The Volokh Conspiracy

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How Great Was the Green Revolution?

Advanced crop varieties may have given the world an extra year's worth of GDP


How important was the "Green Revolution" to feeding people in developing countries and improving living conditions? A new paper in the Journal of Political Economy suggests it was quite substantial. The abstract for the paper, "Two Blades of Grass: The Impact of the Green Revolution," by Douglas Gollin, Casper Worm Hansen, & Asger Wingende is as follows:

We estimate the impact of the Green Revolution in the developing world by exploiting exogenous heterogeneity in the timing and extent of the benefits derived from high yielding crop varieties (HYVs). We find that HYVs increased yields by 44 percent between 1965 and 2010 with further gains coming through reallocation of inputs. Higher yields increased income and reduced population growth. A ten-year delay of the Green Revolution would in 2010 have cost 17 percent of GDP/capita and added 223 million people to the developing world population. The cumulative GDP loss would have been US$83 trillion, corresponding to one year of current global GDP.

This is a lengthy and fascinating paper, high-lighting the importance of innovation (and agricultural biotechnology in particular) to improving human well-being.