The green revolution is a change in the right direction, but it has not transformed the world into Utopia. None are more keenly aware of its limitations than those who started it and fought for its success. But there has been solid accomplishment, as I have already shown by concrete examples. I have also tried to indicate the various opportunities for capitalizing more fully on the new materials that were produced and the new methods that were devised. And, above all, I cannot emphasize too strongly the fact that further progress depends on intelligent, integrated, and persistent effort by government leaders, statesmen, tradesmen, scientists, educators, and communication agencies, including the press, radio, and television. But progress is continuous, and we can and must make continuous progress. Better varieties of wheat and other cereals with not only higher yield potential but also with higher content of protein are already in the process of creation. We need also to explore more fully the feasibility of producing new manmade cereal species with greater production potential and better nutritional quality than those now in existence. Triticale, a man-made species, derived from a cross between wheat and rye, now shows promise of becoming such a crop. During the past six years, the International Corn and Wheat Center in Mexico, cooperating with the University of Manitoba, has developed a large breeding program to improve Triticale. Within the past three years we have developed highly fertile lines, and the results up to the present indicate the possibility of combining the desirable characteristics now present in different lines into a single line, thereby creating a new kind of cereal that is superior to wheat in productivity and nutritional quality. The rapid progress achieved in Triticale improvement suggests the desirability of initiating basic studies to determine the feasibility of developing other cereal species from wide crosses between different existing species or their wild relatives. Recent improvements in individual cell, tissue and embryo-culture techniques, in the development of culture media with additions of hormones and nutrients that foster cell and tissue differentiations, in achieving hybridization between somatic cells, and in the methods of inducing polyploidy and mutations, offer many fascinating possibilities of achieving crosses between species that were formerly uncrossable. Even the possibility of using protoplasmic and cell hybridization, followed by manipulation to promote cell differentiation for plant improvement, appears to be nearer. I propose therefore that a bold program of wide crosses be initiated to improve both cereals and legumes (pulses). It should include attempts to make numerous intergeneric crosses among cereals, employing all of the modern techniques to consummate fertilization, and propagate the hybrids. If a series of new combinations can be made and doubled, as, for example, between maize and sorghum, wheat and barley, or wheat and rice, it would open the door to the possibilities for vast subsequent improvement by conventional methods. Unfortunately, all cereals are deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids, especially lysine, which is essential for normal body growth and for the maintenance of health. Protein malnutrition is widespread, especially among children, and many of its victims die or are maimed both physically and mentally for life. Although food supplements can alleviate this situation, the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains that have high levels of protein and better amino acid balance would be the ideal solution, since this would not involve added expense or special educational efforts, and there are good possibilities of producing them. The now famous opaque-2 gene in maize doubles the production of the amino acid lysine which is essential to growth and health in man and many other animals. Similarly, an Ethiopian strain of barley, and some lines of Triticale have genes for extraordinary production of essential nutrient materials. Plant breeders are trying to combine such genes with the best genes now available for productivity and other desirable characters, thus increasing not only the tonnage of food, but also its essential nutrient quality. As we are now striving to emancipate ourselves from dependence on artificial food supplements, I have a dream that we can likewise emancipate ourselves to some extent from our dependence on artificial nutrients for the cereal plants themselves, thus lightening the financial burden that now oppresses the small farmer and handicaps his efforts to participate fully in the new technologies. In my dream I see green, vigorous, high-yielding fields of wheat, rice, maize, sorghums, and millets, which are obtaining, free of expense, 100 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare from nodule-forming, nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These mutant strains of Rhizobium cerealis were developed in 1990 by a massive mutation breeding program with strains of Rhizobium sp. obtained from roots of legumes and other nodule-bearing plants. This scientific discovery has revolutionized agricultural production for the hundreds of millions of humble farmers throughout the world; for they now receive much of the needed fertilizer for their crops directly from these little wondrous microbes that are taking nitrogen from the air and fixing it without cost in the roots of cereals, from which it is transformed into grain... Then I wake up and become disillusioned to find that mutation genetics programs are still engaged mostly in such minutiae as putting beards on wheat plants and taking off the hairs. If we are to capitalize fully on the past biological accomplishments and realize the prospective accomplishments, as exemplified in my dream, there must be far greater investments in research and education in the future than in the past. Few investments, if any, can match the economic and social returns from the wheat research in Mexico. The investment from 1943 to 1964 was estimated to have yielded an annual return of 750 percent. This study was made prior to the full impact of dwarf wheat on the national production. If the benefits were calculated now, with the inclusion of the returns from the increased wheat production in Pakistan, India, and other Asian and African countries, they would be fantastically high.

