize—but it also was a research revolution that facilitated an extraordinary and sustained general expansion in food production. Bender and Smith (1997, 18) note, “Between 1961 and 1994, the number of daily food calories per capita rose from about 1,900 to 2,600 in developing countries, while their populations nearly doubled from 2.2 billion to more than 4.3 billion.” 1 Globally in the same period, “average daily per capita food supplies increased more than 20 percent.” The increase in available calories per capita for the developing countries rose 50 percent from 1948–1952 to 1994–1996 (Johnson 2000, 12). A century-long trend of falling real food prices continued during the period 1950 to 1992 as international food commodity prices dropped 78 percent in constant 1990 prices (Goklany 1999, 108; Goklany 2000, 161).
D. Gale Johnson (2000, 1) sums up these achievements in agriculture: “People today have more adequate nutrition than ever before and acquire that nutrition at the lowest cost in all human history.”
In the 1990s, while population continued to increase, the absolute number of malnourished people in the world declined by forty