Dr. Norman Borlaug, Saver of One Billion Lives, Dies at 95

September 18, 2009 Bookmark and Share

Along with others in the agricultural industry around the world, NAWG leaders have mourned this week the loss of Dr. Norman Borlaug on Saturday at the age of 95.

While Borlaug was a savior for many who stood on the precipice of starvation, he was and is an inspiration for many at NAWG and throughout the industry who believe hunger can be addressed through agricultural research and technology.

Born in 1914 on a farm in Iowa, Borlaug attended the University of Minnesota before undertaking decades of research in Mexico that resulted rust-resistant and dwarf wheats that could be used, along with fertilizer, to dramatically increase yields and allow the people of Mexico, India and Pakistan to feed themselves, saving millions of lives. Later, these technologies were instituted in rice and spread throughout Central and South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

All told, it is estimated that Borlaug’s research efforts and teaching saved the lives of at least a billion people. For this work, Borlaug was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006.

In recent years, Borlaug used his name and fame to raise awareness of the threat Ug99 poses to world wheat supplies and the potential biotechnology provides for feeding a hungry world.

Resolutions honoring Borlaug were introduced this week in both the House and Senate. A memorial service is planned for Oct. 6, at which Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be among those giving tributes.

More information about Borlaug’s life and memorial activities planned to celebrate his accomplishments is available at http://borlaug.tamu.edu/memorial.php

Much more about Borlaug’s work and a number of tributes to him are in a special issue of AgBioWorld, available online at http://www.agbioworld.org/newsletter_wm/index.php?caseid=archive&newsid=2908