'Green Revolution' helped save thousands of children's lives - study

This analysis managed to show a causal and statistically significant link between two data sets: types of crops grown and reduced mortality rates.

Tel Aviv University  (photo credit: EYTAN HALON)
Tel Aviv University
(photo credit: EYTAN HALON)
A study by Tel Aviv University shows that the "Green Revolution" – a process of developing high-yielding varieties of staple crops like rice, wheat and maize by international scientists in the developing world – has helped significantly reduce child mortality in Africa and Asia.
This research managed to show a causal and statistically significant link between two sets of data: types of crops grown and reduced mortality rates.
The researchers attempted to find the Green Revolution's contribution to the reduction of child mortality by conducting surveys in the developing world of approximately 600,000 children who were born between 1961 and 2000 in about 20,000 villages in 37 developing countries in Africa, Central and South America, India and Southeast Asia.
This was checked with data regarding improved crop varieties of the areas. After isolating the influence of other variables, they still found a strong association between the Green Revolution and reduced child mortality by about 2.5%-5%. This represents between 25% and 50% of the overall reduction during that time period.
"During the second half of the 20th century, substantial resources were invested in international public agricultural research and development, with a focus on the development of higher-yielding strains of common staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn that are responsible for the majority of calories in the human diet," said Dr. Ram Fishman of the Department of Public Policy and the Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges at Tel Aviv University.
"By the end of the 20th century, approximately 60% of the developing world's agricultural lands were cropped with these varieties. This global effort and ensuing global yield increases are known as the 'Green Revolution.'" he said. 
"Our study proves the historical importance of public agricultural R&D for the health of the rural population of the developing world," he continued. "We showed that improved crop varieties, which improved nutrition and income and reduced hunger, saved the lives of tens of millions of children in the second half of the 20th century, and have most likely also brought about improved health for tens of millions of other individuals not directly visible in the data."
The study was conducted by an international team of researchers, including Fishman and researchers from The Indian School of Business in India, the World Bank, The University of California San Diego, Michigan State University and Colorado State University. The paper was published in the Journal of Health Economics.