Norman Borlaug, Plant Scientist Who Fought Famine, Dies at 95

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Borlaug developed high-yielding crop varieties that helped to avert famines worldwide.

Comments: 55

  1. every school kid born and raised in india in the last 40 years has probably read about the 'green revolution' and the big increases in food production in india during the '60s,and is familiar with nobel laureate norman bourlaug's contribution. the big growth in agricultural productivity in india and other countries during the 60s, and bourlaug's effort surely ranks among the greatest human achievements of all time. borlaug received little attention from an smerica that idolizes politicians, rock stars, hollywood heroes,tv stars and athletes.

    progress has been made toward making the developing world self-sufficient in food production. but there is still a long way to go. agricultural productivity still lags in less affluent countries because of insufficient government investment,corruption,and lack of resources and infrastructure.drought conditions still cause farmer suicides, poverty and indebtedness among poor farmers. climate change poses a big threat be poor countries because the do not have the resorces to cope wit it.

  2. If someone ever deserved the label "superhero," it was Norman Borlaug.

  3. It's good to see food security being worked upon.
    But he was wrong about the "..population monster.."
    Population is way, way down all over the world.
    Thanks to the Rockefellers & other 'elitests',
    there is more food than people! But you would never
    know it from the prophets of doom well greased w/
    endowment funds from these racial/mental hygienists.
    Question; if we're not supposed to work for the human person,
    just who in blazes do we? Are we our brothers' keepers or not?
    Metaphysics is a responsible action.
    It makes or breaks us before thoughts come to the fore materially!

  4. Although many people consider the Green Revolution a great gift to humankind it has only served to maximize the human overpopulation in the same way Alan Greenspan's effectively-negative interest rates massively overinflated the real estate bubble. The collapse of the real estate bubble seemed impossible for many years and was perpetually denied by economists as a real threat to the economy. Yet the bubble did collapse and it very nearly led to the collapse of the entire banking system.

    In the same way, yet more horrifically, the collapse of the human population bubble will occur. Instead of taking down the global economy the collapse of the human population bubble will bring an eternal end to technological civilization and humankind's dominance over the planet.

    As the human population has skyrocketed humankind has consumed the Earth's resources very much like a rocket consumes fuel. Needless to say, consuming resources at this rate leads to the exhaustion of a planet's resources. Humankind is running out of time as the resources become depleted and the planet exhausted.

    As the human population has skyrocketed the ecological damage has attained truly horrific scale. Humans have trashed the only living planet in the Universe, destroyed entire ecosystems, driving numerous species extinction and provoked radical climate change. Climate change relates to humankind's future as the asteroid related to the dinosaur's future.

    Humankind has made many mistakes in the past and our species is accelerating along its own self-destructive path. The human population bubble will collapse in the 21st century. America will collapse in the 21st century. Technological civilization will end forever in the 21st century.

    Humankind's future is bleak by humankind's own actions. Shed a tear for humankind and move on because a lost cause must always remain a lost cause.

  5. Chapter 10, Profile of Development

    (i) An Uneasy Inheritance

    'The phrase "developing country" has nothing to do with levels of culture or history or contribution to mankind's heritage of civilization. In the main it simply means a country which has not yet crossed the threshold to become a modern, highly technological society, with all the advantages and evils this passage entails. The category includes countries of immensely old and sophisticated civilizations such as India and China - which between them, make up a third of the human race - long established literate and urban oriented societies in Latin America and some of the most ancient and continuous of all the world's political units - Egypt, for instance, or Iran.'

    Only One Earth, The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos, 1972.


  6. Dr. Borlaug job deserves more acclaim than any humanly accomplishments. However, it is time to divert our attention to develop alternative ways to tackle the world hunger problem. One way would be bringing more land under cultivation of cereal crops by developing the idle land in a sustainable and environment-friendly way with the money spent on the war between countries.

  7. STATEMENT BY WORLD FOOD POGRAMME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JOSETTE SHEERAN: "Norman E. Borlaug saved more lives than any man in human history. His total devotion to ending famine and hunger revolutionized food security for millions of people and for many nations. His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world. We thank him for being our great champion in the battle against hunger."

