Celebrating the Life of Norman Borlaug, Founder of the "Green Movement"

By Ann Bouchoux   Date: 9/29/09

On September 12, at the age of 95, Norman Borlaug died, leaving the world a much better place than he found it.  Dr. Borlaug, a plant scientist, did "more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself," according to the New York Times article announcing his death.  His work in developing high-yielding plant varieties has been credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives.

Although his name is not widely known outside of the world of food production, in 1970 Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in increasing crop yields in Latin America and Asia by breeding high-yielding crop varieties of grain and rice.  Among his many discoveries he found that through cross-breeding various strains of grain plants he was able to develop grains with a shorter, stronger stalk that could still produce a large yield; in some cases with yields jumping several-fold compared with some traditional varieties.

Some environmental and social advocates criticized the use of technologies to increase food production.  However, Dr. Borlaug believed that technology is not the enemy but rather, applies human intelligence to make use of the earth's resources to improve life for everyone.

In celebrating Borlaug's life and achievements, it is appropriate to recall the words of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee upon the selection of Dr. Borlaug as a laureate, "More than any single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world.  We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace."