Junkfood Science: The man who fed the world

September 12, 2009

The man who fed the world

You can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery. — Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug (1914-2009)

One man is credited with saving more lives than any other person in world history. Born to Norwegian migrant parents in his grandparent’s Iowa farmhouse, Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug grew up during the Great Depression and the hunger he witnessed had a profound effect on him.

He devoted his life to ending the human misery of famine in destitute third world countries, often living and working in harsh, squalid conditions in remote regions of Mexico to Africa. He also understood that large numbers of miserable, hungry people contributes to world instability. He didn’t seek fame and fortune for himself, and few people outside of the scientific field have even heard of him.

Through his pioneering scientific work in plant pathology, developing fungus and disease-resistant crops, drought-resistant farming methods, and increasing crop yields, he saved an estimated one billion people from starvation. As the father of the Green Revolution, through this work, world food production doubled between 1960 and 1990, and quadrupled in India and Pakistan. He continued his work on world hunger well into his 90s and won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Dr. Borlaug died tonight at the age of 95. He embodied kindness, compassion, and a conviction to save the lives of fellow human beings, regardless of their race, creed and religion. No other man in human history can compare to his legacy of service to mankind.

“He made the world a better place,” said close friend Dr. Ed Runge, retired head of Texas A&M University's Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. "A much better place."

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