Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Analysis of IRRI and the Green Revolution by Edmund K. Oasa, Part 2

A friend pointed me to the PhD dissertation of Edmund Kazuso Oasa (The International Rice Research Institute and the Green Revolution: A Case Study on the Politics of Agricultural Research, University of Hawaii, 1981.), a 500+ page monster that is incredibly valuable in understanding the Green Revolution in Asia, and specifically in the Philippines.

This is the second post about Oasa's dissertation, covering the history of the Rockefeller Foundation and the selection of IRRI as a joint project with the Ford Foundation and the Philippines as its location.

After a chapter about the relationship between science, technology, and capitalism, Oasa launches into a chapter dissecting the history and the motivations of the Rockefeller Foundation. Long before the Green Revolution began in 1943, the Rockefeller Foundation was committed to "stabilizing a social order continually plagued by turmoil and contradiction." (p. 102) In short, they wished to control and stabilize human behavior through the use of science. He says that "the Foundation's program in the U.S. South, China, and then the Third World were grounded in the same political-economic interest of making the world safe for American democracy and capitalism." (p. 102)

He continues, discussing their early agricultural work, and then talks about the ties between the U.S. government, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rockefeller family itself:

We do know, however, that ties between the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rockefeller family and the U.S. foreign policy circles were clear and direct. The Foundation worked closely with the Council on Foreign Relations, a private organization of leading figures of the corporate world and academic experts who played an instrumental role in the formation of U.S. post-war, Cold War policy. In 1939, two-thirds of the Foundation's trustees were members of the council and the latter's war and peace studies. The Rockefeller influence was so strong that it began to dominate positions in the Council during the late 1940s. John D. Rockefeller III, Nelson and David became members in the late 1930s and the early 1940s, with David becoming the Council's director in 1949.

For the most part, the Council was a behind-the-scenes organization which interacted frequently with the U.S. State Department. The Rockefeller presence went beyond this organization, as members of the family held strategic posts within the executive branch of the U.S. government. (p. 107)

Nelson Rockefeller became Assistant Secretary of State at the end of the war. In 1946, David was secretary of the Council of Foreign Relation's study group on post-war recovery in Western Europe. Out of this group emerged the Marshall Plan study group, to which the Rockefeller Foundation granted $50,000 in 1948. Finally, John Rockefeller became a special consultant to John Foster Dulles in 1951.

The Council's recommendations clearly reflected a fundamental interest in reproducing and expanding American capitalism. Council memorana to the U.S. State Department emphasized the strategic importance of Southeast Asia as "'a cheap source of vital raw materials'." They also pointed out that the American national interest could best be served by "'placing political and economic control in hands likely to be friendly to the U.S.'." (p. 108)

He cites five articles in Foreign Affairs:
1. Widening Boundaries of National Interest by Nelson Rockefeller
2. The Philippines: Where Did We Fail by Albert Ravenholt
3. The Problem of Revolutionary Asia by John Fairbank
4. Partnership in Asia by P.C. Spender
5. Indo-China and Korea: One Front by Jacques Soustelle

Specifically, he discusses the Rockefeller article, saying:

He identified "underdevelopment" as the most pressing problem to be tacked towards establishing a global economic policy and increased world investment. He argued that the most viable foreign policy would have to be based on an effort to drive up food production in underdeveloped areas by 25 percent, "which would bring them barely above the minimum needed for health." Such a program should be followed, he said, by raw material development and increased export goods from the U.S. and Western Europe. If a comprehensive program were undertaken, increased world investment in "frontier areas" would be possible. In the end, Rockefeller proposed the establishment of a governmental organization to be called the Overseas Economic Administration which would be responsible for implementing and coordinating these policies. His proposals materialized into the creation of the Technical Cooperation Administration which administered Truman's Point IV program.

He goes on, noting the Ford Foundation's Community Development Program in India, saying that until the mid-1960's, U.S. ag officials thought it was against U.S. interests to help other countries grow more of any crop that the U.S. already had a surplus of. During this time, it was the Rockefeller Foundation that went against this logic, working to increase yields first in Mexico and later in other countries.

