Norman Borlaug, R.I.P.

We read with sadness that Norman Borlaug, leader of the Green Revolution, passed away yesterday. Borlaug, called “the man who fed the world,” helped develop genetically modified organisms and spread the technology in impoverished Third World countries. Borlaug was credited with saving more than 1 billion people from starvation and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, not to mention more than 35 honorary degrees and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
We hope that Borlaug’s life work will continue to shape the future of food. When Borlaug’s career began, scaremonger Paul Ehrlich was predicting in doomsday scenarios that overpopulation would soon lead to global famine. Throughout Borlaug’s career, green-fringe naysayers and anti-technology activists like Greenpeace continued to malign his scientific advances. But Borlaug simply stuck to the fields and proved the Chicken Littles wrong. He calculated that organic agriculture couldn’t feed more than 4 billion people, but continued advancements in genetically modified crops could, and did, meet the demands of a growing global population.
It’s fitting to end with Borlaug’s own words from earlier this summer, about how to succeed in feeding the future world:

Even here at home, some elements of popular culture romanticize older, inefficient production methods and shun fertilizers and pesticides, arguing that the U.S. should revert to producing only local organic food. People should be able to purchase organic food if they have the will and financial means to do so, but not at the expense of the world’s hungry—25,000 of whom die each day from malnutrition.
Unfortunately, these distractions keep us from the main goal. … Factor in growing prosperity and nearly three billion new mouths by 2050, and you quickly see how the crudest calculations suggest that within the next four decades the world’s farmers will have to double production.
…[G]overnments must make their decisions about access to new technologies, such as the development of genetically modified organisms—on the basis of science, and not to further political agendas.

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