Father of the Green Revolution
Norman Borlaug was an agronomist* who devoted his life to finding a way to feed starving people of the world. He has been called the father of the "Green Revolution".
He was born in 1914 on a farm in Iowa. In high school he was active in athletics, participating in football, baseball, and wrestling. His grandfather urged him to go to college after he finished high school. He attended the University of Minnesota and studied forestry. After graduation he went to work for the U.S. Forestry Service.
After hearing Professor Elvin C. Stakman at the University of Minnesota speak about plant diseases, Borlaug talked with him about pursuing an advanced degree in plant pathology* . He returned to school and got a masters degree and a doctorate in that field. Then he worked for a couple of years as a researcher for Du Pont.
A turning point in his career came when he accepted an appointment by the Rockefeller Foundation to work with the Mexican government improving the crops in Mexico. The wheat they were growing did not produce much grain and the tall stalks would fall over before they could be harvested.
This chart shows yield in kilograms per hectare
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
1 hectare = 2.47 acres
Through experimentation he was able to develop a dwarf wheat which was shorter and would not fall to the ground. This new wheat also made larger heads of wheat with triple the number of grains in each head.
Farmers could produce a much larger crop of wheat on the same ground they had been farming.
This variety of wheat was also not subject to disease that had plagued their crops before. It was a remarkable improvement!
They took this new wheat seed to India and Pakistan where there was a famine. People were starving to death. When the seed was planted in these countries they had similar results; a great increase in the amount of food the people were able to produce. There was more food for them to eat and more children were able to thrive and grow.
He also developed a new grain called triticale* which was part wheat and part rye. It produced a nutritious grain larger than wheat which could feed masses of people.
In order to spread this knowledge, Borlaug trained young scientists in many countries to carry on the work. He went into the fields with them and showed them the best methods for growing the grain.
By 1974 India was producing enough grain to feed the people of that country, and ten years later there was such an abundance they were even able to export some grain. (quote from an article by Gregg Easterbrook)
When people are able to plant high-yield grain crops, they can feed themselves using fewer acres of land. This helps to prevent more deforestation* . Instead of cutting down trees to make more farmland, they can grow a crop on the fewer acres they already have in production. The "slash-and-burn"* method where people cut down the forests has caused more soil erosion. Valuable land is washed into the sea, and sometimes windstorms carry the topsoil away. The loss of trees also affects the quality of the air we breathe.
Some environmentalists* have opposed Borlaug's methods and have tried to stop his work. They protest that using fertilizer is bad, though it only replaces the soil nutrients that have been depleted. Others are sure that bioengineered* food is toxic to people and will make them ill. They think people should continue using the same seed they have used for years. The new strains continue to grow wheat and rye for making bread, and these new varieties will produce even more grain than the old variety, and the shorter stalks will stand up until harvest.
Studies (of this type) have established that the level of safety to consumers of current genetically engineered foods is likely to be equivalent to that of traditional foods. At present, no verifiable evidence of adverse health effects of BD foods has been reported, although the current passive reporting system probably would not detect minor or rare adverse effects or a moderate increase in effects with a high background incidence such as diarrhea.
The Safety of Genetically Modified Foods Produced through Biotechnology
Excerpt from an article - Oxford Journals , 2003
Roger Thurow, author of Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty notes that Africa was left out of the "Green Revolution" and as a result millions of Ethiopians face starvation just as they did 25 years ago.
Bill Gates has mentioned that the best way to reduce poverty and hunger in the developing world is through helping small farmers be as productive in growing as much food as possible.(quote from Roger Thurow in the Dallas Morning News)
Norman Borlaug taught and researched at Texas A and M University from 1984 until his death in 2009.
During his life he received many honors for his work, and in 1970 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1977 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his humanitarian contribution, and in 2007 he was awarded The Congressional Gold Medal.
"Some credit him with saving more human lives than any other person in history." -- Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, USA
This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2009.
A frequent question:
"Who wrote this biography and when was it written?"
Look on this Reference Citations Chart.
Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity
article by Gregg Easterbrook - The Atlantic Monthly
Borlaug is interviewed by Ronald Bailey at reason.com
The Norman Borlaug Rap
listen at AgBioWorld
Norman E. Borlaug
World Food Prize.org
Mexico, Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution
Norman (Ernest)Borlaug Biography
biography with audio version
Dr Borlaug's Boyhood Farm
Norman Borlaug, the man who fed the world
The Wall Street Journal
Sasakawa Africa Association
details his work in Africa
Norman Borlaug, the Legend
High Profile: Norman Borlaug
an article by David Tarrant - The Dallas Morning News
Norman Borlaug Curriculum
study guide and lesson plan
Inventing Agriculture (audio)
Wheat and Farming (audio)
Engines of Our Ingenuity.
Norman Borlaug Obituary
The New York Times
Biotechnology and the Green Revolution
Borlaug answers questions
Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application
of Science and Technology (PSRAST)
an opposing view on genetically engineered food
Norman Borlaug's address at the Nobel Centennial Symposia, held on December 6, 2001 in Oslo, Norway.
From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster
(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)
a branch of agriculture that deals with
the raising of crops and the care of the soil
A hardy hybrid of wheat and rye having a high yield
the study of diseases and especially of the changes in a plant produced by them
the action or process of clearing an area of forests;
also : the state of having been cleared of forests
characterized or developed by felling and burning trees
to clear land especially for temporary agriculture
a person concerned about environmental quality
and especially with controlling pollution
the application of biological techniques (as genetic recombination)
to create modified versions of organisms (as crops)
The Rising of Bread for the World: An Outcry of Citizens Against Hunger
By Arthur Simon / Paulist Press
The founder and president emeritus of Bread for the World discusses the launching, mission, and growth of the nation's foremost citizens' lobby on hunger. An inspiring tale of faith at work in an organization that transcends many of the usual societal divides---religious, political, and cultural. 192 pages, softcover.
Changing the Face of Hunger
By Tony Hall with Tom Price / Thomas Nelson
Struggling to mask his tears, Tony Hall followed a doctor through a desperate mass of dying Ethiopians crying out for food and medicine---help that could not possibly arrive soon enough or in sufficient quantities to keep them alive. From that painful scene of hopelessness, Hall returned home with a new focus for his faith. Both as a U.S. Congressman and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome, he has been a man with a mission.
Tony used his passion, faith, and political skills to solicit the aid of those able to help. And as he worked with liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, people of very different faiths, he stumbled into a remarkable discovery: He found that people who regularly live at odds often are willing to join forces in helping those who are abjectly poor and hungry.
"I've learned not only that people can work together across differences...but our diversity gives us strength." Let Tony capture your heart with his dream that we may put aside differences and join hands to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and discover the importance of life.
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger
By Ronald J. Sider / Thomas Nelson
When Ron Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger first appeared twenty-eight years ago, it shook readers to the core. Informed about the issues of world hunger and poverty, they could no longer ignore the plight of their global neighbors. This thoroughly revised edition of Sider's best-selling book outlines the progress that has been made in the last three decades, and the work that is still left to do. Every day 30,000 children still die of starvation and preventable diseases, and 1.2 billion people live in relentless, unrelieved poverty worldwide.
Why is there still so much poverty? Conservatives blame sinful individual choices and laziness. Liberals condemn economic and social structures. Who is right? Who is wrong? Both, according to Sider, who explains poverty's complex causes in this new edition and offers concrete, practical proposals for change.
Preview some of the Amazon books using the links below.
Starved for science: how biotechnology is being kept out of Africa
by Robert L. Paarlberg (selected pages)
The man who fed the world: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug
by Leon F. Hesser (selected pages)
Video: Setting the Grass Roots on Fire
Most Recent Comments ( See more comments on this page ) 2010-02-11
Thank you for posting information about this great man. I'd just like to point out a typographical error on one of the graphs. You note that 1 kilogram is equal to 22 pounds. It is actually equal to 2.2 pounds.
Webmaster note: Thank you for calling that to my attention. I have corrected it. That decimal point makes a big difference, doesn't it?
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