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Quotes on Norman Borlaug

For fifty-two years, Dr. Norman Borlaug has been helping to provide more food to the most needy areas of the world. But perhaps of greater importance, this distinguished scientist-philosopher has been demonstrating practical ways to give people of the entire world a higher quality of life ...

The passion that drives Dr. Borlaug's life is an inspiration for all of us to follow. Since 1986, we've worked together through Global 2000 of The Carter Center and the Sasakawa Africa Association to help small-scale farmers to improve agricultural productivity and crop quality, sometimes two or even threefold. It has been an honor to collaborate with Dr. Borlaug. He is a true humanitarian and a dear friend.

-- Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

It gives me great pleasure to add my voice to all those paying tribute to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug on his 90th birthday. As we celebrate Dr. Borlaug's long and remarkable life, we also celebrate the long and productive lives that his achievements have made possible for so many millions of people around the world. And as the United Nations continues its efforts to reach the ambitious but achievable Millennium Development Goal of reducing, by half, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, we will continue to be inspired by his enduring devotion to the poor, needy and vulnerable of our world. Dr. Borlaug, for your many contributions to the work of the United Nations, please accept my best wishes on this happy occasion.

-- Kofi A. Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations

Dr. Norman Borlaug was the father of the Green Revolution that transformed much of the hungry Third World. As U.S. Food for Peace Administrator in the 1960s, I shipped 4 million tons of food aid per year to India; now it can export food. Dr. Borlaug’s scientific leadership not only saved people from starvation, but the high-yield seeds he bred saved millions of square miles of wildlife from being plowed down. He is one of the great men of our age.

-- The Honorable George McGovern, Former US Senator, UN "Ambassador to the Hungry"

"Norman Borlaug is the living embodiment of the human quest for a hunger free world. His life is his message."

-- Professor M. S. Swaminathan, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (India)

"Some credit him with saving more human lives than any other person in history."

-- Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, USA

Dr. Norman Borlaug holds the record for longevity as a "persistent pioneer" in the development of a new cooperative approach among the countries of the world in the alleviation of hunger.

-- Dr. Edwin J. Wellhausen, First Director General of CIMMYT, Mexico, 1996

"It is very likely that Dr. Borlaug is directly responsible for saving more lives than anyone else in the twentieth century.......Dr. Borlaug has never stopped fighting, teaching, inventing, or caring.....The world owes Dr. Borlaug endless amounts of gratitude"

-- Senator 'Kit' Bond, (R) Missouri, in a congressional record marking Borlaug's 90th birthday

Dr. Norman Borlaugu is the first person in history to save a billion human lives. But he must also get credit for saving the wild creatures and diverse plant species on 12 million square miles of global forest that would long since have been plowed down without the high-yield farming he pioneered. The two accomplishments combined make him dramatically unique. I am proud to work with the Center for Global Food Issues, of which he is Chairman Emeritus.

-- Senator Rudy Boschwitz, R-MN, former member of the US Senate Agriculture Committee

'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 ma de against hunger.

-- Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine

Though barely known in the country of his birth, elsewhere in the world Norman Borlaug is widely considered to be among the leading Americans of our age ... Norman Borlaug has already saved more lives than any other person who ever lived.

Borlaug is responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were widely predicted -- for example, in the 1967 best seller Famine -- 1975! The form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths.

-- Gregg Easterbrook, The Atlantic Monthly

At a time when doom-sayers were hopping around saying everyone was going to starve, Norman was working. He moved to Mexico and lived among the people there until he figured out how to improve the output of the farmers. So that saved a million lives.

The he packed up his family and moved to India, where in spite of a war with Pakistan, he managed to introduce new wheat strains that quadrupled their food output. So that saved another million.

You get it? But he wasn't done. He did the same thing with a new rice in China. He's doing the same thing in Afica -- as much of Africa as he's allowed to visit.

When he won the Nobel Prize in 1970, they said he had saved a billion people. That's BILLION! Carl Sagan BILLION with a B! And most of them were a different race from him.

Norman is the greatest human being, and you probably never heard of him.

-- Penn Jillette, of the comedy team Penn and Teller

Thanks to the Green Revolution, the real price of food is half or less than it was in 1960 which means those who spend the highest portion of their income on food - the urban and non-farm rural poor -- garner the most benefit from it.

-- Thomas R. DeGregori, University of Houston

An Irish Toast for Norman Borlaug by Professor Martina Newell-McGloughlin

Dear Norman:

Lá breithe sona duit! (A birthday of happiness to you!)

What a privilege it is to have known someone like you in my lifetime. I consider you and Jimmy Carter to be two of my greatest heros as you exemplify all that is noble in the human spirit.

I felt truly honored when you came up after our session at the Ministerial Conference last June and said that you wished you were 50 years younger so that you could be part of this incredible time in agricultural biotech research. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, biotech scientists are where they are today because they are standing upon the shoulders of giants. And I do not think that there are any broader shoulders in the field than yours!


'An Irish Toast for your Birthday'

Sláinte agus saol chugat. (Health and life to you)
Go maire tú an céad agus bliain chun aithrí! (May
you live to a hundred and a year for contrition!)

May there be spring enough in your life
to outlast the winters;

May there be drums enough
to lift your spirits whenever you are down;

May you be gentle enough to comfort those who are hurting,
But revolutionary enough to bring heaven to those who need it now.

May there always be Daoine Sidhe (good spirits) near you
to bring out laughter and dance and the child in you.

And may God always have room enough for you in the palm of his hand.

Best wishes for another ninety years.


Borlaug's work saved the Indian sub-continent from mass starvation. In his 90 years on this planet its human population has grown from about one billion to more than six billion. Without the hybrid wheats it was Borlaug's life's mission to develop and promote among the world's poorest farmers, few believe that this population could have been sustained.

-- Matthew Parris, The Times (UK)

As a result of [Borlaug's] work, a billion people now exist who otherwise would have starved to death, died of starvation-related diseases, or never have been born.

-- Gregory Pence and Joyce Hsu, Birmingham News

Borlaug is one of the great humanitarians of the 20th Century - and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for a lifetime of work feeding a hungry world. The breeds of wheat he developed - with strong disease resistance, high yield potential and the ability to withstand poor growing conditions - led the "Green Revolution" that saved literally hundreds of millions of lives in developing nations that were prone to terrible famines.

-- James Glassman, Tech Central Station

He is credited with starting the Green Revolution in the mid-1960s and saving millions of lives from starvation. Since 1984, he has been a professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M, where he teaches one semester every year. But he is by no means semi-retired. At 86, he remains as active as ever - carrying his brand of prairie pragmatism to fight hunger around the world and in the classroom. Think big. Fight complacency. That is the essence of his message, whether he's talking to heads of state or college freshmen.

-- David Tarrant, Dallas Morning News

Scientist. Teacher. Humanitarian. Nobel Laureate. Father of the Green Revolution. Those terms describe Dr. Norman Borlaug, who is distinguished professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M University, but they can't possibly capture the magnitude of his accomplishments.

-- Ellen Ritter, Texas A&M University

If there's one thread running through Borlaug's life it's doing -- acting with fierce determination. Working on a problem as fundamental as world hunger is a complicated business, and Borlaug is a complicated man, somehow balancing contradictions.

He is the scientist and the dirt farmer; the advocate of common sense and the master of political subtleties; the humanitarian and the pugnacious fighter; the idealist and the consultant to governments of every political ideology. He has been called a peaceful revolutionary, and the tension in that term - between benevolence and aggressiveness - seems particularly apt.

- From the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science