Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Borlaug the Great!"

Posted by Rich Kozlovich

You can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery. — Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug (1914-2009)

Borlaug the Great

Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, has died at 95. Ron Bailey calls him “the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history.” In an as-yet-unpublished letter to the New York Times, Don Boudreaux reflects: By saving millions of people from starvation, green-revolution father Norman Borlaug arguably has done more for humanity than has any other human being of the past century (”Norman Borlaug, 95, Dies; Led Green Revolution,” Sept. 13). Yet unlike Sen. Kennedy’s, his death will go relatively unnoticed. He’ll certainly not be canonized in the popular mind….. Just think of the people who have gone down in history as “the Great“: Alexander the Great, Catherine the Great, Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Frederick the Great, Peter the Great — despots and warmongers. Just once it would be nice to see the actual benefactors of humanity designated as “the Great”: Galileo the Great, Gutenberg the Great, Samuel Morse the Great, Alan Turing the Great.

So just for tonight, drink a toast to one of the great benefactors of the poorest people in the world, Borlaug the Great.

Norman Borlaug - The man who fed the world.

On the day Norman Borlaug was awarded its Peace Prize for 1970, the Nobel Committee observed of the Iowa-born plant scientist that "more than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world." The committee might have added that more than any other single person Borlaug showed that nature is no match for human ingenuity in setting the real limits to growth. Borlaug, who died Saturday at 95, came of age in the Great Depression, the last period of widespread hunger in U.S. history. The Depression was over by the time Borlaug began his famous experiments, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, with wheat varieties in Mexico in the 1940s. But the specter of global starvation loomed even larger, as advances in medicine and hygiene contributed to population growth without corresponding increases in the means of feeding so many. Borlaug solved that challenge by developing genetically unique strains of "semidwarf" wheat, and later rice that raised food yields as much as six fold. The result was that a country like India was able to feed its own people as its population grew from 500 million in the mid-1960s, when Borlaug's "Green Revolution" began to take effect, to the current 1.16 billion. Today, famines—whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur or North Korea—are politically induced events, not true natural disasters. (Wall Street Journal)

Norman Borlaug, India's 'annadaata', dies at 95

NEW DELHI: Long before Mr. Bush and Dr Rice came by to leapfrog US-India ties to a new level, it was Prof. Wheat who jump-started and nourished the relationship. Norman Borlaug, the genial scientist-pacifist who died of cancer in Dallas on Saturday, was as much India's 'annadaata' as he was the Father of the Green Revolution. Around the time Dr Borlaug arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s, the specter of famine, shortages, and starvation hung over the sub-continent. India was importing huge quantities of food grains from the US - much of it dole - to feed its growing millions in a manner that was famously described as "ship-to-mouth" sustenance. Enter Norman Borlaug, a strapping, self-made, sun-burnt American from the farmland of Iowa, who had spent more a decade by then in Mexico after hard-earned doctorate in Depression-era US. What he had pulled off in experiments in Mexico was a miracle, that if successfully applied in India, would fill its granaries to overflow - as it eventually did. By cranking up a wheat strain containing an unusual gene, Borlaug created the so-called ''semi-dwarf'' plant variety -- a shorter, stubbier, compact stalk that supported an enormous head of grain without falling over from the weight. This curious principle of shrinking the plant to increase the output on the plant from the same acreage resulted in Indian farmers eventually quadrupling their wheat -- and later, rice -- production. It heralded the Green Revolution. (Times of India)

Borlaug, father of Green Revolution, dies at 95

WASHINGTON — Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Prize winning scientist whose work on disease-resistant wheat is credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives, has died at the age of 95. The acclaimed agriculturalist, often called the father of the Green Revolution, died late on Saturday in Dallas, Texas, due to complications from cancer, according to Texas A&M University, where Borlaug served since 1984. He was best known for his work developing disease-resistant "dwarf" wheat, which yielded two to three times as much as the normal crop. "Norman E. Borlaug saved more lives than any man in human history," said Josette Sheeran, the head of the World Food Program, on Sunday. "His total devotion to ending famine and hunger revolutionized food security for millions of people and for many nations." (AFP)

A look at honors bestowed on Norman Borlaug

Agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug, the father of the "green revolution," died Saturday at his home in Dallas at age 95. Here is a look at some of the honors he received: (Associated Press)

