AgBioWorld mourns the passing of Dr Norman Borlaug with deep sadness. He was a true pioneer, a friend of biotechnology, and some one who passionately believed in the genius of humanity in finding solutions to fighting hunger and poverty. An extraordinary humanitarian, who contributed so much to make this world a better place for all of us.
We shall miss him. The world will miss him.
More about him and his life at
Green Revolution Hero Norman Borlaug dies at 95
- Greg Flakus Austin, Texas, 13 September 2009
American agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug died at his home in Dallas, Texas Saturday at the age of 95. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work to stop world hunger. Known around the world as the father of the Green Revolution, his effort to increase crop yields has been credited with saving millions of people from starvation. To his friends, family and colleagues, Norman Borlaug was a marvel, continuing to work on agricultural projects and academic pursuits as he reached the age of 95. He resided in Dallas, but taught classes during the fall semester at Texas A and M University in College Station, where an institute was established in his name.
At his 95th birthday party in Dallas last March, Borlaug spoke to VOA about the need to continue expanding food production to meet the needs of a growing world population. "We are adding 84-million people to the population every year. We have a big job on our hands," he said.Borlaug expressed concern about a new variety of wheat stem rust attacking wheat plants in Africa and advocated greater coordination of researchers around the world to stop its spread.
His advocacy of intensive, high-yield agriculture came under criticism from environmentalists in recent years, but Borlaug and those who followed his lead argued that older methods of sustainable farming could not produce enough food to prevent hunger in poorer regions of the world. ?Borlaug was born in the midwestern state of Iowa in 1914 and attended the University of Minnesota agricultural school.
In 1944, when many experts warned of mass starvation in developing nations where populations were expanding faster than crop production, Borlaug began work at a Rockefeller Foundation-funded project in Mexico to increase wheat production by developing higher-yielding varieties of the crop. By 1957, the average yield per hectare of Mexican wheat had almost doubled. Borlaug remained involved with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, even after his research took him to other parts of the globe, where he replicated the success he had had in Mexico, building his reputation as father of the "green revolution" in the 1960's. ?In addition to the Nobel Prize, Borlaug was honored with the highest civilian honors in the United States; in 1977 the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2007 the Congressional Gold Medal. ?In a statement Saturday through Texas A and M University, Borlaug's children said "It is the hope of the Borlaug family that his life be an example to all. We would like his life be a model for making a difference in the lives of others and to bring about efforts to end human misery for all mankind".?
Recalling the work of the greatest hunger-fighter for all time
- R. Sujatha, The HIndu <http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/14/stories/2009091458231100.htm>http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/14/stories/2009091458231100.htm
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.
Professor Swaminathan, himself an institution-builder and a visionary figure who has carved a niche for himself in agriculture-related research in India, spoke to The Hindu from Virginia Tech University in the U.S. on Sunday. He was associated with Borlaug for five decades.
He added: "I was working at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. The problem at the time of India's Independence was that the wheat and rice yield was less than one metric tonne per hectare. From 1947 to the early-1960s we increased the area under the crops."
But there was no significant increase in production. "It was at that time he came to India. My association with him started when we started to work on how to achieve a yield breakthrough in wheat. He is the greatest hunger-fighter for all time. His contribution was multi-dimensional - scientific, political and humanistic." he said.
At the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Taramani, Chennai, a hall has been named after him.
Professor Borlaug's efforts to introduce improvements in agriculture were peppered also with disappointments. He earned the displeasure of the American government after he said during a visit to India in 1966 that "India should be free of PL 480 assistance." At that time India was importing wheat from the U.S.
Professor Borlaug had been disappointed when his efforts to introduce the Green Revolution in Africa failed owing to the unfavourable political conditions there. "Unless there is peace and security there could be no increase in production. During his lectures in India in agriculture colleges he told students to go to the field and not sit in the laboratory," Dr. Swaminathan recalled.
Professor Borlaug felt that food scientists should be recognised with the Nobel Prize. When the Nobel Prize committee struck down his suggestion, he instituted the annual World Food Prize. Dr. Swaminathan was the first recipient, and Verghese Kurien, credited with the White Revolution in India, was honoured the next year.
