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This Guy Saved 1 Billion People From Famine

But you’ll rarely hear about heroes like this from the media. Instead, American minds are saddled with the all important news from Hollywood’s latest misfits.

Norman Borlaug developed a wheat hybrid in the 1950’s that tripled wheat output. In combination with that, he also taught soil conservation and planting techniques to third world governments and farmers that led to the so called Green Revolution, helping to increase India’s grain production sevenfold during that country’s war with Pakistan in the 1960’s. And then he turned to China, helping bring centuries old farming practices into the modern day and staving off hunger and starvation in the world’s most populated nation.

Mr. Borlaug recently received the Congressional Gold Medal, which along with his Nobel Peace Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom, makes him only the fifth person to earn all three awards. Seems to me we should have heard about this guy somewhere since he may well be responsible for saving the lives of one out of every seven people on Earth with his efforts.

But the American media by and large would rather we stay “in the know” about Lindsay Lohan and her troubles, because after all, that’s what the ‘consumers’ really want anyhow, right?

<tag> Norman+Borlaug, food, media </tag>


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5 Responses to “This Guy Saved 1 Billion People From Famine”

  1. Ken how many Americans do you know actually give 2 shits about Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton?
    I don’t know anyone who gives a hoot about them.

    As great as this story is its’ from the 50’s and 60’s. The media is more concerned about how many soldiers are getting killed everyday .

  2. tos- what he accomplished was done decades ago- his recognition though is current. the congressional gold medal was awarded to him last week for a lifetime of effort. and the bigger point is that we should focus more on these kinds of stories fi we want our culture to actually progress instead of go down the tubes.

    and while i don’t personally know many who care two shits for paris or lindsey, the media sure spends an inordinate amount of time on them and their ilk.

  3. too bad Borlaug did not slip a birth control genetic component into this wheat. the almost 7 billion humans on the earth today are set up for a very interesting future if peak oil is true, and i believe it is. while i have not studies the details of the wonder grains he developed, i have a sneaky suspension it requires fossil fuel inputs for success. ( i must admit, when i see any one getting an award from Bush i become cynical.)

    by the way, i like your improvements to the site. been out of touch for the past several months. hot in Florida and the AT is great. ( to you westerners the AT is a 3 foot wide trail leading from the north Georgia mountains to Maine.)

  4. It’s true that this is sort of old news, but you’re right about the award being recent. This was in fact one of the big names of the Green Revolution, but you never hear about the guy, just the Revolution. He deserves some credit, I’m glad someone recognizes that.

    Actually, the media have whole pages devoted to various celebrities and their mischief. But then again, they frequently also have sections devoted to things like environmental and global issues, of which this is one. Still, yes, the general public is easily amused by Paris and the like. Well, can you blame us? We need amusement if we’re going to distract ourselves from the less amusing parts of our own lives (I, for instance, only read celebrity hype on my break at work. Oh God, work.)

    and in reply to rube:
    …no, in fact, the genetic modification of a grain to produce more food has nothing to do with fossil fuels, except in the indirect way that everything is tied to fossil fuels, I guess. Mostly it has something to do with painstaking research, cross-breeding, and above all the humanitarian effort of actually handing the findings out for general use instead of stamping a copyright on them and making people purchase them. For this specifically, Norman Borlaug is a good person.
    And the implied argument that the grain is a detriment by adding to the population is unfounded. The population would have grown anyway; have you ever seen those Malthusian graph comparisons of linear food growth and production vs. ridiculous logarithmic population growth? What the green revolution did was put the point at which there would be so little food per person that the population would starve a few decades further than it would otherwise have been.
    Finally, India (the nation that the wonder grain was first given to) actually has one of the most effective population control programs in the world, despite the large population. China similarly has a population control program in place. In both cases, “introducing a birth control genetic component” into grain would change nothing. Attitudes need to change before the population crisis can be dealt with.

  5. Kathy i just did a quick google of fertilizer use in India and came across much interesting info. for example, ” The fertilizer industry in India has grown tremendously in the last 30 years. The Government is keen to see that fertilizer reaches the farmers in the remote and hilly areas. It has been decided to decontrol the prices, distribution and movement of phosphatic and potassic fertilizers. Steps have been taken to ensure an increase in the supply of non-chemical fertilizers at reasonable prices. There are 53 fertilizer quality control laboratories in the country.”

    please do not think i am a critic of the work of this great man. he is deserving of great honor. however, my limited experience in farming tells me that most of the highly productive crops are only possible with high energy inputs. yes i am familiar with Malthusian graphs. i am also aware of the growth of human populations since the discovery of oil in the 1850’s. as a winemake and biologist i am also somewhat familiar with population dynamics and fear that we are entering a period of change. i will wager you that the old seeds are being preserved in India by wise old farmers.

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