Morris Fiorina is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Wendt Family Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. Through BISA, Norman Borlaug’s spirit will set in motion a new, more productive and sustainable Green Revolution. These advances boosted yields from the traditional ceiling of 30 bushels per acre to an astonishing state average of 75, which in turn converted the lifestyles of Iowa farmers from subsistence to a more assured existence. Norman Borlaug, who was the originator of what was a dwarf wheat variety in Mexico, is considered the godfather of the Green Revolution. Despite this, his research at CIMMYT and its predecessor program featured scientific rigour and great innovation. As a result, people starved; as Borlaug recalled: “In Bombay during those terrible days I saw miserable homeless kids clustered around hotels pleading not for money but for scraps of bread. Each morning trucks circled the streets, picking up corpses.” Surely, those bureaucrats were guilty of what our judicial system would call “reckless disregard for human life.”. Ultimately, Borlaug is said to have touched over a billion lives by preventing starvation. Borlaug was concerned that these kinds of attacks were examples of history repeating itself: At the time [of the Green Revolution], Forrest Frank Hill, a Ford Foundation vice president, told me, “Enjoy this now, because nothing like it will ever happen to you again. Borlaug introduced several revolutionary innovations into plant breeding and agronomics. This was before the soup lines.”  Perhaps as a result of often going hungry during his childhood and college years, Borlaug’s modus vivendi might be summed up in several observations that he made about the importance of food and the application of science to feeding the hungry. A practical man, he told his students ‘you can’t eat research papers’. You are going to have to work as hard as you can just to keep up with them.”. At Cosmos, we publish stories from people who cherish evidence-based knowledge and showcase the really exciting scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs that are happening right here, right now. The Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) is working with institutions in South Asian and the private sector to utilise existing and new technologies including molecular breeding, biotechnology, precision agronomy and conservation agriculture. Without food, people perish, social and political organizations disintegrate, and civilizations collapse.” Second: “You can’t eat potential.” In other words, you haven’t succeeded until you get new developments into the field and actually into people’s bellies. Borlaug recalled afterward, without rancor, the maddening obstacles to the development and introduction of high-yield plant varieties: “Bureaucratic chaos, resistance from local seed breeders, and centuries of farmers’ customs, habits, and superstitions.” About his experience in India (in the early 1960's), he said: When I asked about the need to modernize agriculture, both scientists and administrators typically replied, “Poverty is the farmers’ lot; they are used to it.”. Occasionally, spurious reports about modern genetic engineering manage to enter even the peer-reviewed literature; a recent example is an absurd, nearly psychotic rant about the supposed negative impacts of gene-spliced soybeans in Argentina. CIMMYT-derived wheat is also important to developed nations; Australian wheat growers sow a number of CIMMYT-based wheat varieties. Happy, Support the Mission of the Hoover Institution, Battlegrounds: International Perspectives, Avoid the Pitfalls of Student Loan Forgiveness. This wide adaptability, which flew in the face of agricultural orthodoxy, proved invaluable, and Mexican wheat yields skyrocketed. However, the events mentioned are all historically accurate. – Credit: Micheline Pelletier/Sygma/Corbis. The need for additional agricultural production and the obstacles to innovation remain, and in his later years, Borlaug turned his efforts to ensuring the success of this century’s equivalent of the Green Revolution: the application of gene-splicing, or “genetic modification” (GM), to agriculture. Although a trained scientist, Borlaug was down-to-earth and shared a great kinship with farmers. Source: Neil Chowdhury November 25, 2017 November 26, 2017 Uncategorized 0. Borlaug is an iconic … We heard from them all.” In the twenty-first century, they continue to spew their lethal venom. advancing ideas defining a free At CIMMYT, Borlaug helped create a wheat-breeding program unparalleled for its global partnerships and impact. Borlaug served as a principal scientist and research leader at CIMMYT from the centre’s launch in 1966 until his formal retirement in 1979, and then as a senior consultant until his death in 2009. Editor’s Note: The dialogue and descriptions in this article are fictional; they reflect an imaginary, hypothetical interview with Norman Borlaug taking place in 1970. © 2020 by the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University. Noel Vietmeyer’s Our Daily Bread, a gripping, touching, meticulously researched biography of Norman Borlaug, the plant breeder known as the Father of the Green Revolution, accurately portrays the kind of nobility, idealism and courage epitomized by Jimmy Stewart in the title role of “Mr. His stated vision is to rid the world of hunger and poverty. Borlaug liked to recall one strategy that he used: Whenever I reached New Delhi the first question I was asked was: “How are the Mexican wheats doing in Pakistan?” And whenever I reached Lahore the first question was: “How is India doing with the new varieties?”, To each I always answered the same: “They are doing very well, very well indeed. Products now in development with gene-splicing techniques offer the possibility of even higher yields, lower inputs of agricultural chemicals and water, enhanced nutrition, and even plant-derived, orally active vaccines. His words appear on a 2006 United States bronze medal minted in his honour: “The first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.”. On 25 March 2014 the world will celebrate the 100th birthday of agricultural scientist and humanitarian Dr Norman E. Borlaug. These wheat varieties are responsible for bigger harvests that bring annual added benefits to farmers of at least US $500 million. Mexico was producing more than enough wheat for its need and was free of hunger. Known as the “Father of the Green Revolution”, Borlaug’s new wheat breeds and his determination to introduce modern agricultural practices in the developing world saved more than a … Life can sometimes imitate art. In pre-Borlaug 1963, wheat grew there in sparse, irregular strands, was harvested by hand, and was susceptible to rust disease. From 1950 to 1992, the world’s grain output rose from 692 million tons produced on 1.70 billion acres of cropland to 1.9 billion tons on 1.73 billion acres of cropland—an extraordinary increase in yield-per-acre of more than 150 percent. Third, he devised an ingenious technique called “shuttle breeding”—growing two successive plantings each year, instead of the usual one, in different regions of Mexico. Join the Hoover Institution’s It tells us not only what we know but what we don’t know. Borlaug’s worldview was shaped by his roots and by his experiences as a young man. Borlaug then transferred these methods to India and Pakistan where, between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled, preventing an impending famine. But a great deal of work still remains, particularly in South Asia. He famously admonished his students that “…you can’t eat research papers”. India is an excellent case in point. There is no commodity more essential than food.