Nobel laureate, Iowa native Borlaug dies
- Justin Gillis, The New York Times12.sep.09
Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts to feed the world's hungry, died Saturday night at his home in Dallas, Texas. He was 95. Borlaug died just before 11 p.m. from complications of cancer, Kathleen Phillips, a Texas A&m University spokeswoman, told the Assoc iated Press. Phillips said Borlaug's granddaughter told her about his death. Borlaug was a distinguished professor at the university in College Station.
A self-described "corn-fed, country-bred Iowa boy," Borlaug was called "the Father of the Green Revolution" for his work developing high-yielding strains of wheat that were credited with staving off the starvation of millions of people in Pakistan and India in the 1960s.
It has been said that Borlaug saved more lives than any other person in history, said Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, which Borlaug founded in 1986.Borlaug, hailed by U.S. and world leaders over the past four decades, was one of five people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The others: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel and Nelson Mandela.
"Thanks to Dr. Borlaug's pioneering work to develop varieties of high-yielding wheat, countless millions of men, women and children, who will never know his name, will never go to bed hungry," former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in 2007 when Borlaug received the Congressional Gold Medal.
"Dr. Borlaug's scientific breakthroughs have eased needless suffering and saved countless lives (and) have been an inspiration to new generations across the globe who have taken up the fight against hunger.
Borlaug had suffered from lymphoma and other ailments that had caused him to be in and out of the hospital in recent years, Quinn said. Yet Borlaug maintained an ambitious travel schedule into his 90s, continuing to teach at Texas A&m and work for the International Center for the Improvement of Wheat and Maize, where he did his breeding work that led to the Nobel Peace Prize.
He also spoke out for an equitable distribution of the world's food and the threat of unchecked population growth. He supported using agricultural biotechnology to combat gl obal hunger and malnutrition and frequently criticized environmentalists he derisively called "greenies."
"I feel obligated as a scientist to speak out," he told The Des Moines Register in 1997. "They can't hurt me now. They can't fire me; I'm too old. But if some young scientist said what I've just said, they'd fire him."
Norman Ernest Borlaug was born in 1914 on his grandparents' farm 11 miles southwest of Cresco. The son of Henry O. and Clara Borlaug, he had two sisters, Palma and Charlotte. When he was 8, the Borlaugs moved to their own 56-acre farm near the Norwegian community of Saude in northeast Chickasaw County - a town that no longer exists .
Borlaug attended a one-room school near his farm home, with one teacher instructing him through the eighth grade. Borlaug attended Cresco High School, graduating in 1932. He went to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor's degree in forestry in 1937. At Minnesota, he met his future wife, Margaret Gibson, a native of Oklahoma. After working in Idaho and Massachusetts on forestry projects, he returned to the university and earned his doctorate in 1941 in plant pathology.
>From 1941 to 1944, Borlaug was a plant pathologist for DuPont in Wilmington, Del. But in October 1944, he went to Mexico to work at the Rockefeller Foundation's International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center.
There, Borlaug worked on developing wheat with a sturdy, short stalk that could hold the high-yielding grain on top. He also built resistance to a fungal disease called "wheat stem rust" into the "miracle wheat."
After Borlaug developed his miracle wheat, Mexico became a wheat exporter and, in the 1960s, the wheat was sent to India and Pakistan, which used the grain to feed their starving populations
Other nations in Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East also adopted miracle wheat to feed their people.
Borlaug's success earned him a new nic kname: "the apostle of wheat."
When it was announced in 1970 that Borlaug had won the Nobel Peace Prize, he was working in experimental fields 50 miles from Mexico City.
At first, Borlaug thought the report that he had won the Nobel was a joke, and he had to be persuaded to return to the city for a news conference. When he arrived, he was wearing his work clothes, with dust on his shoes and dirt on his hands.
"I wanted to show the TV men what makes an agricultural scientist - dirty hands," he said. "I washed them later." Joking aside, Borlaug explained what excited him most about winning the Nobel Prize. "Seventy percent of the people of the world make their living from agriculture," he said, "and this is the first time agricultural science and the application of it have been given recognition.
The Green Revolution eventually came under attack from environmental and social critics who said it had created more difficulties than it had solved. Dr. Borlaug responded that the real problem was not his agricultural techniques, but the runaway population growth that had made them necessary.
