The Father of the Green Revolution

Tomorrow is the birthday of Norman Borlaug, who was born on March 25, 1914.  Dr. Borlaug is one of only seven people who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.  He is also the recipient of numerous international humanitarian awards.

After studying plant pathology and genetics, Borlaug developed new varieties of wheat that were disease resistant and had higher yields.  (Over 10 years, his group made more than 6,000 individual crossings of wheat.)  Mexico, which previously had to import most of its wheat, was able to become a net exporter.  India and Pakistan were able to almost double their wheat production.

In the 1960s, Borlaug’s work with wheat led to the development of new high-yield varieties of rice.  Within five years, land in Asia dedicated to growing rice expanded from 200 acres to more than 40 million acres.  In the 1980s, Borlaug helped Africa to double its yields of maize and sorghum.

Borlaug’s goal was to reduce hunger and starvation in the poorest parts of the world.  Ironically, his practices have been criticized for increasing social inequality, as many regions replaced subsistence farming with large-scale single-crop farming.  Nevertheless, Borlaug is credited with saving more than 1 billion lives because of his work.

“Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world,” he said.  “The first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.”

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