Abstract

Despite their success in boosting cereals production overall, the Green Revolution programs of the 1950s and 1960s were often criticized for failing to achieve their declared aim of alleviating world hunger. Most critics argued that the programs had produced a technology unsuited to the needs of small peasant farmers. This paper explores why such inappropriate technology might have been developed, focusing on the early years of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Mexican Agricultural Program (MAP). It shows that some foundation officers as well as agricultural advisors had prior experience of the problems faced by small farmers in the United States and elsewhere.Moreover, the foundation’s expressed concern for rural poverty does not appear to have been mere posturing by an organization anxious to be seen as an agent of philanthropy. Furthermore, the program’s early work in maize-breeding was well tailored to the conditions of Mexican agriculture.Once the MAP was up and running, however, it became apparent that the task of getting new varieties and cultivation practices to small farmers was going to be difficult. Needing to make some kind of impact quickly, MAP staff chose to concentrate upon projects that were likely to find a rapid uptake. This meant setting aside the needs of peasant farmers to develop high-yielding varieties suited to large commercial farms.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.

NOTES

1 Edwin Wellhausen, "The Agriculture of Mexico," Scientific American 235 (Aug. 1976): 12950;
Barbara Tuchman, "The Green Revolution and the Distribution of Agricultural Income in Mexico," World Development 4 (Jan. 1976): 17-24;
E. C. Stakman et al., Campaigns Against Hunger (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 214-15.
2 Niek Koning, The Failure of Agrarian Capitalism: Agrarian Politics in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and the USA, 1846-1919 (New York: Routledge, 1994);
Jonathan Harwood, "Europe’s Green Revolution: The Rise and Fall of Peasant-Friendly Plant-Breeding, 1890-1945," MS, in possession of author;
Willi Boelcke, "Ueber die Säkulare Strukturentwicklung der Klein-und Mittelbäuerlichen Landwirtshcaft in Deutschland Während des 19./20.
Jahrhunderts," in Entwicklungstendenzen in der Agrargeschichtlichen Lehre und Forschung, 89-98 (Berlin: Institut für Agrarpolitik, Marktlehre u. Agrarentwicklung, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Fördergesellschaft Albrecht Daniel Thaer, 1995).
Ludwig Kiessling, "Die Organisation einer Landessaatgutzüchtung in Bayern," Fühlings Landwirtschaftliche Zeitung 55 (1906): 329-38.
Keith Griffin, The Political Economy of Agrarian Change: An Essay on the Green Revolution (London: Macmillan, 1974), 20.
Wellhausen, "The Agriculture of Mexico," 136.
3 Jules Billard, "The Revolution in American Agriculture," National Geographic (Feb. 1970): 147-85.
John Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 114.
Don Paarlberg, "The Land Grant Colleges and the Structure Issue," American Journal of Agricultural Economics 63 (Feb. 1981): 129-34.
4 Deborah Fitzgerald, "Exporting American Agriculture: The Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico, 1943-53," Social Studies of Science 16 (Aug. 1986): 457-83, 459;
Cynthia Hewitt de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture: Socioeconomic Implications of Technological Change, 1940-1970 (Geneva: UN Research Institute for Social Development, 1976), 20, 23;
Bruce H. Jennings, Foundations of International Agricultural Research: Science and Politics in Mexican Agriculture (Boulder: Westview Press, 1988), chpt. 3.
Adolfo Olea-Franco, "One Century of Higher Agricultural Education and Research in Mexico (1850s-1960s),
Joseph Cotter, Troubled Harvest: Agronomy and Revolution in Mexico, 1880-2002 (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003), 198-99, 322.
Stephen Lewontin’s "The Green Revolution and the Politics of Agricultural Development in Mexico since 1940" (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1983).
Mexico’s own breeders, Matchett, "Untold Innovation: Scientific Practice and Corn Improvement in Mexico, 1935-1965" (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 2002).
5 Mann Diaries, 1924-27, Log 10 (Dec. 1924-Jan. 1925) on Germany, Box 42;
Mann Diaries, 1926-27
Mann to Wickliffe Rose, June 28, 1924, Folder 329;
Mann to Rose, Aug. 27, 1924, Folder 330, Box 23, Ser. 1.1,
6 Hutchison to Rose, Feb. 1928, Folder 335;
Shepardson, Agricultural Education in the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1929).
Mann to Rose, Apr. 17, 1925, Folder 331, Box 23, Ser. 1.1, IEB, RAC.
Annual Report of the International Education Board, 1925-26 (New York: International Education Board, 1926), 18.
7 Randall E. Stross, The Stubborn Earth: American Agriculturalists on Chinese Soil, 1898-1937 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 152, 157, 201-202, and chpt. 6;
H. H. Love and J. H. Reisner, "The Cornell-Nanking Story," New York State College of Agriculture, Cornell International Agricultural Development Bulletin No. 4 (1964): 11, 34.
Gunn cited in James C.Thomson, While China Faced West: American Reformers in Nationalist China, 1928-1937 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), 149.