"If the world population continues to increase at the same rate, we will destroy the species," he declared.
Dr. Borlaug's later years were partly occupied by arguments over the social and environmental consequences of the Green Revolution. Many critics on the left attacked it, saying it displaced smaller farmers, encouraged overreliance on chemicals and paved the way for greater corporate control of agriculture.
In a characteristic complaint, Vandana Shiva, an Indian critic, wrote in 1991 that "in perceiving nature's limits as constraints on productivity that had to be removed, American experts spread ecologically destructive and unsustainable practices worldwide."
Dr. Borlaug declared that such arguments often came from "elitists" who were rich enough not to worry about where their next meal was coming from. But over time, he acknowledged the validity of some environmental concerns, and embraced more judicious use of fertilizers and pesticides. He was frustrated throughout his life that governments did not do more to tackle what he called "the population monster" by lowering birth rates.
The man who fed the world.
Onthe day Norman Borlaug was awarded its Peace Prize for 1970, the NobelCommittee observed of the Iowa-born plant scientist that "more than anyother single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for ahungry world." The committee might have added that more than any othersingle person Borlaug showed that nature is no match for humaningenuity in setting the real limits to growth.
Borlaug, who died Saturday at 95, came of age in the GreatDepression, the last period of widespread hunger in U.S. history. TheDepression was over by the time Borlaug began his famous experiments,funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, with wheat varieties in Mexico inthe 1940s. But the specter of global starvation loomed even larger, asadvances in medicine and hygiene contributed to population growthwithout corresponding increases in the means of feeding so many.
Borlaug solved that challenge by developing genetically uniquestrains of "semidwarf" wheat, and later rice, that raised food yieldsas much as sixfold. The result was that a country like India was ableto feed its own people as its population grew from 500 million in themid-1960s, when Borlaug's "Green Revolution" began to take effect, tothe current 1.16 billion. Today, famines-whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur orNorth Korea-are politically induced events, not true natural disasters.
In later life, Borlaug was criticizedby self-described "greens" whose hostility to technology put themathwart the revolution he had set in motion. Borlaug fired back,warning in these pages that fear-mongering by environmental extremistsagainst synthetic pesticides, inorganic fertilizers and geneticallymodified foods would again put millions at risk of starvation whiledamaging the very biodiversity those extremists claimed to protect. Insaving so many, Borlaug showed that a genuine green movement doesn'tpit man against the Earth, but rather applies human intelligence toexploit the Earth's resources to improve life for everyone.
Norman Borlaug: The Man Who Saved More Human Lives Than Any Other Has Died
- Ronald Bailey | September 13, 2009
NormanBorlaug, the man who saved more human lives than anyone else inhistory, has died at age 95. Borlaug was the Father of the GreenRevolution, the dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity thatswept the globe in the 1960s. For spearheading this achievement, he wasawarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. One of the great privileges ofmy life was meeting and talking with Borlaug many times over the pastfew 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 theUniversity of Minnesota, where he studied forestry and plant pathology,in the 1930s. In 1944, the Rockefeller Foundation invited him to workon a project to boost wheat production in Mexico. At the time Mexicowas importing a good share of its grain. Borlaug and his staff inMexico spent nearly 20 years breeding the high-yield dwarf wheat thatsparked the Green Revolution, the transformation that forestalled themass starvation predicted by neo-Malthusians.
In the late1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in whichbillions would perish. "The battle to feed all of humanity is over,"biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller ThePopulation Bomb. "In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of peoplewill starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now."Ehrlich also said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with thesituation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971." Heinsisted that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million morepeople by 1980."
But Borlaug and his team were alreadyengaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn'twork. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plantpests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than thetraditional varieties. In 1965, they had begun a massive campaign toship the miracle wheat to Pakistan and India and teach local farmershow to cultivate it properly. By 1968, when Ehrlich's book appeared,the U.S. Agency for International Development had already hailedBorlaug'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 theyields continue to increase. Last year, India harvested a record 73.5million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich's direpredictions in 1968, India's population has more than doubled, itswheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grownnine-fold. Soon after Borlaug's success with wheat, his colleagues atthe Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developedhigh-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolutionthrough most of Asia.
