Thursday, July 08, 2010

Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug, "The Father of the Green Revolution" passed away at the age of 95 on Sept 12 2009. He was instrumental in developing and introducing semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease resistant wheat varieties. NY times wrote of him as "...the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th Century to teach the world to feed itself..."

He won the Nobel Peace Prize for agricultural innovation and the development of high-yield crops in 1970. The Green Revolution has been touted to have averted a world-wide famine in the late 20th century.

Excerpts of his speech during the Nobel Prize award ceremony showed how committed he was in using science for the betterment of mankind:

"Accordingly, I shall not dwell upon the personal honor, for I have not done so even within myself. Instead, I want to devote my remarks to commendation of the Nobel Committee which had the perspicacity and wisdom to recognize the actual and potential contributions of agricultural production to prosperity and peace among the nations and peoples of the world.

Obviously, I am personally honored beyond all dreams by my election. But the obligations imposed by the honor are far greater than the honor itself, both as concerns me personally and also the army of hunger fighters in which I voluntarily enlisted a quarter of a century ago for a lifetime term. I am acutely conscious of the fact that I am but one member of that vast army and so I want to share not only the present honor but also the future obligations with all my companions in arms, for the Green Revolution has not yet been won.

It is true that the tide of the battle against hunger has changed for the better during the past three years. But tides have a way of flowing and then ebbing again. We may be at high tide now, but ebb tide could soon set in if we become complacent and relax our efforts. For we are dealing with two opposing forces, the scientific power of food production and the biologic power of human reproduction.

Man has made amazing progress recently in his potential mastery of these two contending powers. Science, invention, and technology have given him materials and methods for increasing his food supplies substantially and sometimes spectacularly, as I hope to prove tomorrow in my first address as a newly decorated and dedicated Nobel Laureate. Man also has acquired the means to reduce the rate of human reproduction effectively and humanely. He is using his powers for increasing the rate and amount of food production. But he is not yet using adequately his potential for decreasing the rate of human reproduction. The result is that the rate of population increase exceeds the rate of increase in food production in some areas.

There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort. Fighting alone, they may win temporary skirmishes, but united they can win a decisive and lasting victory to provide food and other amenities of a progressive civilization for the benefit of all mankind.

Then, indeed, Alfred Nobel's efforts to promote Brotherhood between nations and their peoples will become a reality.

Let our wills say that it shall be so."

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