Nobel Prize Winner Norman Borlaug Dies at 95

Norman E. Borlaug, an American plant pathologist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for starting the "Green Revolution" that dramatically increased food production in the developing nations, died Saturday at his home in Dallas. He was 95.

"More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world," the Nobel committee said in honoring him. "Dr. Borlaug has introduced a dynamic factor into our assessment of the future and its potential."

A Texas A&M spokeswoman told the Associated Press Sunday that Bourlag, a distinguished professor there, died just before 11 p.m. Saturday from complications of cancer.

Borlaug's career was defined on the one hand by the ability of science to increase food production at an exponential rate and on the other by the Malthusian nightmare of an exploding population outstripping its ability to feed itself.

His pursuit of these matters took him from the farm where he grew up in Iowa to the primitively cultivated wheat fields of Mexico in the 1940s, the rice paddies of Asia in the 1960s and 1970s and to the savannas of Africa in the 1980s.

In his lecture accepting the Nobel Prize, he described an adequate supply of food as "the first component of social justice . . . for all mankind. If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread. Otherwise there will be no peace."

Beyond food, he continued, a "decent and humane life" requires "an opportunity for good education, remunerative employment, comfortable housing, good clothing and effective and compassionate medical care."

He warned that the world could wind up with too many mouths to feed, and he offered only guarded hope that "since man is potentially a rational being. . . he will recognize the self-destructive course he steers along the road of irresponsible population growth and will adjust the growth rate to levels which will permit a decent standard of living for all mankind."

Throughout his career, Borlaug emphasized the importance of political stability, financial support, modern equipment, transportation and the ability to continue research on new strains of crops. A favorite target was "explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy" committed to short-sighted policies such as subsidizing food supplies for restless urban populations at the expense of farmers in the countryside.

From the 1970s until his death, Borlaug increasingly took the politically incorrect view that environmentalists were hampering world food production by indiscriminately attacking the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

"Science and technology are under growing attack by noisy, extremist environmentalists, mainly from the affluent nations," he said in a typically outspoken speech in New Orleans in 1993. "They claim that the consumer is being poisoned out of existence by the current high-yielding systems of agricultural production and recommend we revert back to lower-yielding, so-called 'sustainable' technologies."

Unfortunately, he said, it is not possible to turn the clock back to the 1930s, when the population of the world was 2.2 billion. It was estimated at 5.6 billion in 1995 and was projected to rise to 8.3 billion by 2025.


Post a Comment