October 2, 2016

Lecturer Examines Gender Ramifications of Green Revolution

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Doctoral student Anthony D’Agostino, who studies sustainable development at Columbia University, discussed the adverse consequences of the Green Revolution — a period of rapid agricultural productivity growth driven by numerous technological innovations from irrigation to pesticide — on gender relations in India at a lecture Friday.

D’Agostino said the introduction of High Yield Variety crops, a key innovation of the Green Revolution that dramatically increased the crop yields per acre, affected gender wage gaps.

“We have a pretty good idea of how the Green Revolution affected producers and production decisions but not of the spillover effects on workers,” he said. “The effect on women’s wages and income inequality has been particularly absent from this discussion.”

Although technological innovation depresses gender wage gaps in more mature economies, D’Agostino argued this was not the case in India during the Green Revolution.

“While male wages [in India] increased by seven percent … female workers had a different response,” he said. “[Female workers] experienced an 11 percent reduction in wage.”

D’Agostino explained that the widening wage gap was the result of the adoption of highly productive HYV wheat crops by farmers, as wheat cultivation was a culturally male labor based task in India.

“If there is a shift toward wheat production, women lose out on labor opportunities,” he said. “This new production pattern, which emerges after the Green Revolution, advantages male laborer and disadvantages female laborer because it was a byproduct of the wheat success story.”

D’Agostino’s lecture prompted some audience members to explore the larger implications of technological innovations on third world development.

“If we were to believe the effect on female laborers is what [D’Agostino] said it is, then we need to go forward with a gender sensitive understanding of what promoting certain crops will mean [in developing nations],” said Erwin Knippenberg grad.

Looking ahead, D’Agostino said he wants to explore the long term effect of the Green Revolution on the subsequent generation.

“There is a very nice setting here where we see a reduction in female earning potential, and there is a lot of research connecting female earning to investment in children,” he said. “The next step would be to take a look at the health and education outcome of the children of these household. There is potentially a long term implication for the next generation that we need to think of in term of technology policy design.”

D’Agostino’s lecture was hosted by the Cornell Graduate Student Association.