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The Violence of the Green Revolution by Vandana Shiva

‘The Violence of the Green Revolution’ focusses on the impacts of the Green Revolution on Punjab and its links to Punjabs ecological and ethnic crisis. The author, Vandana Shiva, is a renowned environmental activist and scholar. She was supported by the Third World Network in her research, as well as support from many scientists of Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana. This particular book is a third edition, published in 1997; although the book was initially published in 1991.

Shiva’s work highlights several key topics including the politics behind the Green Revolution, the use and role of fertilisers, water distribution as well as the political and cultural impact of the Green Revolution. Particularly, Shiva explores the destruction of genetic diversity and soil fertility.


What is the Green Revolution?

The Green Revolution is the term used to reflect the shift of traditional agricultural practices to more industrial focussed practices through the implementation of modern agricultural methods and technology. Methods include the use of modern tractors, machinery, pesticides, fertilisers, and High Yield Variety Seeds.

Shiva explains the American influence on traditional methods used in India and the role that was played by private American foundations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Government and the World Bank. Working with the Indian Government, these organisations sort to increase agricultural productivity in order to ensure that the growing population of India could be facilitated. However, as Shiva discusses, this productivity increase came at the expense of more traditional and natural methods of farms. Methods that worked in line with natures limits. Furthermore, she explores the impact of American influence on the organisational structure of various research institutes across the world.

One particular case concerns the establishment of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) in Cuttack and the Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute (MPRRI). In particular, the MPRRI carried out research into high yielding strategies based on indigenous knowledge. However, this organisation was shortly shutdown due to pressures from the World Bank, who are heavily linked with the IRRI.

Why not Indigenous Seeds?

Indigenous seeds could not consume the high doses of chemicals, Green Revolution Seeds were inherently design to overcome this limit and drive the use of chemically intensive agriculture. The question of the matter is, what are the impacts of chemically intensive agriculture? Chapter 2, ‘Miracle Seeds’ and the Destruction of Genetic Diversity’, covers this in much greater detail.

Importantly, Shiva not only discusses the environmental and economic impacts of the Green Revolution. Her chapter on ‘The Political and Cultural Costs of the Green Revolution’ brings the perspective that this did not just impact the farmers and others directly linked with agriculture but also the general population of Punjab and its society.

‘The ecological crisis of the Green Revolution is thus mirrored in a cultural crisis caused by an erosion of diversity and structures of local governance and the emergence of homogenisation and centralised external control over the daily activities of agriculture food production.’

‘The Violence of the Green Revolution’ gives an incredibly in depth introduction to the Green Revolution, highlighting its origins and its impacts on the Punjab and surrounding states following its implementation. Especially following the ongoing events of the Kisaan protests across Delhi and neighbouring states, understanding the origins and impacts of the Green Revolution is vital to building a full picture of the economical and political conditions of the farmers in India. Particularly for Punjab, agriculture is a significant part of the economy and culture. Without it, Punjab cannot prosper or maintain its roots to its vibrant and diverse history.