Very Long Term Investment in the Green Revolution

Norman Borlaug passed away this last year. The man many call the father of the “Green Revolution” is credited with starting and leading the “Green Revolution” that allowed the world’s food production to keep up with its population growth in the later half of the 20th century. Borlaug was an Iowa boy who came to the University of Minnesota in 1933 to learn and to wrestle. Attending a lecture by the late Professor Charles Stakman, Borlaug learned how plant breeding techniques could prevent plant disease. It changed Borlaug’s life and saved those of billions world wide. Long term investment in new plants, the continuing green revolution can be profitable and help in feeding the world’s hungry.

Norman Borlaug accepted work at an agricultural station in Mexico experimenting in different strains of wheat. At the time Mexico imported half of its wheat and after twenty years exported wheat. Borlaug is credited with developing breeding techniques in an number of plant varieties that ended up multiplying worldwide cereal production. The long term investment by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations fostered the green revolution and feeding the world through the work or Norman Borlaug.

Today’s word of plant genetics is every so much more complicated with the ability to insert new genes into the genetic code of wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice. Developing more and better ways of feeding the world happens at field stations and in the lab at companies like Monsanto. Interestingly, many of the companies involved in the ongoing green revolution have not seen their stocks rise with the this year’s market recovery.

Farmers are short of cash and are not paying for more expensive, new varieties of seed. The economic crunch is also reducing the amount of pesticide and herbicide that many are using. Since many companies like Monsanto are in the seed business and in the business of controlling plant infestations their cash flow is down.

Nevertheless the world will find means to feed its hungry. Discoveries made today will result in the world producing new and more nutritious foods for less. Long term investment in the companies pursuing research in plant genetics, the ongoing green revolution, will pay over time.

The ongoing controversy about using genetically manipulated seeds will likely continue and will in all likelihood reduce stock prices of companies whose business is feeding the world. Thoughtful long term investment in companies with a strong research base in the green revolution will not only help in feeding the world but help in sending quarterly dividends to your mailbox for decades to come.

An old farmers’ saying is that “they aren’t making any more land.” This is true. However, new plant varieties that more drought resistant or resistant to salinity increase the land that can be planted. Long term investment in those making those seeds will pay dividends, virtually forever.

If you are thinking of very long term investment think of energy, clean water, and think of food. Think of the green revolution and feeding the world.

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