Asia Society presents; 7
He's also president. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author and award winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. I recently came across the startling prediction that by the year 2000 which is not that far away really 35 years from now that the world will have doubled its population and that we will have six to seven billion people living on the is. And if that's true this developing world of ours will need a tremendous increase in food production especially in the area of protein. Will we make it I don't know. And what part of the world is hit the most hard by this. I don't know but many of us have the feeling it must be Southeast Asia at least at the present time. And so august is extremely welcome on this program because this problem of feeding Southeast Asia is one that concerns all of us whether we live there or not. He is Dr.
Clifton Wharton Union and Dr. Horton is vice president of the Agricultural Development Council located here in New York City. He is a trustee of the Asia Society. He has spent considerable time in Southeast Asia and have this problem of feeding the world is something to which he addresses himself very much. Now a doctor who why how did you happen to choose this is your life's work. Well quite frankly I found that in the world where you have the kind of levels of living which characteristic of the so-called lesser developed countries these constitute the majority of mankind. The problem of how to raise their levels of living is a challenge which intrigued me a little over 20 years ago when I was graduating from Harvard. And at that time the main speaker at the Harvard graduation was General Marshall and at that time he announced the Marshall Plan. I was
quite fascinated by the prospects of one of the most wealthy nations in the world providing assistance to other nations. And this got me started. But the I would cultural development council aware that you have been associated I think since 1957 is devoted to this idea. Well the agriculture Development Council was established in 1053 by Mr John D Rockefeller third specifically to focus upon the economic and human problems of development particularly in Asia. The reason why we are interested in the economic and human problems is that based upon a careful survey at that time it was found that within the development field the area where there was the least number of individuals trained who could work on problems of agricultural development happened to be in the areas that we refer to as the social sciences. These met individuals with training in fields of Agriculture economics rural sociology extension
education community development. These individuals who would be perhaps consider that the apex are at the bottom depending upon your viewpoint of the development process were in very short supply and we felt that what we could do as a small organization would be to concentrate upon increasing both the quantity and the quality of individuals in Asia who themselves would be able to work on these problems on a continuing basis if not a government organization ever it is funded privately and you you work through it. Well private human channel is not it's a racial group that they funds which we receive from Mr. Rockefeller and from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. We work most heavily with universities in Asia working with the professors in these universities providing them with research grants with some of the younger individuals we provide fellowships for graduate training. We also sponsor and encourage the holding of conferences workshops and seminars. We also help in the preparation of materials
for teaching purposes and a similar wide range of activities. But all of them are focused upon the Asian and raising his level of competence to work on the problems in his own area. The money then is spent not just as money but on some valuable means of using the money. Well we hope that it is yes. Just to give large donations of money to a country and say now go to it that that of course doesn't make sense as Bush has done decreasing Lee. Well I think that. The United States both within the public and private sector has had a rather important impact upon the development process in Asia whether you look upon the overall pattern of development measured in the usual kinds of things such as the gross national product of national income or even if you look at the human side in terms of the individuals. For example just the other day I happened to run across the statistic that in the United States today at the graduate level from the developing world there are some seven to eight thousand
students from foreign countries. This is a fairly sizable number of individuals who are here studying at our universities and keep in mind that these individuals when they return to their own countries constitute a very valuable resource for the development process. When you speak of Southeast Asia would you just list the countries that are part of that world. Well it is customary to include the Philippines Malaysia South Vietnam Thailand Cambodia Laos Indonesia and Burma. I think or Singapore and Brunei Yes but I think very few people get off the top of the head list themselves. Well that's a question that was put to a guest. However India which has had its breeding problems is not a part of the Southeast Asia but rather South Asia. Right. Is this the part of the world which is most in need of help. They need to SE Asia. It is one of them. It is perhaps not as acute as is the case in some parts of South Asia but I think it represents in a
microcosm the dimensions of the problem which most individuals refer to as the race between food and population or the war on hunger. Let me just give you some basic round figures which will put the race in proper perspective. There are roughly some 200 million people in Southeast Asia and they're growing at the rate of 2 to 3 percent per year. This is true for most of the countries with the exception of Burma. This means that the population is growing at the rate of six point eight million people a year 500 60000 people every month 18 to 900000 every day or one person every five seconds. This is the dimension of the rapidity with which population is growing in the region. But this is certainly nothing like China and Taiwan China and India. For example China every month as a population which is exactly the same size as the country of Costa Rica and Central America India every year adds a population which is the size of this country of the Republic of China or Taiwan. So you
can see that the population explosion as we economists like to refer to it is something which is going to look with increasing severity in the developing world and constitutes a major threat to the problem of providing the requisite food much less the other materials which are required for adequate levels of living. Dr. Wharton even though population was let's say the growth of the population can be suppressed was to an extent it naturally keeps on growing and you you know you're limited in what you can do about that although I suppose more can be done is the real problem then the ability to use the land well to use the land efficiently or is there a shortage of arable land. You know there are some there are various estimates of the approximate amount of land in Southeast Asia it usually runs about a little over a hundred million acres. The basic problems there are several which confront the
economies of Southeast Asia as they see this particular problem looming in their policy realm of focus is the fact that within the developing world and Southeast Asia is no exception. The majority of the population are in rural areas. These are the areas which usually are characterized by the lowest levels of income the lowest levels of literacy. And these individuals by and large practice what might be called traditional agriculture. This is an agriculture which is essentially traditional in the sense that it's handed down from father to son and does not by any stretch of the imagination constitute modern commercial agriculture. It is basically a subsistence agriculture. The task of converting subsistence agriculture into a modern commercial agriculture is indeed a very difficult one. Not only are there the customary cultural obstacles religious ones in some cases but there are even the straightforward technical ones of the
education or capacity as I like to say it of the individual farmer so that he will in fact be able to take his place as a modern dynamic agriculturalists. So that it is not quite as an as easy a task as it might seem at first blush. This specter of the subsistence nature of the agriculture has another interesting dimension which I think those of us in the advanced nations a lot aware of and that is for many of these individuals the prospect of introducing new ideas is automatically associated with the prospect of increased risk. If you are a farmer who can so or your family consume some 80 year or 90 percent of your total production and this constitutes your basis for survival if some outsider comes along and wants you to change the way in which you're doing things you have no certainty that he is correct and if he in fact is wrong and you follow his advice you are tampering with the very survival of your family. And so under these circumstances there is resistance.