Norman Borlaug, 95, Dies; Led Green Revolution

Norman E. Borlaug, the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself and whose work was credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives, died Saturday night. He was 95 and lived in Dallas. The cause was complications from cancer, said Kathleen Phillips, a spokeswoman for Texas A&M University, where Dr. Borlaug had served on the faculty since 1984. Dr. Borlaug’s advances in plant breeding led to spectacular success in increasing food production in Latin America and Asia and brought him international acclaim. In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was widely described as the father of the broad agricultural movement called the Green Revolution, though decidedly reluctant to accept the title. “A miserable term,” he said, characteristically shrugging off any air of self-importance. Yet his work had a far-reaching impact on the lives of millions of people in developing countries. His breeding of high-yielding crop varieties helped to avert mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, altering the course of history. Largely because of his work, countries that had been food deficient, like Mexico and India, became self-sufficient in producing cereal grains. “More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,” the Nobel committee said in presenting him with the Peace Prize. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.” The day the award was announced, Dr. Borlaug, vigorous and slender at 56, was working in a wheat field outside Mexico City when his wife, Margaret, drove up to tell him the news. “Someone’s pulling your leg,” he replied, according to one of his biographers, Leon Hesser. Assured that it was true, he kept on working, saying he would celebrate later. (NYT)

Norman Borlaug, Agronomist Who Fought World Hunger, Dies

AFM mourns the death of Norman Borlaug, a great scientist and father of the green revolution. Borlaug, a Nobel Laureate recognized the vital importance of new technologies to increase agricultural yields and feed the world - millions of people are alive today thanks to his work, which amounted to a practical and courageous challenge to the Malthusian doomsayers. As a great scientist Borlaug also defended DDT for malaria control - and we salute him. Read John Pollock's piece here………….Ronnie Coffman of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) notes that "we have a lot of complaints about the green revolution, but those who complain have little awareness of the alternatives ... because stem rust is a global disease, it's not a national disease. We have to hang together on this thing or we will all hang separately, because you cannot defend yourself alone." Three weeks ago Coffman met a frail Borlaug, and this humble American hero gave a last, stark warning: "Don't relax. Rust never sleeps."

Looking Back on Norman Borlaug’s Achievements

Norman Borlaug died on September 12th, aged 95. The name will be unfamiliar to many, but not to those concerned about food security in the developing world. Borlaug has been called the 'grandfather of the Green Revolution' for his breakthrough in breeding disease-resistant strains of so-called semi-dwarf wheat. This led to apocalyptic forecasts of global famine – given a high profile by Paul Ehrlich and others in the 60s and 70s – being proved dramatically wrong. In the 40 years from 1963, the world population doubled, and the number of chronically malnourished people (essentially a problem of poverty and infrastructure rather than overall food availability) hardly changed. Over 3 billion more people were fed from essentially the same total area of farmland.......... Over the years, the view that humankind should work 'with Nature' – and the implicit belief by the deeper greens that our species has no greater worth than any other – has become pervasive among those with the good fortune to live in prosperous societies and have enough to eat. While trying (with significant success) to change attitudes in their own countries, environmentalists have also created a belief among development agencies that poorer countries should not follow the same path to prosperity as the industrialised world had taken. As they put it, developing countries should not make the same 'mistakes' as we had already done……….If food security can only be guaranteed by a productive, intensive farming system, so be it. First solve the problem of hunger, then deal with whatever other problems remain. Whatever critics may say, the industrialised world has been very successful at doing just this. Norman Borlaug did not want to deny developing countries the opportunity to do the same, and neither should we.

Norman Borlaug and the next Green Revolution

Norman Borlaug, who died on Saturday, can justifiably be regarded as one of the greatest figures of the 20th century. His agricultural innovations, such as the development of higher-yielding dwarf wheat, led directly to the Green Revolution, and they have been widely credited with saving a billion lives that might otherwise have been lost to starvation. The Times carries his obituary today. His passing, though, is a good moment to look at the agricultural challenges that lie ahead of us, as we prepare to feed a world that is forecast to reach 9 billion by 2040. The need for higher-yielding crops is today just as acute as it was in the post-war years when Borlaug made his advances, as the scientist himself was always keen to point out. A few quotes from Borlaug highlighted by John Hawks set out the challenge particularly clearly. Borlaug was well aware that if we are to protect our planet's biodiversity, while also feeding its increasing number of human residents, it will be impossible to bring more land under cultivation. We need every tool available to us to make the land that is already farmed more productive -- including, as Borlaug put it, "proper use of genetic engineering and biotechnology"……… Agriculture, he said, is by its nature an unnatural practice, and its goal has always been to create plentiful crops that "no-one eats but us". We manage farmland in such a way as to minimise loss to weeds, birds and insects, while seeking to improve its yields with manure, artificial fertiliser and irrigation. GM crops create an opportunity to take that process a stage further, so that our species is increasingly the only one that eats the crops we sow in our fields.

