Table of Contents

Handbook on the Globalisation of Agriculture

Handbook on the Globalisation of Agriculture

Handbooks on Globalisation series

Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson

This Handbook provides insights to the ways in which globalisation is affecting the whole agri-food system from farms to the consumer. It covers themes including the physical basis of agriculture, the influence of trade policies, the nature of globalised agriculture, and resistance to globalisation in the form of attempts to foster greater sustainability and multifunctional agricultural systems. Drawing upon studies from around the world, the Handbook will appeal to a broad and varied readership, across academics, students, and policy-makers interested in economics, trade, geography, sociology and political science.

Chapter 23: The ‘White Revolution’ and dual dairy economy structures

Bruce A. Scholten

Subjects: business and management, management and sustainability, development studies, agricultural economics, economics and finance, agricultural economics, environment, agricultural economics, environmental governance and regulation, environmental management


In both emerging economies and in developed countries dairy farming is a key livelihood affecting animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and social justice. The term ‘White Revolution’ is linked to India, but can be used generically in globalised dairy systems. This is discussed in the context of historic agricultural revolutions and the political-economic food regimes framing them. In the Global North, the industrialisation of conventional dairy farming shows that technological changes are not socially neutral. They shed labour by appropriation of on-farm processes. This is true in USA (where the number of family-scale dairy farms has dwindled by two-thirds in recent decades), and to a lesser extent in Europe. In contrast to conventional confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), certified organic dairy farming – characterised by pasture grazing and bans on antibiotics, chemical pesticides and synthetic hormones – responds to consumer demand for traditional methods. In the Global South, India’s White Revolution was spearheaded by Operation Flood, 1970–96. It was a joint programme by farmers’ cooperatives, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, World Bank and European Economic Community whose surplus ‘butter mountain’ was monetised into infrastructure that helped India bypass the USA as premier milk producer in 1998. In India’s dual economy, cooperative dairying has been a bridge between subsistence farming and the modern cash economy for millions of marginal, landless and women-led farm families. Dairy development projects in Africa, Asia and elsewhere emulate India's gains in child nutrition, education, health, and social mobility.

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