Friday, May 02, 2003

Science has free SARS content, including the genome.

They also review the Green Revolution:

Critics of further investment in research have noted that grain prices are at or near historic lows, and they question the need for further improvements in technology. They have also raised concerns about the sustainability of intensive cultivation -- e.g., the environmental consequences of soil degradation, chemical pollution, aquifer depletion, and soil salinity -- and about differential socioeconomic impacts of new technologies. These are valid criticisms. But it is unclear what alternative scenario would have allowed developing countries to meet, with lower environmental impact, the human needs posed by the massive population expansion of the 20th century. Nor is it true that chemical intensive technologies were thrust upon the farmers of the developing world. Both IARC and NARS breeding programs attempted to develop MVs [Modern high-yielding Vaieties] that were less dependent on purchased inputs, and considerable effort has been devoted to research on farming systems, agronomic practices, integrated pest management, and other "environment-friendly" technologies. But ultimately it is farmers who choose which technologies to adopt, and many farmers in developing countries -- like those in developed countries -- have found it profitable to use MVs with high responsiveness to chemical fertilizers.

The end result, as shown in Table 2, is that virtually all consumers in the world have benefited from lower food prices. Many farm families also benefited from research-driven productivity gains -- most clearly those whose productivity rose more than prices fell, but also those who produce much of their own food. But some farmers and farm workers experienced real losses from the Green Revolution. Those who did not receive the productivity gains of the Green Revolution (largely because they were located in less favorable agroecological zones), but who nonetheless experienced price declines, have suffered actual losses of income. The challenge for the coming decades is to find ways to reach these farmers with improved technologies; for many, future green revolutions hold out the best, and perhaps the only, hope for an escape from poverty.


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