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The Green Revolution and its Consequences

The Times

Sir, It was disappointing to read Graham Harvey's criticism of the work of the late Norman Borlaug (The Green Revolution wasn't green enough, Sept 14). Borlaug bred the dwarf varieties of cereals that were the primary reason why the disastrous famines predicted by neo-Malthusians in the 1960s and 1970s did not happen, as Harvey acknowledges before complaining about the huge amounts of chemical fertiliser needed. No progress is without its problems, but the fact that more food is produced per capita now than before the Green Revolution, and on barely more land, is surely enough to make Borlaug one of the most important humanitarians of the 20th century. Inevitably, these bigger harvests require more artificial fertiliser because relying on natural fertilisation would mean that half the world would starve. The dream of sustainable organic farming would only be realisable for the survivors. Avoiding mass famine now trumps any hypothetical influence on the climate decades hence from reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Martin Livermore Scientific Alliance Cambridge Copyright The Times 2009