Tributes to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug from Around the World

UPDATED September 14, 2009 - - Following the death of World Food Prize Founder Norman Borlaug, various tributes to his impact and lasting legacy have been coming in from all parts of the globe. In honor of Dr. Borlaug, and those whom he has inspired, the World Food Prize is pleaed to share the following statements that have paid tribute to Dr. Borlaug both following his passing and throughout his long career.

"Almost 40 years after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, you are still pushing and my hat is off to ... you. - President Barack Obama (June 30, 2008)

"With the passing away of Dr. Norman Borlaug, an era has ended, in which he spearheaded a scientific revolution in agriculture. At a time in the sixties when the country was facing the spectre of severe food shortages, the introduction of Dr. Borlaug's high yielding varieties of seeds set in motion a technological revolution in Indian agriculture that led eventually to the country achieving self-sufficiency in food grains. The Green Revolution lifted the spirits of the Indian people and gave them new hope and confidence in their ability to tackle the country's daunting economic challenges--. Dr. Norman Borlaug's life and achievements are testimony to the far reaching contribution that one man's towering intellect, persistence and scientific vision can make to human peace and progress. One of Dr. Borlaug's favourite quotations was to 'reach for the stars'. In doing so, Dr. Borlaug helped millions of people escape from a life of hunger and deprivation. On behalf of a grateful nation, I convey my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Norman Borlaug." - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Remembering Norman Borlaug

“It wasn't that he had a disdain for theory, but turning theory into practice is the essence of plant breeding.”

I first met Norman Borlaug as a graduate student in Plant Breeding at Iowa State University. My classmates and I dutifully filed into the agronomy auditorium to hear another Thursday seminar that afternoon in 1973. Our speaker was viewed as a feisty renegade. At the time, some faculty expressed disbelief that Norm Borlaug merited a Nobel Prize. He hadn't published a thing in a journal that mattered. Peasants knew of his work instead of the National Academy of Science. It was widely believed that he had been relegated to work in remote areas of Mexico because he couldn't cut it in either industry or academia. Rumors around his disagreements with Rockefeller Foundation executives were legendary. Many wondered if this was yet another reason he drove a jalopy on dusty Mexican roads. Frankly, we all wondered why we had to listen to this guy.

Norman Borlaug never let go of focus on hunger

Washington, D.C. — The challenge of feeding the world's poorest people consumed Norman Borlaug until his final moments. On Friday, the day before the famous scientist, Iowa native and Nobel Peace Prize laureate died at his home in Dallas, Texas, he had a final conversation with his family. "I have a problem," said Borlaug, 95, his granddaughter, Julie Borlaug, recounted Sunday. What was that, a family member asked? "Africa." Borlaug is known as the father of the Green Revolution for his success during the 1960s in breeding varieties of wheat credited with saving millions of people in Pakistan and India from starvation. But he devoted his final decades to spreading the Green Revolution to Africa by encouraging scientists to follow in his footsteps and by cajoling public officials in the United States and abroad to support their work. More than a third of the population in many sub-Saharan countries is malnourished, according to the United Nations.

Recalling the work of the greatest hunger-fighter for all time

M.S. Swaminathan recollects his five-decade association with Norman Borlaug

CHENNAI: "He was a bright, affirming flame in the midst of a sea of despair then prevailing." This was how M.S. Swaminathan described Norman Borlaug, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, who died in Dallas on Saturday night. "He was a man of extraordinary humanism, commitment to a hunger-free world and knew no nationality. He is the only person to have so far won a Nobel for agriculture." Norman Borlaug's association with India began in the late 1960s. India was then importing 10 million tonnes of wheat and "we lived a ship-to-mouth" existence. The introduction of the dwarf variety of wheat developed by him in Mexico was a turning point in India's food production pattern.

I know that some of these links are repeats of what is in the ACSH post, but I wanted to set up a posting of links. RK


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