Nevertheless, vast sums are now being spent in all countries, developed and developing, on armaments and new nuclear and other lethal weapons, while pitifully small sums are being spent on agricultural research and education designed to sustain and humanize life rather than to degrade and destroy it. The green revolution has won a temporary success in man's war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution will be ephemeral only. Most people still fail to comprehend the magnitude and menace of the "Population Monster". In the beginning there were but two, Adam and Eve. When they appeared on this earth is still questionable. By the time of Christ, world population had probably reached 250 million. But between then and now, population has grown to 3.5 billion. Growth has been especially fast since the advent of modern medicine. If it continues to increase at the estimated present rate of two percent a year, the world population will reach 6.5 billion by the year 2000. Currently, with each second, or tick of the clock, about 2.2 additional people are added to the world population. The rhythm of increase will accelerate to 2.7, 3.3, and 4.0 for each tick of the clock by 1980, 1990, and 2000, respectively, unless man becomes more realistic and preoccupied about this impending doom. The ticktock of the clock will continually grow louder and more menacing each decade. Where will it all end? Malthus signaled the danger a century and a half ago. But he emphasized principally the danger that population would increase faster than food supplies. In his time he could not foresee the tremendous increase in man's food production potential. Nor could he have foreseen the disturbing and destructive physical and mental consequences of the grotesque concentration of human beings into the poisoned and clangorous environment of pathologically hypertrophied megalopoles. Can human beings endure the strain? Abnormal stresses and strains tend to accentuate man's animal instincts and provoke irrational and socially disruptive behavior among the less stable individuals in the maddening crowd. We must recognize the fact that adequate food is only the first requisite for life. For a decent and humane life we must also provide an opportunity for good education, remunerative employment, comfortable housing, good clothing, and effective and compassionate medical care. Unless we can do this, man may degenerate sooner from environmental diseases than from hunger. And yet, I am optimistic for the future of mankind, for in all biological populations there are innate devices to adjust population growth to the carrying capacity of the environment. Undoubtedly, some such device exists in man, presumably Homo sapiens, but so far it has not asserted itself to bring into balance population growth and the carrying capacity of the environment on a worldwide scale. It would be disastrous for the species to continue to increase our human numbers madly until such innate devices take over. It is a test of the validity of sapiens as a species epithet. Since man is potentially a rational being, however, I am confident that within the next two decades he will recognize the self-destructive course he steers along the road of irresponsible population growth and will adjust the growth rate to levels which will permit a decent standard of living for all mankind. If man is wise enough to make this decision and if all nations abandon their idolatry of Ares, Mars, and Thor, then Mankind itself should be the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize which is "to be awarded to the person who has done most to promote brotherhood among the nations". Then, by developing and applying the scientific and technological skills of the twentieth century for "the well-being of mankind throughout the world", he may still see Isaiah's prophesies come true: "... And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose... And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water..."7 And may these words come true! * The laureate delivered this lecture in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute. The text, which in actual delivery was considerably shortened, is taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1970, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam

  • In what is now West Iran.
  • Amos 4:9.
  • Joel 1:17, 20.
  • Genesis 41:54.
  • Isaiah 8:21.
  • Lord John Boyd Orr (1880-1971), recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1949.
  • Isaiah 35:1, 7.
From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam
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