Yes I think the resistance to ideas on various levels must be anomalous and probably if any one thing holds the world back it is that I mean of religious reasons or cultural reasons emotional as you say just plain surviving reasons. Still how does one ever plan to overcome it. Because the educational process is so slow taking several generations sometimes to implant an idea. Well I don't want to leave a completely negative picture. I might point out some of the more positive aspects. Very recently we have heard a good deal of discussion at least a phrase which has been used in discussions called the Green Revolution. This green revolution is taking place exactly in Southeast Asia and is beginning to move over into South Asia as well. What is involved fundamentally is a major concerted attack. Upon the technology of production for basic food staples. A little bit of background history might be helpful. I should explain the Southeast
Asian agriculture is not entirely characterized by subsistence. There is a sizeable modernized sector but that modernized sector is very much the export sector. Such crops as sugar rubber are good examples of this. You have situations where these are operated by large scale plantations or estates. These are quite modern. They're very dynamic quite progressive. But the reason why they are dynamic and modern is in part a function of the previous research which had been done on these crops. This happened during the colonial period when all of these countries were colonies and therefore the agriculture this sector of Agriculture received the benefits by having increased productivity. During that same period of time however in most of these countries the basic food staples rice corn and wheat and Millet's did not receive concentrated technological attention in the research side. What has happened now is
that there has been an attempt made to increase the amount of research attention devoted to this but doing it on an international basis. The Rockefeller Foundation in 1903 set up a research project devoted to corn in wheat in Mexico and in the space of this was an 1043 in the space of the next 20 years. They were able to not only win the race with population in Mexico but dramatically increase the use of wheat and Mexico became self-sufficient. Well isn't this very much depend upon the natural result of a country. Some countries are so deficient in this respect that they are almost beyond help. This this may be true for certain countries but I think the number of countries who fall into this which fall into this category are rather small. Let me give you some examples of what's been happening with rice. The International Rice Research into it was set up in the Philippines a country which has been
traditionally a rice importer. It average some 200 30000 tonnes per year during the period from one thousand sixty one to 67 and today the Philippines is self-sufficient in rice. Why. Because of the new varieties which were developed at the International Rice Research Institute. People refer to them usually as the IRA and I are five. These rioters are now spreading throughout Southeast Asia and into India. The Mexican weeds that I referred to a little while ago that were developed in Mexico are now being introduced into India and into Pakistan. And West Pakistan expects to become self-sufficient in wheat in the next two years. The same varieties are moving into Turkey and similar explosions in terms of the dramatic increases in yield are taking place. The increases are on the order of two to three times the customary yields which have been attained using local traditional riotous. Well what is making the difference in these new varieties. Is it that they are easier to grow that they can grow and so which is not as rich.