Contrary to Ehrlich's boldpronouncements, hundreds of millions didn't die in massive famines.India fed far more than 200 million more people, and it was closeenough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971 that Ehrlichdiscreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of ThePopulation 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-sayerEhrlich, is responsible for much of the progress humanity has madeagainst hunger. Despite occasional local famines caused by armedconflicts or political mischief, food is more abundant and cheapertoday than ever before in history, due in large part to the work ofBorlaug and his colleagues.
More than 30 years ago, Borlaugwrote, "One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the worldmay be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflagedbureaucracy." As REASON's interview with him shows, he still believesthat environmental activists and their allies in international agenciesare a threat to progress on global food security. Barring suchinterference, he is confident that agricultural research, includingbiotechnology, will be able to boost crop production to meet the demandfor food in a world of 8 billion or so, the projected population in2025.
Meanwhile, media darlings like Worldwatch Institutefounder Lester Brown keep up their drumbeat of doom. In 1981 Browndeclared, "The period of global food security is over." In 1994, hewrote, "The world's farmers can no longer be counted on to feed theprojected 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 historicalera that recently ended."
Borlaug, by contrast, does not justwring his hands. He still works to get modern agricultural technologyinto the hands of hungry farmers in the developing world. Today, he isa consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico andpresident of the Sasakawa Africa Association, a private Japanesefoundation working to spread the Green Revolution to sub-Saharan Africa.
Borlaug's [ <http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110008897>http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110008897 ]achievements were not confined to the laboratory and fields:
Heinsisted that governments pay poor farmers world prices for theirgrain. At the time, many developing nations--eager to supply cheap foodto their urban citizens, who might otherwise rebel--required theirfarmers to sell into a government concession that paid them less thanhalf of the world market price for their agricultural products. Theresult, predictably, was hoarding and underproduction. Using hishard-won prestige as a kind of platform, Mr. Borlaug persuaded thegovernments of Pakistan and India to drop such self-defeating policies.
Fairprices and high doses of fertilizer, combined with new grains, changedeverything. By 1968 Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat, and by 1974India was self-sufficient in all cereals. And the revolution didn'tstop there. Researchers at a research institute in the Philippines usedMr. Borlaug's insights to develop high-yield rice and spread the GreenRevolution to most of Asia. As with wheat, so with rice: Short-stalkedvarieties proved more productive. They devoted relatively more energyto making grain and less to making leaves and stalks. And they weresturdier, remaining harvestable when traditional varieties--with heavygrain heads and long, slender stalks--had collapsed to the ground andbegun to rot.
Let us mourn the death of this truly great man.
Agriculture pioneer Borlaug dies
Norman Borlaug, the man known as the father of the Green Revolution in agriculture, has died in the US state of Texas aged 95.
Prof Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for agricultural innovation and the development of high-yield crops.
The Green Revolution helped world food production more than double between 1960 and 1990 with Asia, Africa and Latin America in particular benefiting The Nobel Institute said he had helped save hundreds of millions of lives. Prof Borlaug died late on Saturday evening at his home in Dallas from complications with cancer, said a spokesperson for Texas A&m University, where he had worked.
'A better place'
In the early 1960s Prof Borlaug realised that creating short-stemmed varieties would leave food plants more energy for growing larger heads of grain. His high-yield, disease-resistant dwarf wheat quickly boosted harvests in Latin America, and his techniques were particularly successful in South Asia, where famine was widespread.
Analysts believe the Green Revolution helped avert a worldwide famine in the late 20th century.
A close friend of Prof Borlaug at Texas A&m, Dr Ed Runge, told Associated Press news agency: "He has probably done more and is known by fewer people than anybody that has done that much--- He made the world a better place."
The Nobel prize presentation said Prof Borlaug "more than any other single person of his age--- has helped to provide bread for a hungry world".
Prof Borlaug continued his work into his 90s. At a conference in the Philippines in 2006 he said: "We still have a large number of miserable, hungry people and this contributes to world instability.
"Human misery is explosive, and you better not forget that."
Norman Borlaug was born in Iowa in 1914. He studied at the University of Minnesota and later worked for DuPont and the Rockefeller Foundation. He set up his wheat and maize centre in 1963 to train scientists. Prof Borlaug was awarded the highest US civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, in 2007.
