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Agribusiness Innovation: Wizards and Prophets


Agricultural and agribusiness innovation has always been controversial. The results of the Green Revolution started in the  1960s by Norman Borlaug -awarded the Nobel Price in 1970- in Mexico (Sonora and Mexico City) and the less known but equally consequential M.S. Swaminathan in India are inquestionable: they eradicated secular famines in India and Pakistan saving more than 70 million lives a year by producing new, more resilient and productive varieties of crops in spite of all kind of odds: wars between Pakistan and India, Mexico's customs and bureaucracy, the Nehru dynasty (Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi) electoral politics and academic rivalries.


 But the success of technological and scientific innovation in defeating hunger and more significantly, the fatalist prophecies of Malthus got a significant push back from what Charle C. Mann calls the "prophets" of environmentalism, first among them all, Paul Erlich  who coined the expression "population bomb" spreading alarm about the fact that the Earth will reach a 10 billion people population by 2050 and technology alone will not be enough to deal with their needs without dangerously menacing the environment.


 Borlaug hung on to a firm belief on the capacity of technological innovation to overcome environmental damage as effectively as it had done with the agricultural productivity.



 The prophets of environmentalism helped paradoxically stimulate technological innovation and legislative action to address the challenges they have described.


 In his recent book "The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World", Charles C. Mann shows how both movements -technological innovation and environmentalism - are not antagonistic but part of a continuum of reciprocal collaboration.




















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