One of the world's greatest humanitarians passed away Sept. 12 in Dallas. Norman Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and regarded as the father of the Green Revolution, was 95.
A Cresco, IA farmkid who went on to earn a doctorate in plant pathology and genetics at the University of Minnesota, Borlaug's work in plant genetics and high-yield agriculture is credited with saving a billion lives from starvation. And his advances have been credited with saving millions of square miles of wildlife habitat from the plow.
“The green revolution has an entirely different meaning to most people in the affluent nations of the privileged world than to those in the developing nations of the forgotten world.” — Norman Borlaug
Following World War II, advancements in public health and sanitation led to the plunging of mortality rates worldwide. The resulting population boom fueled widespread food shortages and starvation, particularly in the Third World.
After receiving his doctorate in 1942, Borlaug eventually assumed an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he and his team developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties. The work, combined with modern agricultural production techniques, made Mexico fully sufficient in wheat production and a net exporter of the grain by 1963.
His concepts and developments were transferred to South Asia. Doomsayer biologist Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 bestseller, “The Population Bomb,” wrote that: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over … In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” But Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat production by 1968, and India was self-sufficient in all cereals by 1974.
“I now say that the world has the technology — either available or well advanced in the research pipeline — to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology? While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions, and pay more for food produced by the so-called “organic” methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low income, food-deficit nations cannot.” — Norman Borlaug's 30th Anniversary Lecture of his Nobel Prize, Sept. 8, 2000
Borlaug's life was one of service to humans and the planet. He will be missed.
“Norman Borlaug was the father of the Green Revolution that transformed much of the hungry Third World. He is one of the great men of our age.” — Former Sen. George McGovern, UN Ambassador to the Hungry.