8 Matchett, "Untold Innovation," 80.
9 Annual Report of the General Education Board, 1936-37;
Memo, from Warren Weaver, Mar. 8, 1946, Folder 11, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Folder 56, Box 9, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Folder 70, Box 11, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
10 "The World Food Problem, Agriculture and the RF," June 21, 1951, Folder 23, Box 3, Ser. 915, RG 3, RF, RAC.
Weaver, "Agriculture and the RF," July 1951, Folder 20, Box 3, Ser. 915, RG 3, RF, RAC.
Folder 2, Box 1 , Ser. 323, RG 1 .1 , RF, RAC.
Lewontin, "The Green Revolution," chpt. 4.
11 Elvin Stakman, RG 13, RF, RAC.
Jennings, Foundations of International Agricultural Research, 46-48;
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 189.
Thomson, When China Faced West, chpt. 6.
John Staatz and Carl Eicher, "Agricultural Development Ideas in Historical Perspective," in Agricultural Development in the Third World, ed. Carl Eicher and John Staatz (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 20-21.
Folder 70, Box 11;
William C. Cobb, "The Historical Background of the Mexican Agricultural Program," 1956, Folder 62, Box 10;
Folder 71, Box 11, Ser. 323, RG 1.1;
Weaver to J. D. Rockefeller III, Oct. 11, 1946, Folder 20;
Stakman, Memo, to President Rusk, Folder 21, Box 3, Ser. 915, RG 3, RF, RAC.
MAP, Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 189.
12 Mann, "Observations in Mexico," Aug. 26, 1943, Folder 4, Box 1, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Elvin Stakman, The Reminiscences of Elvin Stakman (Columbia University: Oral History Research Office, 1971), 945;
"Report on the Status of Agriculture in Mexico," Folder 70, Box 11, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC, p. 144.
Carl Sauer on Wallace’s proposal, Feb. 10, 1941, Folder 2, Box 1, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 143.
13 Halle in 1930,
Hutchison to Rose, Mar. 20, 1926, Folder 334, Box 23;
Shepardson to Hutchison, Aug. 5, 1927, Folder 339, Box 24, Ser. 1.1, IEB, RAC.
"Agricultural Conditions and Problems in Mexico," 1941, Folder 2, Box 1, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC
Sauer to Joe [presumably Joseph Willits], Feb. 12, 1945, Folder 9, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC. Between about 1950 and 1970
Delbert T. Myren, "The Rockefeller Foundation Program in Corn and Wheat in Mexico," in Subsistence Agriculture and Economic Development, ed. Clifton R. Wharton (London: Cass, 1970), 438-52.
Lewontin, "The Green Revolution," 127.
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 188. The quotation is from Summary of the Survey Commission’s report, Dec. 4, 1941, Folder 70, Box 11, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC. "Agricultural Conditions and Problems in Mexico";
Mangelsdorf to Alfonso Gonzalez Gallardo, Dec. 10, 1943, Folder 6, Box 1;
Harrar to Weaver, Jan. 11, 1946, Folder 11, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
14 Matchett, "Untold Innovation";
Karin Matchett, "At Odds over Inbreeding: An Abandoned Attempt at Mexico/United States Collaboration to ’Improve’ Mexican Corn, 1940-1950," Journal of the History of Biology 39 (July 2006): 345-72.
"Agricultural Conditions and Problems in Mexico." Mangelsdorf to Gallardo, Dec. 10, 1943;
Paul Mangelsdorf, RG 13, RF, RAC, p. 69.
(Fitzgerald, "Exporting American Agriculture," 463),
(Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 188)
Lewontin, "The Green Revolution," 157-58.
15 Matchett, "At Odds over Inbreeding," 351, 366;
Matchett, "Untold Innovation," chpt. 2 and 163.
Merle Jenkins, "The Segregation of Genes Affecting Yield of Grain in Maize," Journal of the American Society of Agronomy 32 (Jan. 1940): 55-63.
Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 37-38.
Progress Report, Nov. 1, 1944, Folder 40, Box 6, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC, p. 5.
Mangelsdorf, p. 69.
Matchett, "Untold Innovation," chpt. 6.
Stakman, Reminiscences ofElvin C. Stakman, 1071.
16 Mann, Feb. 20, 1941, Folder 70, Box 11, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC
Draft Annual Report for 1943, Folder 38, Box 6, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Bradfield, "Report of Trip to Mexico, August 7-15, 1945," Folder 10, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Mangelsdorf, "Report on a Trip to Mexico for the RF, Feb.-Mar. 1946," Folder 61, Box 10, Ser. 323, RG 1.2, RF, RAC.
Mangelsdorf, "Report on a Trip to Mexico," Feb. 1947, Folder 61, Box 10, Ser. 323, RG 1.2, RF, RAC, p. 9.