  8. What a life of accomplishment! How many others can be credited for saving hundreds of millions of lives?

  9. Although fewer people starved to death in the short run, ultimately Borlaug's "green revolution" was anything but "green" since it was unsustainable and, therefore, solved nothing.

    Instead Borlaug's main accomplishments were to enrich the petrochemical companies, which even today have directed our politicians to embrace a war-based economy and whose pollution is altering our hormonal systems our detriment even as we speak (see recent NYT articles on the effects of Atrazine).

  10. Did the Green Revolution simply "avert famines worldwide"? There's a substantial body of well-documented work that shows the introduction of Green Revolution seeds and technology (can't forget the pesticides and fertilizers that are central to the process...) into sub-Saharan Africa produced massive social dislocations and environmental degradations that led directly to the great famines of the 1970s and 1980s. The Green Revolution in fact was based on a false premise, that world hunger was due to shortages of food production. In fact, it is a problem of in adequate distribution, in particular because of inequitable distributions of wealth.

  11. The good Doctor was certainly a miracle worker in his abilities to develop higher yielding crops which fed more of the world's malnourished. But what next? Those extra mouths that survived into adulthood now have children. So, two more survivors may now have six or more children of their own. Also at greater risk of not having sufficient food, water, living space, etc. And those children have more. Where does it end but in the destruction of civilization. We no longer have enough water, the list goes on and on. POPULATION GROWTH MUST BE CONTAINED/CONTROLLED if we're (humamanity) to have a chance.

  12. Deserved more prominent coverage.

  13. Dr. Borlaug was a true hero to humanity. Few have earned that title.

    The big unanswered question: why did the green revolution bypass Africa?

  14. The Humanity loses one of its best genetics father.He is like the DaVinci plant breeders.God bless him.

  15. Regrettably, it is likely that at some time in the future the work of the so-called "Green Revolution", and the work of the genetic manipulators at places like Monsanto, will be clearly seen to be some of mankind's most egregious errors.

    The "side effects" or "collateral damage" of these approaches most regrettably could be much worse than the original problems they were invented to address.


    Those who are saving heirloom varieties of plants and who are finding new ways to implement mankind's traditional and ecologically sustainable farming methods are the ones who in the future will be remembered and honored by a grateful humanity.

  16. The one time I met Dr. Borlaug, I made a complete fool of myself. We'll pass over how.

    He was very gracious about it. There was nothing in the least pretentious about the man. But it was awe-ful to be in the same room with him. A large part of that was his complete accessibility. He would listen to you- no matter who you were. Which is the mark of a true scholar.

    As an ecologist, I'm quite aware of the shortcomings of the Green Revolution.

    He was, too. And it hurt him to have to cope with the sometimes sharp and unfeeling criticisms.

    His motivation was simple. And pure. When people are hungry- you feed them. Gandhi had the same thought.

    He fed them. Yes, it wasn't perfect, and he knew it. He bought us time; only that, and he knew it. In part, he figured he'd done his part- and now it was up to someone else to take the next steps.

    That would be you. And me.

    We miss you already. And will for a long time to come.

  17. This man was a giant, who saved tens of millions with his development of yielding crops.

    Yet few Americans know of him, but the millions who he saved do .

    A great lIfe well spend , thank you Norman.

  18. What an amazing man. My industrialist Unc started an institute to improve food production. It's the least he could do for a species he specialized in robbing. Within twenty five years, his institute found a way to help farmers who's crops were dying from exposure to floride gas from his buddy Mellon's aluminum plants. Make the plants resistant to the poison! Yum, yum! Everybody eat up!

    Unc saw starving people as an obstacle to his industry's success. Yoking folks to do his work was his life's work. Thankfully, good came from his misguided intentions, just as this man's good intentions have had some bad outcomes. But this man gets credit for his work. It was Unc's work to offer the starving man credit.

