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Thu Sep 12, 2019, 10:24 AM

Died, ten years ago today, September 12, 2009: Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug



Norman Borlaug, in 2004.

Born: Norman Ernest Borlaug, March 25, 1914; Cresco, Iowa, United States
Died: September 12, 2009 (aged 95); Dallas, Texas, United States

Norman Ernest Borlaug (/ˈbɔːrlɔːɡ/; March 25, 1914 September 12, 2009) was an American agronomist who led initiatives worldwide that contributed to the extensive increases in agricultural production termed the Green Revolution. Borlaug was awarded multiple honors for his work, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Borlaug received his B.S. in forestry in 1937 and Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties. During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations.

Borlaug was often called "the father of the Green Revolution", and is credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation. According to Jan Douglas, executive assistant to the president of the World Food Prize Foundation, the source of this number is Gregg Easterbrook's 1997 article "Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity." The article states that the "form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths." He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

Later in his life, he helped apply these methods of increasing food production in Asia and Africa.

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Reply Died, ten years ago today, September 12, 2009: Norman Borlaug (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Sep 12 OP
dawg day Sep 12 #1
harumph Sep 12 #2
Act_of_Reparation Sep 12 #4
Ilsa Sep 12 #3
Celerity Sep 12 #5
SharonClark Sep 12 #6
Celerity Sep 12 #7
SharonClark Sep 12 #8
mahatmakanejeeves Sep 12 #9

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 10:37 AM

1. The man who saved a billion lives...

What a legacy... and in a week when the administration is scorning science, this man should be our avatar.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 11:26 AM

2. So, how much of current overpopulation can we chalk up to Norman's

use of pesticide and herbicide dependent varieties? Two billion? Frankly, the world would be
much better off with less people. Sorry if that makes me an asshole in your eyes. You know sometimes,
instead of too many mouths to feed - it's best to have family planning - contraception - and
a living wage - and modernization - so people don't fucking have too many kids. Would you
be excited if I came up with a way to make cellulose human digestible - so we could add another 3 or 4 billion
to the planet? Norman was hardworking and very very clever. That's it. He was looking at an immediate problem and
solved it without considering possible sequelae. The hagiography is too much. The only people I know that
revere this guy are (1) people that don't think about the ramifications of population overshoot and (2) naive
agronomists - who now see GMO as an answer to everything - like the folks that have run Texas A&M for years.
What Norman did is introduce high efficiency at one point in a system that lacked compensatory mechanisms.
The equivalent of a toxic algae bloom caused by agricultural runoff. Is it so hard to see how fucked up this is???

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Response to harumph (Reply #2)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 11:38 AM

4. Saying we need to work to reduce the future population is not an asshole thing to say.

Saying billions of people need to die of starvation is.

You can have GMO's and family planning. It wasn't Norman's job to do both.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 11:34 AM

3. He was a professor emeritus at Texas Agricultural & Mechanical

University (Texas A&M) for years, leading research there as well.

I can remember Bill Clinton invoking his name during an interview with Letterman, IIRC, years ago. Clinton knew everyone important like Borlaug.

We need Borlaug now, more than ever.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 11:48 AM

5. definitely a mixed legacy

Norman Borlaug: humanitarian hero or menace to society?

The work of the agricultural scientist who helped launch the 'green revolution' continues to divide opinion long after his death

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/apr/01/norman-borlaug-humanitarian-hero-menace-society

snip

The US agricultural science establishment, chemical and agribusiness industries love him, if only because he helped their industries grow massively around the world on the back of patented seeds and herbicides. But 60 years ago was another age. In those days, Borlaug's work was widely regarded by governments rich and poor alike as admirable, progressive, beneficial and even revolutionary. The green revolution offered the prospect that postwar hunger could be averted, people could move out of poverty and that rural societies just like new wheat varieties could grow strong and thrive on giant fields of high-yielding crops.

As we know, that never happened and by the 1980s doubts were being aired. According to the critics, the green revolution varieties undoubtedly had averted food shortages temporarily, but, said his obituarist Christopher Reed, they had not averted poverty. In fact, they might have added to it. "Few people at the time considered the profound social and ecological changes that the revolution heralded among peasant farmers. The long-term cost of depending on Borlaug's new varieties, said eminent critics such as ecologist Vandana Shiva in India, was reduced soil fertility, reduced genetic diversity, soil erosion and increased vulnerability to pests.

Not only did Borlaug's 'high-yielding' seeds demand expensive fertilisers, they also needed more water. Both were in short supply, and the revolution in plant breeding was said to have led to rural impoverishment, increased debt, social inequality and the displacement of vast numbers of peasant farmers," he wrote. The political journalist Alexander Cockburn was even less complimentary: "Aside from Kissinger, probably the biggest killer of all to have got the peace prize was Norman Borlaug, whose 'green revolution' wheat strains led to the death of peasants by the million."

The jury on Borlaug is still out. The US government and the mighty farm establishment, which have been milking Borlaug's anniversary last week, have grown rich on the green revolution. They argue that his legacy is GM crops, the triumph of US technology, and the promise of even greater yields. Meanwhile, Borlaug's critics argue equally strongly that the long-term profits of his work have been reaped mainly by large companies at the expense of small farmers. There may never be agreement between the two camps.

snip

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Response to Celerity (Reply #5)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 12:51 PM

6. I hear Jesus has a mixed legacy as well,

what with all those hateful rightwingers claiming him as their own.


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Response to SharonClark (Reply #6)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 01:16 PM

7. I am an atheist so Jesus means nothing to me other than yet another weaponised 'god' nt

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 01:20 PM

8. You are all invited to the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates building

The most beautiful and meaningful building in Des Moines.

"The World Food Prize is an international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. Since 1987, the prize has been awarded annually to recognize contributions in any field involved in the world food supply: food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership, and the social sciences."

Despite connections to Monsanto and now Corteva, I would suggest we not always throw the baby out with the bathwater. Food security is taken seriously in Iowa and Iowans are proud to do their part to help feed the world.

For eample, this week I'll volunteer at Meals from to the Heartland to prepare food packages for the victims of Dorian. Since 2008, Meals from the Heartland has provided over 130 million meals to the hungry in Iowa and around the world. MftH was started by a church with the mission "Isaiah 58:10 : Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.

I'm an atheist but think a church wanting to feed the world is an honorable mission.

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Response to SharonClark (Reply #8)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 01:29 PM

9. I like this post. NT

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