, September 13, 2009 (ENS) - Norman Ernest Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner for developing high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat used to prevent famine in developing countries throughout the world, died Saturday in Dallas of cancer. He was 95.
Borlaug, who dedicated his life to employing science to combat hunger, was Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture in Texas A&M University's Department of Soil and Crop Sciences.
"We all eat at least three times a day in privileged nations, and yet we take food for granted," Borlaug said. "There has been great progress, and food is more equitably distributed. But hunger is a commonplace, and famine appears all too often."
Dr. Norman Borlaug (Photo courtesy World Food Prize)
In 2007, he accepted the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor of the United States, adding it to dozens of major awards and honors he received throughout his scientific and humanitarian career.
Even at age 95, Borlaug traveled internationally, working to improve agricultural science and food policy. He often could be found in his office on campus in College Station advising students and fellow faculty members alike.
Borlaug was born on March 25, 1914, in Cresco, Iowa. His childhood was spent on an Iowa farm, influenced by his Norwegian grandfather's lessons on common sense.
At the University of Minnesota, where he began his college education during the Depression days of the 1930s, he was told his high school education had not prepared him well enough in science and math. He failed an entrance exam, but Borlaug perservered to earn his master's and doctorate degree in plant pathology from the university.
During World War II, Borlaug was in charge of industrial and agricultural chemical research for a DuPont laboratory. In 1944, he became a scientist for the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program - a joint venture between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government - where he introduced science and techniques for preventing famine in Mexico.
Borlaug pioneered the introduction of the high-yielding wheat varieties and 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, improving food security there.
These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people from starvation.
Dr. Norman Borlaug displays the Congressional Gold Medal (Photo courtesy Texas A&M)
Today, India is self-sufficient in food production due to Dr. Borlaug's work.
In New Delhi, the Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Shri Sharad Pawar said that Borlaug's contribution will always be remembered for the world peace he heralded through increasing food supply and saving over 245 million lives worldwide.
"India amongst many other nations of the world owes a debt of gratitude to this outstanding personality. As India moves towards the 2nd Green Revolution, his enduring vision will be a source of inspiration and sustenance for all of us."
"In the death of Norman Borlaug, the world today has lost not only an eminent agriculture scientist but a man dedicated to the cause of humanity. Father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug is credited with what he himself described as "a temporary success in man's war against hunger and deprivation."
"Having known him since 1974, it is with a profound sense of personal grief that I mourn his passing away," said Pawar. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in their moment of irreparable loss."
India awarded Dr. Borlaug the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian honor.
Dr. Borlaug spent his later years committed to extending the Green Revolution to Africa, heading the Sasakawa Global 2000 program. He continued his relationship with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, and traveled throughout the world most of the year. He returned to the United States each year to teach a course at Texas A&M University and to attend the World Food Prize events in Des Moines, Iowa.
"The world has lost a great hero," said Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize. "Dr. Borlaug's tireless commitment to ending hunger had an enormous impact on the course of history. He will be remembered with love and appreciation around the globe."
The head of the United Nations World Food Programme today mourned Borlaug's passing, thanking him for being the agency's "great champion in the battle against hunger."
Borlaug "saved more lives than any man in human history," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.
"His total devotion to ending famine and hunger revolutionized food security for millions of people and for many nations," Sheeran said. "His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world."
Borlaug is survived by his wife, the former Margaret G. Gibson, daughter Jeanie Borlaug Laube, son William Gibson Borlaug, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Click here to view tributes to Dr. Borlaug from around the world.
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.
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