  19. An incredible life and contribution to humanity and a well written obituary with the exception of the ommision that Dr Borlaug was the patron saint of CIMMYT (the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) which has made and continues to make significant contributions to wheat and maize technologies, specifically for developing world farmers, including working on the latest rust threat in East Africa. Dr. Borlaug worked there for more than 30 years and generated a cadre of international scientists to continue in his footsteps. This deserves at least a footnote, certainly more, in this reflective piece on the man.

  20. As a biology student, I got to read about Dr. Borlaug in college. It didn't occur to me at the time that I and the rest of us 100,000 folks would have very well starved during those long years in the refugee camps when all we had to rely was the WFP wheat, corn, and similar supplies! Thank you Dr. Borlaug. RIP.

  21. Did the Green Revolution help or hurt on balance? I'm not qualified to answer, but I can recognize that Mr. Borlaug, unlike almost everyone else, was interested in trying to solve the problem instead of spouting useless anti-corporate, anti-establishment rhetoric. He spent a great deal of his life actually out in the scorching fields with the workers.

    Before Mr. Borlaug began working the problem, there was insufficient food in many parts of the world. Doing nothing would have meant the certain deaths of hundreds of millions of people. That would have been a morally reprehensible outcome. Mass starvation is not acceptable. Ever. His exceptionally hard work and genius prevented that outcome. For this alone he ranks as one of the finest examples of humanity of all time.

    The food-population problem has two sides. It may be true that additional curbs on population should have been enacted, but that was not Mr. Borlaug's fault. He picked a side of the problem to work and he did it well. Starvation in the world today, especially Africa, has much more to do with civil war and corrupt local governments than with any shortcomings of the science Mr. Borlaug advanced by leaps.

    More food is just one of several pieces needed to build a better world. Thanks to Mr. Borlaug we have at least one part of the puzzle. As he used to say, we can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.

  22. Hats off to this great hero who helped save millions of people from starvation. India was said to have lived from "Ship to mouth" because of its reliance on the foreign imports. After green revolution it has successfully fed its teeming masses. I feel outraged by some posters which suggest that increase in food production led to population explosion. Going by their logic poor people have no right to live. What will happen if your family is starved to keep world population down? Have we people become so insensitive to suggest this?

  23. Borlaug is a bona fide hero with no narrative of hardship or risk or loss. He was a man who did his job. What blockbuster movies will be made of his life? What tearjerker bestsellers will be written? Sometimes the people who do their jobs and can not only work in the field, but also can push paper with the best of them are the heroes. And saving lives "in the large" may not feel as good as one-on-one hands-on work but it is obviously effective. Pragmatic, well-thought-out plans, hard work, being an expert at your job, studying hard, and a bit of luck make heroes in my book. Like D A Henderson and Captain Sullenberger, I intend to hold Borlaug up to the next generation as a man to emulate.

  24. It's pretty fascinating to read some of the commentary. Are the same people who criticize Dr. Borlaug's work the people in support of the various wars around the world as a means of population control? If working for the sustenance of humans rather than their mutual destruction is such a dishonorable pursuit, we're surely doomed as a race.

  25. I am proud that I grew up as a schoolgirl in India knowing who Borlaug was. No, his name did not appear in my grievously irrelevant postcolonial high school curriculum, but in newspapers I read avidly even then. Borlaug richly deserved his renown. I salute Borlaug.

    I quote from your article to make 2 related points and assert that both Borlaug and his critics were wrong about the unprecedented Green Revolution ignited throughout the Global South, by him. Your article states:

    "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."

    Point #1:
    The self-styled "social and environmental critics" were part of the problem. They represented the political class that, at least in India, cynically overturned many of the potential benefits of the Green Revolution,by preventing farmers from leading the GR, instead exploiting these innovative farmers, through middlemen who brokered speculation in grain prices and stockpiling grain instead of feeding the starving. So, blame the pols. and their client middlemen. These pols and middlemen are still causing farmer suicides in many parts of India. Go figure.

