Elvin C. Stakman

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Dr. Elvin Charles Stakman (1885-1979) was a plant pathologist at the University of Minnesota. Stakman first came to the University of Minnesota as a student and began teaching there by 1909. He completed his doctoral thesis in 1913, and remained at the university as a professor after his education was complete. He joined the field of plant pathology when it was a new field, when only two universities in the U.S. had plant pathology programs, and became a very prominent expert.[1] Stakman is perhaps most famous for his work with the Rockefeller Foundation in the Green Revolution.

World War I Era Work on Wheat Stem Rust

By 1917, when the U.S. entered World War I, Stakman was an associate professor of plant pathology. That year, he was invited to Fargo, ND, to speak to the Tri-State Grain and Stock Growers' Convention on controlling stem rust in wheat. The U.S. was concerned about its ability to produce enough wheat to sustain the war effort. Stakman spoke about breeding wheat for rust resistance, studying the origins of wheat rust epidemics, and eradicating the barberry plant, a plant that can host stem rust, near wheat fields.[2] His talk influenced the state of North Dakota to pass a law to eradicate barberry.

Soon thereafter, Stakman was appointed to the War Emergency Board of Plant Pathologists. In that role he traveled throughout the U.S. "to promote the use of plant pathology as a means of increasing food production."[3] Stakman emphasized the importance of barberry eradication. He convinced the Secretary of Agriculture, David Houston, of this, and Houston funded him to work full time directing a campaign to eradicate barberry, a job he held until May 1919. Stakman advocated for the "active involvement of private industry, mostly from the millers," in his barberry eradication campaign. [4]

Author John H. Perkins says of Stakman:[5]

"Even though the barberry eradication campaign was very different from the [Rockefeller] foundation's work in Mexico, they were joined by a common theme: the unrelenting systematic planning of land use by experts and policy makers to extract maximum agricultural production through the use of modern science, to build a strong industrial state."

Involvement in the Green Revolution

He was part of the initial research team, along with Richard Bradfield and Paul C. Mangelsdorf, that spent six months in Mexico to make a recommendation to the Rockefeller Foundation on how to implement the Mexican Agricultural Program (which would later be called the Green Revolution).[6][7] Other key figures in the Green Revolution George Harrar and Norman Borlaug both completed their PhDs under Stakman. In 1967, Stakman, Bradfield, and Mangelsdorf wrote a book about the Green Revolution together called Campaigns Against Hunger.

Over several decades, Stakman repeatedly noted his disdain for Mexico's peasant farmers and his preference for wealthy large-scale landowners:

"In 1949 Stakman reported that 'many of the more intelligent and influential growers' appreciated 'the value and need of agricultural science in crop production.'"[8]
"In 1970 Stakman, who admired paternalistic hacendados [owners of haciendas] who cared for their peons, said that 'from a national standpoint it would have been better if the food production had been in the hands of the more intelligent people and the larger owners who could operate on a bigger scale. ... But the Mexicans preferred the poverty and the freedom to operate a piece of land themselves.'"[9]

Stakman saw the Green Revolution as a way to prevent the spread of Communism, calling U.S. assistance to develop the fertilizer industry in Mexico 'an effective Voice of America.'" Upon a visit to Colombia, Stakman also noted that an agricultural program there could restrain "extreme political activity."[10]

In 1949, he and other scientists write "We are in the midst of an agricultural revolution as a result of which the surface of the earth is being stretched to make possible a more abundant life for an increased population. Science is providing an answer to the gloomy Malthusian prophets of doom who predict that the world's population is growing too large for the earth to support it."[11]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 90
  2. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 89
  3. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 89
  4. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 90
  5. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 92
  6. Bruce H. Jennings, Foundations of International Agricultural Research: Science and Politics in Mexican Agriculture, p. 48
  7. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 106-7
  8. Joseph Cotter, Troubled Harvest: Agronomy and Revolution in Mexico, 1880-2002, Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 2003, p. 201
  9. Joseph Cotter, Troubled Harvest: Agronomy and Revolution in Mexico, 1880-2002, Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 2003, pp. 188-189
  10. Joseph Cotter, Troubled Harvest: Agronomy and Revolution in Mexico, 1880-2002, Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 2003, pp. 208-209
  11. Joseph Cotter, Troubled Harvest: Agronomy and Revolution in Mexico, 1880-2002, Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 2003, pp. 209

External Resources