Episode 37: The Complicated Legacy of the Green Revolution

The Green Revolution was a program of agricultural technology transfer that helped poor countries around the world increase food production from the 1950s onward. An American agronomist named Norman Borlaug developed and popularized the central innovation of this revolution: the concept of “wide adaptation,” or the idea that plants could be bred to produce a high yield in a variety of environments, rather than in a particular region.

Borlaug’s work won him the Nobel Prize in 1970, and his agricultural insights are often credited with saving millions of people from hunger. But the legacy of Borlaug and the Green Revolution is not as straightforward as these accolades suggest.

In this episode, we caught up with interdisciplinary scientist and historian Marci Baranski to discuss her new book, The Globalization of Wheat: A Critical History of the Green Revolution. She talked with host Jason Lloyd about how a more nuanced understanding of the Green Revolution and Borlaug’s work can improve agricultural and economic development policies today.

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