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CCNet 26/03/14

Happy Birthday Norman Borlaug

100th Birthday Of The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives



 
 
Congress gave a place of honor Tuesday to agriculture visionary Norman Borlaug, adding his statue to the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, but congressional leaders said an even better way to carry on his legacy is to continue his research to feed the world. Congressional leaders unveiled a bronze statue of the Iowan on Tuesday, which would have been his 100th birthday and is also National Agriculture Day. --Jacqueline Klimas, The Washington Times, 25 March 2014


 
 
 
Today, we live in a very different world from the one that Norman Borlaug was born into. It’s a world with less preventable misery, less hunger, and more hope for the hungry . What a legacy for this humble farmer from Iowa — this unlikeliest of revolutionaries, this man who changed the planet with a grain of wheat. --Mitch McConnell, The Washington Times, 25 March 2014
 
 
 
In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish. 'The battle to feed all of humanity is over,' biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn't work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. Borlaug, who unfortunately is far less well-known than doomsayer Ehrlich, is responsible for much of the progress humanity has made against hunger. --Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 13 September 2009
 
 
 
Norman Borlaug is the best proof of Julian Simon’s belief in humans as “the ultimate resource,” as ingenuity leads to technological advances. And this theory has aged well, evidenced by the world poverty rate declining 80 percent since 1970 as things get better and better. Norman Borlaug lived from March 25, 1914, until Sept. 12, 2009, and is estimated to have saved the lives of 1 billion people. That’s news worth spreading. -- Jarrett Skorup, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 25 March 2014
 
 


 
 
Happy Birthday Norman Borlaug
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 25 March 2014
 
Jarrett Skorup
 
I was 21-years-old before I first heard the name Norman Borlaug. It’s a shame it took until my third year of college to learn about one of the greatest humans who ever lived, the man credited with saving 1 billion people.
 
Norman Borlaug
 
Borlaug (who died in 2009), was an Iowa-born scientist who spent his life teaching new farming techniques in impoverished third-world countries. His movement was eventually called the “Green Revolution.”
 
Borlaug was introduced to me during a discussion about another one of my other heroes — the late economist Julian Simon. Simon was the author of “The Ultimate Resource,” in which he argued ferociously against Malthusian concerns about overpopulation. One of Simon’s main points was that human ingenuity was the greatest of resources, able to overcome problems seemingly caused by finite resources.
 
This debate still exists, but it was much more strident a few decades ago, culminating with the 1968 bestseller, “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich. In the book, Ehrlich infamously predicted a coming economic crash resulting from overpopulation:
 
“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.” He later said, “I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971,” and “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.”
 
The book stated that it was “a fantasy” that India would “ever” feed itself.
(Interestingly, I was introduced to Ehrlich’s book as a freshman in high school. What a sad state of education when Ehrlich, who lost a famous bet with Simon, is mandatory reading at many schools while few people are aware of Borlaug.)
 
In the meantime, Borlaug was putting into place what Ehrlich claimed was impossible. His work began being used in India in the early 1960s and by the mid-1970s (a few years after Ehrlich’s claims) the country was feeding itself. As noted by Ronald Bailey, the science correspondent for Reason:
 
“In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million. And the yields continue to increase. Last year [1999], India harvested a record 73.5 million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich’s dire predictions in 1968, India’s population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold.”
 
Equally remarkable feats were happening in Mexico, where the country went from importing half its food to becoming a net exporter in a mere 20 years because of Borlaug’s efforts.
 
Borlaug is the best proof of Simon’s belief in humans as “the ultimate resource,” as ingenuity leads to technological advances. And this theory has aged well, evidenced by the world poverty rate declining 80 percent since 1970 as things get better and better.
 
Norman Borlaug lived from March 25, 1914, until Sept. 12, 2009, and is estimated to have saved the lives of 1 billion people. That’s news worth spreading.


 
 2014-03-25-BreadmemequoteBorlaug031914.jpg

 
 
Norman Borlaug, Father Of The Green Revolution, Honored With Statue At U.S. Capitol
The Washington Times, 25 March 2014
 
Jacqueline Klimas
 
Congress gave a place of honor Tuesday to agriculture visionary Norman Borlaug, adding his statue to the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, but congressional leaders said an even better way to carry on his legacy is to continue his research to feed the world.
 
Congressional leaders unveiled a bronze statue of the Iowan on Tuesday, which would have been his 100th birthday and is also National Agriculture Day.
 
Borlaug grew up during the Great Depression and later worked to feed the hungry by advancing agricultural technology, fighting crop diseases, engineering grains to have higher yields, and sharing his research with farmers, especially in the Third World, until the day he died in 2009.
 