    Point #2

    Borlaug was a plant geneticist, he was neither a politician nor a political sociologist. Borlaug mistakenly blamed accelerated population growth for the limited success of the Green Revolution. He blamed WE the People, the ordinary beneficiaries of his extraordinary accomplishment. I ate better because of Borlaug.

    Every study conducted in former colonized nation-states,, shows that accelerated population growth is mainly the INTERIM (note interim) result of social justice indicators -- access to food, water and shelter, better healthcare, ergo freedom from famine.
    If these social goods CONTINUE and become PERMANENT, the population growth will go DOWN, not up. Ordinary people are rational maximizers. If their food supply is assured and their social wellbeing is assured, they will have fewer children not more. This is true from Sweden to Singapore. Social Justice impedes runaway population growth. Hunger (which is a core component of social INjustice) accelerates population growth. So, Borlaug was mistaken to blame a faster population growth before and during the GR. Social Justice redistributive policies did NOT accompany the GR, hence populations (especially birth rates) continued to increase.

    Don't Blame Borlaug & His Green Revolution.

    Chithra KarunaKaran
    Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

  26. It's remarkable that some comments (e.g. # 11) link the Green Revolution to population explosion. It may be faulted for other things, but in terms of population, the opposite is true; those who prospered from the Green Revolution have had fewer children than their counterparts dependent on rainfed subsistence agriculture. Besides, the poor have the many children that they have for survival - they have no capital so they try to maximize their labor. There are studies that have shown for example that, in rural Ethiopia, families that have 4-6 children have better nutritional status than those with smaller or larger numbers than these. So if we want real population control, let's help these countries prosper.

    It's also interesting that population is nearly always the only culprit pointed to as the threat to resources, even though those in the west consume many times more of the earth's resources than the poor do. So the mantra could perhaps shift to controlling the profligate consumption of the developed world to save humanity and the earth. At least it should have equal billing.

    The Green Revolution has been successful in Asia, but it relies on a western model of high input agriculture. Dr. Swaminathan, "father of the Green Revolution in India" and a colleague of Dr. Borlaug, currently promotes an "ever-green revolution" - one that increases agricultural productivity but is ecologically friendly.

    Dr. Borlaug is to be thanked for his great contribution to food security in Asia. We would do well to build on it.

  27. Borlaug was an extremely intelligent and good-hearted man who deserved every accolade he received. That said, the green revolution has not only helped feed impoverished people, it has allowed a human population boom that appears to be following the classic steep curve--normally followed by a cliff-like falloff--that occurs when any animal population gets unprecedented access to some resource or food that gives it an advantage it didn't previously have. In this case, it's oil, which was the source material for almost every aspect of Borlaug's "revolution." Unless we as a species somehow replace the sources of materials that allowed the original revolution, we will experience the same steep fall-off that other populations of animals experience under similar circumstances. If it occurs, there will be great pain and moaning and gnashing of teeth...but it will be the inexorable outcome of the original "green revolution."

  28. What a remarkable life, thank you for telling us about his childhood and how he turned away from DuPont to helping Mexican farmers. In college anthropology courses 20 years ago, our course readings were about how the Green Revolution just helped the petrochemical agribusinesses, to the detriment of clean water and wildlife. However, problems from overpopulation and corporate drive for profits can't be heaped on Mr. Borlaug. He truly cared about people. That one man could do so much for so many is nothing less than astonishing.

  29. #11 - So you are saying that we should let young people starve to death?

  30. I saw the results of this green revolution first hand in India in 1960's when the wheat production indeed quadruple in 2 years and then again due to increased irrigation.

    To include a comment of his "critic" is unsavory. What did this "critic" every do for the hungry?

    Can't we honor a good man as he departs with deserved respect.

  31. I realize that is this is going to sound corny, but it's the god's honest truth...I know who Norman Borlaug is because of a TV show. On "The West Wing" they used Dr. Borlaug's discovery of dwarf wheat as an example of miraculous thought and a leap forward that could be hoped for other world problems, such as a cure for AIDS. So when I saw this headline on Dr. Borlaug's death, I knew who he was and what his great contribution was all thanks to a TV show.