Norman Borlaug dies at 95; started 'Green Revolution' and won Nobel Peace Prize
Borlaug created a system of plant breeding and crop management in the 1940s that created huge harvests. The system was a huge success and was exported to countries around the world. Norman Borlaug, the father of the "Green Revolution" who is widely credited with saving more than a billion lives by breeding wheat, rice and other crops that brought agricultural self-sufficiency to developing countries around the world, died Saturday in Texas, a Texas A&m University spokeswoman said. He was 95.
Borlaug died at his home in Dallas from complications of cancer. Borlaug was one of only five people in history to score the trifecta of winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal -- placing him in the company of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel. He was also named by Time magazine in 1999 as one of the 100 most influential minds of the 20th century.
That influence showed itself in earnest while Borlaug was working in Mexico in the 1940s where he created a system of plant breeding and crop management that became the basis for the Green Revolution. The system was a huge success and was exported to countries around the world.
In 1960, the world produced 692 million tons of grain for 2.2 billion people. By 1992, largely as a result of Borlaug's pioneering techniques, it was producing 1.9 billion tons for 5.6 billion people -- using only 1% more land.
On the occasion of Borlaug's 90th birthday, former President Jimmy Carter said that he "has been demonstrating practical ways to give people of the entire world a higher quality of life. . . . He is a true humanitarian."
Added former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), 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."
Ever since 19th century British economist Thomas Malthus first predicted that the world's population would eventually outstrip its capacity for growing food, prophets of doom had envisioned catastrophe right around the corner.
Such a disaster was actually quite close beginning in the late 1930s. Between 1939 and 1942, Mexico's wheat harvest had been halved by stem rust, a fungus whose airborne spores infect stems and leaves, causing the grain to shrivel. India, Pakistan, China and a host of other countries were also facing the prospect of widespread starvation.
Alarmed by how food shortages might impact the war effort, the Rockefeller Foundation -- largely at the instigation of Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace -- established the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program in Mexico. It later became known as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center or, by its Spanish acronym, CIMMYT. Borlaug signed on in 1944 after finishing his wartime obligations to the chemical firm E.I. du Pont de Nemours.
Borlaug collected wheat strains from around the world and began cross-breeding them, a process he later recalled as "mind-warpingly tedious." To speed things up, he planted two crops per year, a summer crop in the low-quality, high-altitude soils near Mexico City and a winter crop hundreds of miles to the north in the low-lying Yaqui Valley.
This "shuttle breeding" was derided by experts at the time, who insisted that such experiments must be conducted at the same locations and times employed by local farmers to be useful.
Within five years, however, Borlaug had produced a strain that was resistant to rust, more productive than existing strains, and that grew in both climates when given adequate fertilizer and water.
But there was still one problem. Evolution had favored wheat strains with long, slender stalks that allowed the wheat to rise above the shade of nearby weeds. With the added weight of the extra grain, however, the stalks tended to collapse when irrigated or rained on, reducing yields.
After thousands of fruitless attempts to produce wheat with shorter stalks, Borlaug encountered a Japanese dwarf variety. After thousands more attempts, by 1954 he had succeeded in producing a short-stalked variety that was rust-resistant and high-yielding. And because the plant did not have to invest energy in producing long stalks, its yield was even higher than before.
Using the new strains, Mexico, which had imported 60% of its wheat in the early 1940s, became self-sufficient by 1956.
In 1954, a rust epidemic hit the American Midwest, destroying three-quarters of the durum wheat crop that was used for making pasta and accelerating use of the new strains in the United States. There has not been a similar outbreak since.
Using Borlaug's techniques, scientists at CIMMYT and elsewhere soon developed similar high-yield strains of rice and corn.
In the early 1960s, India and Pakistan were confronting famine and CIMMYT sent Borlaug to intervene. He planted demonstration plots of the new dwarf variety, but was unable to convince the state-owned seed companies to adopt them.
By 1965, however, famine in the region was so bad that the governments acquiesced. Borlaug organized a shipment of 35 truckloads of dwarf wheat seeds. Because of customs problems, the seeds couldn't be shipped from Mexico in time for planting, so he sent them to a port in Los Angeles.