“We need to remember that Norman Borlaug’s legacy will not be determined just by what he did during his brief time on earth. It will be determined by what we do together to expand his vision of stewardship toward this planet and the people who live on it,” said Rep. Bruce L. Braley, Iowa Democrat.
 
Borlaug is one of only three Americans to receive the top three awards for humanitarian work: the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the others being civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel).
 
Speakers at Tuesday’s dedication ceremony, many of whom met Borlaug when he received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, spoke of him as a modest man who was not afraid to get his hands dirty to solve problems. While research was a priority for him, his biggest goal was to spread knowledge to farmers and get any advances implemented in the real world as soon as possible.
 
“Today, we live in a very different world from the one that Norman Borlaug was born into. It’s a world with less preventable misery, less hunger, and more hope for the hungry,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “What a legacy for this humble farmer from Iowa — this unlikeliest of revolutionaries, this man who changed the planet with a grain of wheat.”
 
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Borlaug’s research saved more than 1 billion lives over the course of his lifetime by feeding starving people across the country and around the world.
 
“More than others, he heeded the biblical call to feed the hungry,” she said. “He shared his story and his experience, a way of imploring us to never accept the unacceptable status quo, to never allow countries or communities to go hungry when it is in our power to prevent it.”
 
Full story
 
 
 



Norman Borlaug: The Man Who Saved More Lives Than Any Other
Reason Online, 13 September 2009
 
Ronald Bailey
 
Norman Borlaug, the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history, has died at age 95. Borlaug was the Father of the Green Revolution, the dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity that swept the globe in the 1960s. For spearheading this achievement, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. One of the great privileges of my life was meeting and talking with Borlaug many times over the past few years. In remembrance, I cite the introduction to Reason's 2000 interview with Borlaug below:
 
Borlaug grew up on a small farm in Iowa and graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he studied forestry and plant pathology, in the 1930s. In 1944, the Rockefeller Foundation invited him to work on a project to boost wheat production in Mexico. At the time Mexico was importing a good share of its grain. Borlaug and his staff in Mexico spent nearly 20 years breeding the high-yield dwarf wheat that sparked the Green Revolution, the transformation that forestalled the mass starvation predicted by neo-Malthusians.
 
In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish. "The battle to feed all of humanity is over," biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. "In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971." He insisted that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980."
 
But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn't work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. In 1965, they had begun a massive campaign to ship the miracle wheat to Pakistan and India and teach local farmers how to cultivate it properly. By 1968, when Ehrlich's book appeared, the U.S. Agency for International Development had already hailed Borlaug's achievement as a "Green Revolution."
 
In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million. And the yields continue to increase. Last year, India harvested a record 73.5 million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich's dire predictions in 1968, India's population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. Soon after Borlaug's success with wheat, his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developed high-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolution through most of Asia.
 
Contrary to Ehrlich's bold pronouncements, hundreds of millions didn't die in massive famines. India fed far more than 200 million more people, and it was close enough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971 that Ehrlich discreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of The Population Bomb. The last four decades have seen a "progress explosion" that has handily outmatched any "population explosion."
 
Borlaug, who unfortunately is far less well-known than doom-sayer Ehrlich, is responsible for much of the progress humanity has made against hunger. Despite occasional local famines caused by armed conflicts or political mischief, food is more abundant and cheaper today than ever before in history, due in large part to the work of Borlaug and his colleagues.
 
More than 30 years ago, Borlaug wrote, "One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the world may be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy." As REASON's interview with him shows, he still believes that environmental activists and their allies in international agencies are a threat to progress on global food security. Barring such interference, he is confident that agricultural research, including biotechnology, will be able to boost crop production to meet the demand for food in a world of 8 billion or so, the projected population in 2025.
 
Meanwhile, media darlings like Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown keep up their drumbeat of doom. In 1981 Brown declared, "The period of global food security is over." In 1994, he wrote, "The world's farmers can no longer be counted on to feed the projected additions to our numbers." And as recently as 1997 he warned, "Food scarcity will be the defining issue of the new era now unfolding, much as ideological conflict was the defining issue of the historical era that recently ended."
 
Borlaug, by contrast, does not just wring his hands. He still works to get modern agricultural technology into the hands of hungry farmers in the developing world. Today, he is a consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico and president of the Sasakawa Africa Association, a private Japanese foundation working to spread the Green Revolution to sub-Saharan Africa.
 
Borlaug's achievements were not confined to the laboratory and fields: 
 
He insisted that governments pay poor farmers world prices for their grain. At the time, many developing nations--eager to supply cheap food to their urban citizens, who might otherwise rebel--required their farmers to sell into a government concession that paid them less than half of the world market price for their agricultural products. The result, predictably, was hoarding and underproduction. Using his hard-won prestige as a kind of platform, Mr. Borlaug persuaded the governments of Pakistan and India to drop such self-defeating policies.
 
Full story
 
 
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