  32. Proof once again that human ingenuity, smarts and elbow grease can overcome "natural" obstacles. By the way, this man is the anti-Hitler, the anti-Stalin, the anti-Mao. While those tyrants killed hundreds of millions of people, Borlaug did the opposite and allowed humanity to flower and flourish. What an amazing and underappreciated man.

  33. Norman Borlaug is one of the world's great heros. I loved the man. I still remember pictures of him with his shock of white hair, standing in a green field holding ears of corn in his hands.
    Those who criticize him are mistaken or misguided. He saved millions of people across generations, from death by starvation. That the major chemical companies ((regrettably mostly American companies)) seized on his ideas and oversold some of his concepts with massive marketing campaigns is no fault of his. Governments in developing countries and even here in North America did not have the insight to interdict overuse of chemical fertilizers. The blame game in this regard is absurd. We mortals are not Gods of wisdom, nor Prophets blessed with infallible foresight. So not one iota of blame can be put on Dr. Borlaug. To do so is totally absurd. One might as well, for example, blame Karl Benz of my German hometown Mannheim, inventor of the automobile (patented in 1886,) for today's car accidents and deaths!
    Dr. Borlaug's name will redound through history for centuries to come, while those who criticize and carp will be forgotten.
    As for those who blame him for overpopulation, they remind me of Kissinger's "Lifeboat" theory on developing countries. Throw those without prospects overboard. Do not waste resources helping them.
    If the world is overpopulated, it is not by villagers living simple lives in tropical countries, but by the rapacious over-consumers of everything grown from earth or made by man and robots, living in the rich countries of the world without restraint or conscience or self-discipline.

    Rockcliffe Park, Canada
    Mannheim, Germany
    Strasbourg, France.

  34. It is always refreshing to read about someone whose accomplishments are exceeded only by their humility, a quality that is far too rare in today's society. One minor disappointment with the article - as Dr. Borlaug himself noted, it was far from a one man effort that led to his results. The semi dwarf seeds that Dr. Borlaug used to begin his seminal work were sent to him by Dr. Orville Vogel, a wheat researcher in Washington State.

  35. What a huge loss for the world today.

    As a student of Dr. Borlaug's at Texas A&M University in College Station, I had the privilege of attending his lectures about plant breeding and Biotechnology. At that time, his was working six months at A&M and six months away in places such as Africa and Mexico, among many others. It is worth noting that the man was 89 years old at the time, and I remember him saying to his students that he would not rest until Sub-Saharan Africa had enough to eat.

    I hope that his life and achievements are taken as a clear example of how we all can impact the world in a positive way. We all get so carried away with the negative events we find on a daily basis and fail to see the things that truly matter. In these troubled times, we need to find, acknowledge, and take care of people like Dr. Borlaug, who had the gargantuan dream of ending world hunger, and although much is still needed to reach that dream, he came VERY close to achieving it. I do not know of any single person in world history who has contributed so much to humankind, and is yet so unknown by almost everyone.

    Finally, I will end my comment with one his quotes: "We need better and more technology, for hunger and poverty and misery are very fertile soils into which to plant all kinds of 'isms,' including terrorism,''.

    I believe it is time for people to take this message and force their leaders to listen to it, instead of allowing them to invest billions in weapons and privileges for the rich.

  36. I do not know how the world can express its gratitude to Dr.Borlaug. He is a stand out in a world that produced great people like Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. May be he is a messenger of God to take care of the hungry in a world that do not care for the hungry. He has come and gone quietly by completing his task. In these days of health care debate, politicians and influence peddlers just take a minute and think about what Dr.Borlaug.

  37. Pam! That's how I heard of him too! I did some research later and found out a lot more, as I'm sure you did. But it was Bartlett that got me started! This man saved a billion lives! RIP.

  38. Oops ... Borlaug could not have traveled to Norway to accept the prize, as indicated in your article, because the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden.