U.S. customs officials held them up at the border before finally permitting them to cross. Then National Guard troops detoured them from Los Angeles because of the Watts riots. Finally, the $100,000 check drawn on the Pakistani ministry bounced because of three misspelled words on its face.
Ultimately, the cargo ship set sail for Karachi and Bombay and Borlaug went to bed relieved, only to wake the next morning to word that India and Pakistan had gone to war.
Because of the delays, the team had no time for germination studies and planting was started immediately, often in sight of artillery flashes. "We did a lot of praying," he later recalled.
Despite the problems, the new crop was 98% bigger than the previous year's and the Asian subcontinent was placed on a new path. India ordered 18,000 tons of seed from Mexico and the harvest was so big that there was a shortage of labor to harvest it, too few bullock carts to haul it to the threshing floor, and an insufficiency of jute bags, trucks, rail cars and storage facilities.
By 1968, Pakistan was self-sufficient in food production. India joined it in 1974.
Because of his efforts, Borlaug was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Typically, on the morning the prize was announced, he had left home at 4 a.m. for the Mexican fields to check on his latest crop.
Norman Ernest Borlaug was born March 25, 1914, on a farm near Cresco, Iowa, in a portion of the state called "little Norway" because so many of its residents were immigrants from that country. His education began in a one-room schoolhouse.
After graduating from high school in the depths of the depression, he worked for 50 cents a day as a hired farm hand to earn enough money to enroll at the University of Minnesota. He put himself through school working in a coffee shop, parking cars, and serving meals in a sorority house. In summer, he worked for the U.S. Forestry Service.
He had planned to join the Forest Service upon receiving his degree in forestry in 1937, but shortly before he received a letter from his supervisor saying a shortage of funds precluded him starting for at least six months.
Coincidentally, he attended a lecture on wheat rust by plant pathologist Elvin Charles Stakman and was so impressed that he enrolled in the graduate program to work with Stakman, receiving his doctorate in plant pathology from Minnesota in 1942.
Along with his wife, the former Margaret G. Gibson, Borlaug is survived by daughter Jeanie Borlaug Laube; son William Gibson Borlaug; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
The family asked that instead of flowers, donations be sent to the Borlaug International Scholars Fund. Plans for a memorial service at Texas A&m were pending.
Farewell to Norman Borlaug: World loses its leading hunger fighter
CIMMYT joins with members of the international development community to mourn the passing of Nobel Peace Laureate and renowned wheat scientist, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, who died Saturday night at the age of 95 from complications from cancer, after an exemplary life dedicated to fighting hunger in developing countries.
Dr. Borlaug worked as a CIMMYT wheat breeder and research director for nearly four decades and was a CIMMYT scientist at the time he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
High-yielding wheat varieties and improved farming practices, first developed by Borlaug and his team in Mexico during the 1950s, were introduced into South Asia in the 1960s and may well be responsible for saving hundreds of millions of people from starvation. Known as the Green Revolution, Borlaug's work gave rise to science-based agriculture in developing countries. Today, high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties based on Dr. Borlaug's pioneering work are grown on 80 million hectares (200 million acres) throughout the world.
Borlaug received the 1970 Nobel Prize for those achievements, and his success led to the establishment of a network of 15 international agricultural research centers, including CIMMYT.
Borlaug's full-time employment at CIMMYT ended in 1979, although he remained a resident part-time consultant until his death. In 1984, he began a new career as a university professor, teaching one semester a year at Texas A&m University, which continued for 23 years. In 1986, he joined forces with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Nippon Foundation of Japan, under the chairmanship of Ryoichi Sasakawa, to develop an African agricultural initiative.
Borlaug was especially proud of his role in establishing the World Food Prize in 1986. This prize has grown in stature and is now considered the "Nobel Prize" for food and agriculture. Some 25 men and women have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to increasing the quantity, quality and availability of world food supplies. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, the World Food Prize Foundation has also developed outstanding educational programs to engage young people in world food issues.
Dr. Borlaug always considered himself to be a teacher, as well as a scientist. Today, several thousand men and women agricultural scientists from more than 50 countries are proud to say they were Norman Borlaug's "students."
