Green Revolution: Dramatic But Slowing

IN the 1960s, the food situation was described as "desperate," particularly in Asia. International food specialists predicted famine, since food production looked as if it would lag far behind population growth.

Instead, average crop yields per acre soared, thanks to the introduction of high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat and to expanded irrigation and chemical fertilizer use. The increased production now feeds 700 million people every day. It has been called the green revolution.

Although average yields continue to expand as more farmers adopt technology, the revolution is clearly slowing.

In Southeast Asia, for example, rice yields grew 2.9 percent a year from 1966-74, and only 1.6 percent from 1982-88. Meanwhile, population continues to rise.

"The race to stay ahead of famine in Asia has not yet been won," says Dr. Klaus Lampe, director general of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, the Philippines.

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