No quite the contrary. The varieties are bred so that they are basically fertilizer responsive and they are also in many cases resistant to particular diseases and infestations. The fertilizer response is probably one of the major characteristics of the traditional varieties in many of these countries if you apply too much fertilizer they lodge so you get losses with these short stiff stiff straw varieties of wheat and rice. You can apply much higher levels of fertilizer. And this means that you get. And they are responsive to this and this means you get much greater increases in yield. But this is one of the critical problems. In order to get these dramatic increases of 2 and 3 fold the farmer must apply a package of inputs he must improve his water control and irrigation. He must improve his care in terms of the application of insecticides and pesticides and above all he must increase his application of fertilizer. But this has been happening in those areas
where the varieties are being adopted. Well that is exciting and certainly makes one feel gloomy about the prospect of population overtaking food. However Dr Wharton is much research being done on finding other things for people to eat which may not be particularly savory things but which will at least be nutritious. Yes but not I don't think that that's the area where some of the major breakthroughs are going to occur. There is work going on with regard to certain kind of additives to the already existing patterns of diet. They are developing certain kind of particular protein side protein additives or the development of varieties which have the high lysine content corn for example. These developments seem to have a good deal of promise because of the fact that they would not date they do not require tampering with existing patterns of of consumption. A
typical low income peasant does not have to change the way in which he cooks his food. The food already has the additive in it with a higher protein content. This offers a good deal of promise particularly in those countries where there is a low level of protein intake among the young. Obviously a surplus is a foodstuffs in the world which one cannot send to a country who needs food because this country rejects that in its diet. Well there has been a good deal of talk about this. The I must say that they are. There is still a good deal of debate among economists and nutritionists about the extent to which these food taboos or food preferences constitute significant barriers to changing from one variety to another. In East Africa LSA changing from manioc to wheat or corn or in certain parts of Asia changing from rice to wheat products. This I must confess I find to be less than satisfactory I think that
there have been some very significant changes taking place but that this does occur perhaps a little more rapidly than what we think. Are there though decreasing amounts of surplus in the world which is putting him in a rather paradoxical way for example I've heard that in the United States the surplus is the food we used to have. We do not have now to that extent. So this is shortage of food in general in the West as well as Southeast Asia. Well this is true except there are those who claim that if we unleash American agriculture and removed all of the control quotas and constraints that in fact we could create enough surplus to feed the developing world. But I don't think that this is the critical problem at the moment. I would say the critical problem facing Southeast Asia and the rest of the developing world is how to first of all take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Green Revolution. Because this keep in mind is still little more than
a stopgap breathing space during which time hopefully the governments and the populations concerned will be able to get on top of their population explosion. In other words they're buying time with these dramatic increases in production so that they would be able to hopefully bring the explosive population growth rates under control. The second problem which they face of course is that even though they may be able to increase their agricultural output and their production dramatically through the green revolution. One of the problems is that there is a very important difference between what may be the nutritional requirements of the people and the purchasing power which the people have to purchase that required level of nutritional intake so that while many of these developments auger well for the increases in total production unless the purchasing power income of the consumer goes up they may not be able to buy this and sell that but we economists call the level of effective demand may constitute a very significant
constraint on the takeoff process a little element of these countries. How far do you think we'll go with the what we might call the chemical revolution knowing now about the green one. I mean about food additives or just artificially contrived although horrible pills which could amplify the diet. Well I think this this has all of the earmarks of a little bit of science fiction I think this is where there will be developments in this line. But I think that in many countries the rice bowl is still going to be a very important ingredient in diet instead of pills. Yes I hope so for the sake of the person having to eat it. But you know you wonder whether if people won't have enough money to buy food stuffs which may be grown at considerable expense whether they could at least support their diet further with some chemicals. Well I think that the prospects are that if the governments follow intelligent economic policies then the pace of economic development will be such that there will be significant increases in income such that they will be able to increase the
consumption of foodstuffs up to some kind of a minimal nutritional level. So that I'm not pessimistic about this at all. However I think that the basic problem is going to be to make certain that this rain revolution is sustained and continues. Dr. Walden a final question what do you think of the notion that foreign aid should be heavily concentrated on those areas of the world that the countries can use it most effectively where the natural resource is a great. And so concentrating the money there they can all then get together and grow more of the foodstuffs to export them to the parts of the well which need them but it simply cannot help themselves as well. Well I'm afraid I don't quite buy that one because I think that there is a significant variation in what kind of assistance is required in each location. This kind of approach assume that you make the exact same approach in each situation and then under those circumstances you automatically should put the money where it's going to get its biggest return.
I should point out that this problem is faced in microcosm and each one of the countries. Each of these countries whether they're an ostensibly democratic or not face one difficulty and that is they can take the limited governmental resources they have and put them into the growth points or else put them into the other areas which are not growing as fast but if they do this they face very severe political consequences as you can see because the larger growing points are going to become areas of high income and the vast majority are going to be low income and by increasing the maldistribution of income. You heighten frustrations and increase the possibilities of political instability and peasant revolutions. Yes even if eventually the food does grow and the richer areas can be exported there are too many months and years in between. Yeah. And I thank you very much for being here Dr. Paul and you. I think you've left us with a more optimistic feeling than perhaps many of us had in the first place. I'd like to say that our guest on this program has been Dr. equipped an awful lot and Junia Dr. Horton is vice president of the Agricultural Development Council
here in New York City a trustee of the Asia Society and a man who is obviously devoted to the idea of seeing to it that more people have something decent to eat in this world. And this is Lee Graham saying goodbye and asking you to hold the thought that although East is East and West is West we do think the time has come for the twain to meet. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. The series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents. This program was distributed by the National Radio Network.
- Asia Society presents
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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Identifier: 69-6-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “Asia Society presents; 7,” 1969-01-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 1, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-zw18r58q.
- MLA: “Asia Society presents; 7.” 1969-01-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 1, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-zw18r58q>.
- APA: Asia Society presents; 7. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-zw18r58q