Borlaug used his fame and influence to champion the cause of smallholder agricultural development around the globe. Over a 63-year career, he traveled tirelessly to more than 100 nations, visiting farmers and agricultural scientists in their fields. It is estimated that over his lifetime he personally spoke to more than 500,000 students and ordinary citizens, explaining the challenges and complexities of world food production.
Borlaug was voted a member of the academies of agricultural science of 11 nations, received 60 honorary doctorate degrees from those countries, and was honored by farmer and civic associations in 28 countries.
Of all the places that he visited, his beloved home was Mexico, and in particular, the irrigated Yaqui Valley in the state of Sonora, in northwest Mexico. "This is where I truly feel at home, and where I am at peace," he would often say. The feeling was reciprocal. In Ciudad Obregón, in the heart of the Yaqui Valley, one of main streets is named after Borlaug, and hundreds have known him since they were born.
Although probably better known outside the United States-in Mexico, India, Pakistan, China and Latin America, Borlaug's work has also been widely recognized in the USA. At the federal level, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science and the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award.
CIMMYT was also home to Dr. Borlaug, who was known as a simple and charismatic figure, who spoke Spanish fluently and truly cared about people, greeting and chatting with researchers and field workers alike. His dedicated pragmatism and vision of applying science to benefit the poor live on as core values of CIMMYT and several other institutions with which he was closely associated.
Norm, as he liked be called, lived his life as a dedicated hunger-fighter, but one who was forever vigilant. As he said in his acceptance speech of the 1970 Nobel Prize: "--It is true that the tide of the battle against hunger has changed for the better--but ebb tide could soon set in, if we become complacent"
We can think of no greater tribute to Norm than to carry on the work to which he dedicated his life: applying agricultural science for humanitarian benefits. Thus, he lives on in our hearts and, through our efforts, the work he began will also live on.
"Today we stand bereft of Borlaug's physical presence, but not of his spirit or ideals," says Thomas A. Lumpkin, CIMMYT Director General. "Norm once said: 'I personally cannot live comfortably in the midst of abject hunger and poverty and human misery.' Millions of small-scale farmers in developing countries today still practice low-input, subsistence agriculture, condemning them and their families to lives of poverty. They typically spend at least 70% of their income on food, and most are at risk of being malnourished. The world cannot be at peace until these people are helped to feed themselves and escape poverty."
The CIMMYT family extends its condolences to the Borlaug family, who live in Texas, California and Iowa. He is survived by his son Bill, his daughter Norma Jean, five grandchildren, and several great grandchildren.
Thomas A. Lumpkin
Chair, Board of Trustees
Listen to Borlaug rap at
The Norman Borlaug Rap (Thank You, Norman)
I don't know what you been told
about farming and food in days of old,
but listen and take this to the bank:
If there's food in your tummy then you'd better thank
Norman Borlaug, thank you, man
Straight out of Iowa Norman came,
then traveled the world, saw suffering and pain.
Millions of people were starving, yo
in Pakistan, India, Mexico.
But just a few years after Norman came,
they all had bumper crops of grain.
Norman found the great solution,
known as the Green Revolution.
Billions of people are alive today
because of work done by the man named
Norman Borlaug, you may be
the greatest man in history.
Using science and your brain
to stamp out hunger, woe and pain.
Creating new varieties
of plants with new technologies.
You're the man we look up to.
That is why we're thanking you.
But then some people started to panic,
telling the farmers to go organic.
Technophobes started making a mess
of Norman Borlaug's great success.
Green groups thought they found the cure
in stinky piles of cow manure,
telling their governments not to send
fertilizer aid to our African friends.
So Norman came back to defend
high-yield agriculture with his friend,
Jimmy Carter, ex-president,
to help all the African residents.
Norman and Jimmy hopped in a plane
to help the Africans grow more grain.
Soon the men were able to triple
corn yields that the Greens had crippled.
Feeding the planet is his game
and yet he does not have much fame.
Got the highest scientific acclaim,
and now you better know his name is
And he's still working in the fields,
helping the farmers increase their yields.
With fertilizer, water and better plant breeding
he's making sure that farmers are feeding
children and their families
with corn and rice, cassava and peas.
The man has saved so many lives.
That's why they gave the Nobel Prize to
If you don't know, You better ask somebody
Father of the Green Revolution
Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity