Monday, September 14, 2009

Borlaug, who saved millions from hunger, dies - updated

Another American who won the Nobel Peace Prize. He won it for feeding people! He did remarkable work, but was little known. Yahoo! News:
Scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug rose from his childhood on an Iowa farm to develop a type of wheat that helped feed the world, fostering a movement that is credited with saving up to 1 billion people from starvation. Borlaug, 95, died Saturday from complications of cancer at his Dallas home, said Kathleen Phillips, a spokesman for Texas A&M University where Borlaug was a distinguished professor. "Norman E. Borlaug saved more lives than any man in human history," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. "His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world." He was known as the father of the "green revolution," which transformed agriculture through high-yield crop varieties and other innovations, helping to more than double world food production between 1960 and 1990. Many experts credit the green revolution with averting global famine during the second half of the 20th century and saving perhaps 1 billion lives. "He has probably done more and is known by fewer people than anybody that has done that much," said Dr. Ed Runge, retired head of Texas A&M University's Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and a close friend who persuaded Borlaug teach at the school. "He made the world a better place — a much better place."
Added - Greg Easterbrook has some interesting observations about those opposed to Dr. Borlaug. Some environmentalists decry that he ... I don't understand their criticism. It just seems to be anti-people. Anyway, they say Earth would somehow be better if Borlaug hadn't enabled a billion people to have enough food to eat. Easterbrook points out that Borlaug's technology enabled us to feed more people using the same area for crops. Otherwise huge areas of forest would have been cleared - a far worse outcome. And population growth slowed in every country that introduced high-yield farming. Isn't that what they want?
Environmentalist criticism of Borlaug and his work was puzzling on two fronts. First, absent high-yield agriculture, the world would by now be deforested. The 1950 global grain output of 692 million tons and the 2006 output of 2.3 billion tons came from about the same number of acres three times as much food using little additional land. "Without high-yield agriculture," Borlaug said, "increases in food output would have been realized through drastic expansion of acres under cultivation, losses of pristine land a hundred times greater than all losses to urban and suburban expansion." Environmentalist criticism was doubly puzzling because in almost every developing nation where high-yield agriculture has been introduced, population growth has slowed as education becomes more important to family success than muscle power.

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