Turning Brazil into an agricultural powerhouse

The challenge of feeding a growing population was in the center of Malthus problem theory.  This large subject will be addressed by a panel during the World Economic History Congress in Boston. Our group will discuss the history of food production, processing and trade from a global perspective, focusing on the effective role of scientific and practical innovation in the availability of food on a large scale. I will present the Brazilian case with the paper Turning Brazil into an agricultural powerhouse with research and planning, 1970-2010.

Some members of the group and family during our pre-conference in Milan (from left to right) Silvia Conca, Benjamin Davison, Hildete Vodopives, Philip Dehne, Dominique Barjot, Christiane Cheneaux (and her husband), Fabrice Le Graet and Yves Tesson

The Brazilian innovation story

Brazil is the largest country in terms of arable land, with around 264 million hectares. Nevertheless, food production faced a number of constrains, poor productivity and difficult logistics.

The agriculture methods imported from the temperate regions of Europe were not adapted to the local climate. The problem escalated by the end of the 1960s, when a supply shortage forced the government to look for solutions. This paper looks into Brazil’s reorganization of the agriculture research system in the 1970s and, in particular, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, (Embrapa).

Founded by the Brazilian government in 1973, Embrapa radically changed food production in the country. In a 40-year period, Brazil overcame food shortage and became a leading international player. Embrapa’s agenda made innovation a priority, adapting products and production chain to the peculiarities of the Brazilian climate and soil. More recently, this State controlled organization, turned to international competitiveness and sustainability.

This research will be presented in the session The Struggle for Food: From Malthusian Tension to GMO and Beyond (19th-21st Centuries) Our panel takes place on Wednesday August 1rst, room 235 MIT building, Cambridge MA.

About the panel The Struggle for Food

Organiser: Silvia A. Conca Messina, ‘La Statale’ University of Milan, Italy, silvia.conca@unimi.it


Franco Amatori, Bocconi University, Italy, franco.amatori@unibocconi.it
Claudio Besana, Catholic University of Milan, Italy, claudio.besana@unicatt.it
Silvia A. Conca Messina, ‘La Statale’ University of Milan, Italy, silvia.conca@unimi.it
Rita D’Errico, Roma Tre University, Italy, rita.derrico@uniroma3.it
Irina Potkina, Institute of Russian History RAS, Russia, potka@inbox.ru
Dominique Barjot, Paris-Sorbonne University, France, dominique.barjot@paris-sorbonne.fr Christiane Cheneaux, Paris-Sorbonne University, France, christiane.cheneaux@gmail.com
Yves Tesson, Paris-Sorbonne University, France, yvestesson@yahoo.fr
Hildete de Moraes Vodopives, Paris-Sorbonne University, France, hildete@post.harvard.edu  Rajkamal Singh Mann, Oxford Brookes University, UK, rajkamal.singh.mann-2016@brookes.ac.uk Tahar Abbou, University of Adrar, Algeria, vd.gra.rec.sct.fac.lettre@univ-adrar.dz
Phillip Dehne, St. Joseph’s College, New York, USA, pdehne@sjcny.edu
Benjamin Davison, University of Virginia, USA, bendavison01@gmail.com

Paper Titles (Provisional)

Franco Amatori, From Malthusian tension to GMO

Claudio Besana, Silvia A. Conca Messina, Rita D’Errico, The Italian Food Preservation Industry since the 19th Century.

Irina Potkina, The formation of food industry in the Russian Empire in the 19th Century

Dominique Barjot, Scientific and practical innovation in the French Food Industries: the strategy of the Danone Group from the origins to today

Christiane Cheneaux, The nature of the famine and the” King law” in the Seine Department (19th Century)

Hildete de Moraes Vodopives, Turning Brazil into an agricultural powerhouse with research and planning, 1970-2010.

Rajkamal Singh Mann, Exploring the change in net-food status of countries in South Asia and South- Eastern Asia: 1961-2013

Phillip Dehne, Feeding hungry Europe after the First World War: American food, British transportation, German gold

Benjamin Davison, The Beef Economy and Malthusian Worries in Cold War America





Published by Hildete Vodopives

Hildete de Moraes Vodopives is founder of Brazil Global and of the Harvard Strategists Group. She has a PhD in Economic History and advises companies and investment agencies in international business development.She served as Corporate Relations Director and later, on the board of the Brazilian Investment Analysts Association (APIMEC).

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