  39. David, comment number 38, except the Peace Prize which is presented in Oslo.

  40. Consider: those who enable the global population explosion, such as Dr. Borlaug, are considered heroes (even though he acknowledged his accomplishment was more complicated, and that population growth had to be addressed), while those who attempt to restrain it, such as China and its one baby policy, are regarded as villains.

    The original agricultural "revolution" 10,000 years ago began a population explosion which continues today; the so-called green "revolution" concentrates it further, both also depleting the land unsustainably and the earth’s biodiversity, like a subprime mortgage waiting to pop. But even there, consider how Dr. Borlaug worked to produce public seeds, while today companies such as Monsanto have privatized seed production through gerrymandering patenting laws, and by going after independent farmers. Monsanto feeds seeds for maximized unsustainable profit: is it a hero?

    Here is an interesting chart on global population growth, showing the period in which high grain yields were introduced. It does not take into account factors such as reduced mortality due to medical technologies, but still gives an interesting view:

  41. I vividly remember reading in Time magazine about Borlaug and his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Borlaug's profound humility stands in great contrast to the enormous good he did for the world, and in my mind he was undoubtedly one of the most important individuals of the twentieth century. He will be sorely missed.

  42. Good man, great work. It's up to the rest of us to do our share. So far we haven't.

  43. This great man set an example for the world, which unfortunately is not being followed. Dr. Borlaug, for the good of mankind dreamed big dreams then acted on them. We dream big dreams, then capitalism, greed and geopolitics subvert them.

    Solar lanterns, thought of first for providing light sources for poor people without electricity ((actually and some would say, ironically, first thought of and manufactured by British Petroleum/BP). Now what we have are decorative night lights for gardens in rich countries, produced by the billions in China.

    When the idea of producing flowers, peppers, and other agricultural crops in greenhouses or shelters in poor countries suck as Kenys and Guatemala fir appeared on the scene, many, including myself, were overjoyed. Here was a chance to help poor farmers in poor countries help themselves out of poverty and into self sufficiency. But what emerged? The local farmers are working as underpaid peons for companies owned by European corporations and investors. Consigned forever into poverty while their hard work enrich already rich people, who actually congratulate themselves for the good they are doing in the "Third World.!!" The international financial institutions such as the IMF, various aid and development programmes such as Canada's CIDA and Japan's facilitate this unfairness. Any little fly-by-night Canadian mining company can get financing to open a mine in Mongolia or Congo or Zambia. But let a group of Africans try to do so!! Fergetaboutit! Now China is the latest and most rapacious member of this privileged club.

    So, where do we all go from here? What can we or I do now? The passing of this great citizen of the world should spur us to consider these questions.
    To quote another renown American, "It is easy to be noble. Just undertake a noble task."

  44. Bless this wonderful man for the many lives saved by him and his scientific associates.

    Here in China we are just now turning attention to the green revolution that the West is already experiencing.

    One need only look to the ground breaking work of vanguard green companies like China Clean Energy and China Kangtai Biotech to see that the dream of a better life is alive here in China.

    The growth associated with these companies speaks volumes concerning the commitment to eco-friendly development.

  45. Dr Borlaug's contributions saved millions of people in the third world, particularly in my birth country (India), from starvation. If we have anything to be thankful about what we have got from the West, it is this man's contributions.. God bless him.

  46. Argh! I cannot stand the emails criticizing Borlaug for introducing agricultural practices that they deem "unsustainable." What elitist hogwash. Let's call a spade a spade - in less developed countries, there are more important problems than pesticide residues. There are people to be fed, infectious diseases to be overcome, and food and water safety to assure. Until we have these things, let's leave trace environmental residues off the table.

    Borlaug did far more than save millions of lives. He improved the quality of life in many parts of the world, thanks to increasing food security. This matters just as much. He was a practical man, not wrapped up in self-glory, but in saving others and not worrying about political correctness (he was an unabashed supporter of public sector research and biotechnology). Hooray for this hero!

  47. The contrast between the press coverage of Borlaug's death and Michael Jackson's, while not surprising, remains a depressing indictment of our society and its values.

    Ave atque vale to one of the great exemplars of the virtues of altruism, efficacy and humility.

