Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Green Revolution" revisited

From a rice-importing country, the Philippines
became a rice exporter in 1977, for the first time
in the 20th century. This was credited to the
“GreenRevolution” which promoted the
Masagna 99, a highyielding rice variety developed
at the InternationalRice Research Institute
(IRRI). The “GreenRevolution” was wildly
acclaimed by industrializedcountries, in particular
the USA, the usual financialand technical
assistance agencies like the World Bank(WB),
USAID and the Asian Development Bank (ADB),
not to mention certain multinational corporations.
Yet, after three decades, here we are again
importing rice in massive quantities.

Although the Philippines was no longer
a“showcase of democracy” in 1977,
( Pres. FerdinandMarcos had imposed
martial rule ), it was undeniably a “show
window” of the “rice revolution”and that was
considered an achievement both the Marcos
dictatorship and the IRRI. Anachronistic as it
may sound today, the Cold War was the
backdrop of the“Green Revolution” which was
but a clever device toehance the superiority
of the capitalist system through “miracle rice”
production in areas of chronicpoverty and
hunger, fertile grounds for communism.Perhaps,
that was why the “Green Revolution”ultimately
foundered on its own avowed goals.

Landholders big and small had to be transformed
into dynamic capitalist entrepreneurs,producing
the modern commercial way, with incredibly
new technologies, extensive credit and marketing
systems that, inevitably , reduced the peasants’role
in agricultural development. “Green Revolution”all
but abolished the traditional way of rice farming.

Strikingly, the miracle was short-lived. Excessive
use of chemicals rendered the soil infertile and threw
ecology off balance. while small landholders were
either forced to sell their plots (awarded through
land reform) or work for a pittance as tenant
farmers and sharecroppers until big landholders
mechanized their plantations. It became obvious
that “Green Revolution”intensified poverty
when it was supposed to generate livelihood
specially in non - irrigated areas. Once landless,
peasants fled in droves to urban areas for survival.

Some people remember that the Philippine government
relaxed its efforts at rice production much too soon
and contrary to the strategy of WB,ADB and
USAID which favored continued increase in staple
food outputs. The three million hectares devoted to
rice were reduced to two million by the Ministry of
Agriculture in favor of IRRI’s “production
intensification” scheme of having four crops a year.
On top of that, there was an irreversible shift to
more remunerative export crops like winter vegetables
and fruits and grains like corn and sorghum
for livestock and animal feeds. Although rice output
was kept at par with population increase, targets for
agriculture growth were deliberately lowered.

In 1983, UN agricultural consultant Ernest Feder
(Foundation ofNationalist Studies , Quezon City)
where he dissected the “Green Revolution” and
its impact. He predicted that in the long run,
“…more important economic factors adverse to
rice production are likely to make their appearance.
A relevant factor affecting thefuture of the
rice sector in the Philippines will turnout to be
government policy which will by necessity be
coordinated with the production priorities set by
monopoly capital operating in the Philippines.
Monopoly capital in agriculture is only moderately
interested in rice [production].” How true, the
“farmer as rice importer” policy drove the
Filipino peasant to despair and to greener pastures

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