As Oasa reviews the Rockefeller Foundation programs in Mexico and other Latin American countries, he cites interesting quotes, noting the intent of these programs to support maintaining the political and economic status quos. For example, about Colombia, he quotes the book Campaigns Against Hunger p. 218:

Sunk in peasantry, they looked to political rather than scientific remedies to improve their lot.

What Colombia really needed to improve agriculture and rural life in general was more science.

Oasa continues:

The same thinking applied to Ecuador in 1956 and Chile in 1955. Governments of both countries requested the Foundation's assistance to modernize agriculture.

Oasa then gets into why IRRI is located in the Philippines.

The request was made by Placido L. Mapa, Philippine Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Mapa's request is important not only because the International Rice Research Institute is located in the Philippines but also it reflected and reaffirmed the concerns of American elites about "the problem of revolutionary Asia."

Mapa wrote John D. Rockefeller III on September 11, 1950 about the possibility of starting a project comparable to the one in Mexico. (p. 124-125)

Mapa hoped for help in increasing productivity of the country's two staples: corn and rice.

Oasa then jumps to discussion of "The World Food Problem, Agriculture, and the Rockefeller Foundation," written by Stakman, Bradfield, and Mangelsdorf, June 21, 1951.

The report stated that "hunger, the incapacity of the hungry, the resulting general want, the pressures of expanding the demanding population, and the reckless instability of people who have nothing to lose and perhaps something to gain by embracing new political ideologies designed not to create individual freedom but to destroy it -- these seem to be basic dangers of our present world."... There were other passages which referred to the need for Western democracy to "promise and deliver." One of them stated:

Whether additional millions in Asia and elsewhere will become Communists will depend partly on whether the Communist or the free world fulfills its promises. Hungry people are lured by promises; but they can be won by deeds. Communism makes attractive promises to underfed people; democracy must not only promise as much but must deliver more.

p. 126

It was this paper that singled out the Philippines. Soon afterward, a focus on rice emerged as a key crop to work on in Asia. In mid-1953, Warren Weaver and J. George Harrar (top officials from the Rockefeller Foundation) traveled to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, and India. "The trip specifically focused on rice. Just prior to it, the Foundation received suggestions from a number of sources that it should help establish a large international institute devoted to rice research." (p. 135) Soon afterward, they shelved the idea because it was too expensive and risky to undertake. After their trip, Weaver and Harrar wrote a report, suggesting research on rice with a focus on Japan and India. (p. 135-137)

The next step was an 18 month trip through Asia by Richard Bradfield and Robert F. Chandler, Jr. who were already veterans of the Green Revolution in Mexico. (p. 138) The trip was summarized in a July 1956 report recommending three centers of rice research - one in India, one in the Philippines, and one in Japan (p. 139-140). However, he did not recommend focusing the research centers specifically on one crop (i.e. rice).

However, between 1956 and 1959, the Rockefeller Foundation - for whatever reason - changed its course, deciding to focus exclusively on rice and to do so by establishing IRRI. (p. 144) In August 19458, officials of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations met to discuss a possible joint effort in Pakistan. (p. 145) The subject of an international rice research center came up at the meeting.

Harrar then drafted a proposal for an international rice research center. (p. 146)
His choice of location was "obvious" -- the Philippines. Some of his reasons were also "obvious." The Philippines, he said, is an important rice-growing area with demand exceeding supply. Production figures were low and cultural practices "primitive." Furthermore, the American contacts were substantial at the College of Agriculture at Los Banos; many agricultural scientists from Cornell were teaching there under a grant between the U.S. International Cooperation Agency and Cornell University. Lastly, the Philippines had a healthy attitude toward "the principal of international cooperation. (p. 147)

However, "more private reasson were expressed to this writer [Oasa] in interviews."

A former Ford Foundation official said that the Philippines was away from the main continent where instability was brewing due to the "communist threat." He also said, "If we gave up on Asia, Japan and the Philippines would be the last place we'd leave." The Philippine elite also viewed the selection of its country in openly political terms. president Macapagal was quoted as saying that IRRI would "save" the Philippines and other rice-producing countries the "time, expense, and efforts" in solving technical problems of rice production. He also wrote President Kennedy and said, "We consider this Institute as a potent weapon on the struggle against poverty and communism in Asia." (p. 147-148)

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