Stakman to Mann, Sept. 5, 1946, Folder 57, Box 9, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
17 Bradfield, RG 13, RF, RAC.
18 WW and ARM, Sept. 12 to Oct. 6, 1946;
JDR 3rd and WIM Sept. 28 to Oct. 6, 1946," Folder 12; "Visit to Mexican Agricultural Program, ARM and WW, Sept. 12-Oct. 6, 1946;
Summary Conclusions," Folder 13, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
"For Discussion with Harrar," Oct. 28, 1946, Folder 13, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Advisory Committee for Mexican Agriculture, Oct. 17, 1946, Folder 67, Box 10;
"Report on the Mexican Agricultural Program prepared by JGH," Nov. 14, 1946, Folder 13, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAG
19 Fitzgerald, "Exporting American Agriculture," 471-72;
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 197-98.
Advisory Committee on Agriculture, Folder 59, Box 9, Ser. 323, RG 1.1;
"Report on Trip to Mexico, Aug.-Sept. 1953 and Oct. 1953, by Richard Bradfield," Folder 61, Box 10, Ser. 323, RG 1.2, RF, RAG
Robert S. Anderson et al., Rice Science and Development Politics: Research Strategies and IRRI’s Technologies Confront Asian Diversity (1950-1980) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 42-46, 86-88.
"Wellhausen," American Men & Women of Science, T-Z,.15th ed., Book XIII (New York: Bowker, 1982).
de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 52, 309.
Wellhausen, RG 13, RF, RAC, p. 56.
20 Fitzgerald, "Exporting American Agriculture," 471, 467;
de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 42-43.
(Matchett, "Untold Innovation," 81, 84)
de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 21, 86.
21 Sauer to Joe, Feb. 12, 1945.
Jennings, in 1949 Myers urged Harrar to offer an institutional home to a sociologist who was investigating the extension process in Mexico, Jennings, Foundations of International Agricultural Research, 122-23.
Myers to Barnard, Aug. 27, 1951;
Weaver to the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Activities, Oct. 30, 1951, Folder 20, Box 3, Ser. 915, RG 3, RF, RAC.
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 205.
Stakman, memo, to President Rusk and CBF to DR, Jan. 12, 1954, Folder 21, Box 3, Ser. 915, RG 3, RF, RAC.
22 Jennings, Foundations of International Agricultural Research, 123.
Memo, Mar. 1946, Folder 11, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 25.
Mangelsdorf, "Report on a Trip to Mexico," 1943, Folder 61, Box 10, Ser. 323, RG 1.2, RF, RAC, p. 4.
Stakman, Reminiscences ofElvin C Stakman, 976.
Jennings, Foundations of International Agricultural Research, 120.
23 Harrar, RG 13, RF, RAC, p. 183.
Wellhausen, p. 169.
Lewontin, "Green Revolution," 175, 165.
Stakman to Mann, Sept. 5, 1946, Folder 57, Box 9;
Advisory Committee for Mexican Agriculture, Oct. 17, 1946, Folder 67, Box 10;
Stakman to Weaver, May 16, 1947, Folder 15, Box 2, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC.
Lewontin, "Green Revolution," 166-74.
Harrar, p. 96; Interview with Wellhausen, p. 102-104.
Fitzgerald, "Exporting American Agriculture," 466-67;
de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 74-75.
24 Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 311, 307;
Lewontin, "Green Revolution," 114-20.
Minutes of Nov. 1948 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Agriculture, Folder 59, Box 9, Ser. 323, RG 1.1, RF, RAC
Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 311-12, 51.
25 Matchett, "At Odds over Inbreeding";
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 190.
MAP, Mangelsdorf, "Report on a Trip to Mexico."
Harrar, p. 36;
Olea-Franco, "One Century of Higher Agricultural Education and Research in Mexico," chpt. 6;
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 192-93.
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 156-57, 203-204, 324-26.
Matchett, "At Odds over Inbreeding," 353.
26 Lewontin, "Green Revolution," 91-92.
"obviously hot politically," Weaver to Rockefeller, Oct. 11, 1946, Folder 20, Box 3, Ser. 915, RG 3, RF, RAC.
Mann, "Observations in Mexico"; Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 189.
Harrar, p. 46;
Stakman, p. 21 1 .
Stakman, Reminiscences of Elvin C Stakman, 974
27 Wellhausen’s view in 1947,
Cotter, Troubled Harvest, 196.
Bradfield to Agricultural Advisory Committee, June 15, 1951, Folder 20, Box 3, Ser. 915, RG 3, RF, RAC.
Wellhausen, "The Agriculture of Mexico," 148-50;
Lewontin, "Green Revolution," chpt. 6.
Dana Dalrymple and William I. Jones, "Evaluating the ’Green Revolution,’" MS.
Consejo Nacional de Ciência y Technologia, Mexico Gity, 1973, in possession of author, pp. 16, 26;
Myren, "The Rockefeller Foundation Program." The third quotation is from Interview with Myers, p. 67.
28 Stakman et al., Campaigns Against Hunger, 214.
Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 310.
Mangelsdorf, p. 110.