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The Green Revolution and Long Term Economic Growth

Geoff Riley

29th August 2016

The spread of high-yielding crop varieties developed through conventional plant breeding may have led, directly or indirectly, to four-fifths of all economic growth achieved in the developing world during the 40-year period from 1960 to 2000. That is the central finding of research by Casper Worm Hansen, Douglas Gollin and Asger Moll Wingender, presented at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Geneva in August 2016.

The Green Revolution refers to high-yielding crop varieties developed primarily in public sector institutions, and distributed to farmers for free or made available at low cost. The new study considers 11 crops – rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, millet, barley, potato, cassava, dry beans, groundnut and lentils – and finds that in an average developing country, the Green Revolution led to an increase in per capita income of 47% between 1960 and 2000.

Co-author Casper Worm Hansen comments: 'What we are finding is far more than the direct effects that would have come from producing more agricultural commodities. We are instead picking up broader and deeper changes in these economies. The lesson is that successful agricultural science can have a really large payoff in terms of macroeconomic outcomes.'

Geoff Riley

Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for over thirty years. He has over twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.

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