  48. You are a hero, Mr. Borlaug. Mr. Bourlaug is our role model of protecting the lives of others and our planet. Millions of people are thankful to his contributions and the will of saving others, he deserves it. Thank you, Mr. Borlaug.

  49. I think it is utterly unfair to blame the failures of others to adapt new solutions and answers to problems caused by his work. He was only one man and his work, though impressive, could only go so far. Here's the fact of the matter, when something direly needed to be done, he did it and he saved millions of lives as a result. Were there unexpected externalities? Of course there were, but 20/20 hindsight is everything and you cannot blame him for the failures of others to coherently implement sustainable solutions as time went on.

  50. I hope my native state of Iowa, proud to feed the world, does something beautiful to honor this native son, who also fed the world.

  51. borlaug was one of the greatest,if not the greatest, american and world scientists of all time. he deserves at least a new york times editorial.

    his passion for his area of interest, and the quality and output from his outstanding scientific research work placed him in the same league as albert einstein. the world confronted famine in 1960. never perhaps were so many lives in the world dependant on so few. borlaug led the world movement toward self-sufficiency in food production, producing a paradigm shift. he said in the '60s that india did not need to depend on the us for wheat imports, making him unpopular with the lyndon johnson government. his purpose in life-selflessly helping to feed and save starving, powerless and voiceless millions-placed him in the same league as mahatma gandhi and mother teresa for human service. if there was any reason for the world to view the US, with it's economic inequities and profit-motivated companies, as noble, borlaug gave the world that reason. no american could have deserved the nobel peace prize and america's congressional medal of honor more.

    but there are many causes for the world's current hunger and malnutrition problems. they will have to be systematically addressed to eradicate world famine.

    consider these facts in india alone which account for india's low farm productivity, though india claims it is ranked second in the world in farm output(and it may well be):
    two-thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people depend on rural employment,mainly agriculture for a living.
    India's large agricultural subsidies are hampering instead of enhancing farm productivity.
    Overregulation of agriculture by government has increased costs, price risks and uncertainty. India's Government intervenes in the country's labor, land, and credit markets.
    Allocation of water for agriculture is inefficient, unsustainable and inequitable. The farm irrigation infrastructure is deteriorating.Irrigation facilities are inadequate.only 52.6% of the land was irrigated in 2003–04, which result in farmers still being dependent on rainfall. A good monsoon results in a robust growth for the economy as a whole, while a poor monsoon leads to a sluggish growth.

    Illiteracy and general socio-economic backwardness are lowering farm productivity
    progress in implementing land reforms is slow
    finance and marketing services for farm produce are inefficient and inadequate
    The average size of a farm property is very small leading to fragmentation of farmland. this is due to laws that limit the size of a farm property, and in some cases, due to family disputes. Such small farm properties are often over-manned, resulting in underemployment, unemployment and low farmer productivity. small farm properties lead to high costs and unprofitability.
    Adoption of best current practices in farming, and use of cutting-edge farm technology is inadequate.

    sub-saharan africa is war torn which can only worsen the problems elsewhere.

  52. Norman Borlaug, happened to be a only a handful of those Americans - who we love to love. I am alive and writing this post just because Norman declined to join Du Pont and joined the Rockefeller project, and the rich success he reaped in Mexico and India. Many of us Indians, continue to roam the surface of this planet, because he did what he only was fit for doing. If his success led to ecological disaster, as is opined by some, including some elitist critics, who do not have to think about their next meal, it is our responsibility to set it right, not Norman's!

  53. An admirable life. Compassion can have unintended consequences. Morphine can lead to addiction, antibiotics to resistant bacteria. It was not Dr. Borlaug's intention to profit from, or bring profit to, the petrochemical industry. He earned his longevity.

  54. As a counter to the graph indicated by comment #40 - I suggest one between trends in crop yields in those countries/regions indicated and population growth. There would be an inverse relationship - The US and Western Europe have the highest crop yields and the least rates of population growth. That contradicts the argument that agricultural breakthroughs lead to population growth.