Accessibility links

Breaking News

Leader of 'Green Revolution' Still Wages War on World Hunger

He is often described as the man who has saved more lives than any other person ever born. Norman Borlaug is remembered around the world as the major figure in the so-called "Green Revolution" that increased crop yields and ended hunger in many nations. While not well-known to the general public, the Iowa farm boy turned Nobel peace laureate continues to be a revered figure among agricultural researchers. In Dallas, Texas, VOA's Greg Flakus files another in our weekly series, Making a Difference.

In the middle of the 20th century, world population was expanding faster than food production and some economists said famine was inevitable in many developing countries.

But Norman Borlaug, an agricultural researcher at a Rockefeller Foundation project in Mexico developed methods of raising wheat that tripled yields.

He later repeated his success in India, Pakistan and Africa.

At 94-years-old, Borlaug remains feisty when recalling the fight to get bureaucrats and academics to accept his ideas. "Everybody was challenging and saying that this guy Borlaug was nuts and dangerous," he said.

But Borlaug's scientific approach to farming allowed millions of people to live who would have otherwise starved.

Although cancer has slowed him some, Borlaug often engages in lively conversations with his granddaughter, Julie Borlaug. She works at the institute named for him at Texas A & M University.

"We talk a lot about agriculture issues," Julie said. "We will talk politics. We will have a different conversation about ethanol or fertilizer prices and that is just a daily conversation with my grandfather."

Norman Borlaug is one of the few people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Mike McWhorter supervises the Institute's training projects and works closely with Borlaug.

"Even at 94 years of age, he is always challenging us to think about the needs of people around the world," McWhorter said.

Norman Borlaug's latest concern is a new disease in wheat, called UG-99.

"This is a new strain of stem rust organism that has the power to destroy most of the wheat varieties being grown around the world," Borlaug said.

He argues that cutbacks in agricultural programs have made it harder to respond to such threats.

Julie says her grandfather's worry over such problems rises from a heartfelt conviction that hunger is unacceptable. "He still believes it is our responsibility as humans to feed one another," she said.