Norman Borlaug

September 17, 2009

September 17, 2009

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

The United States of America has a long list of very famous people. To name a few, you would never forget George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt. Go to Europe and they might remind us of George Marshall and the Marshall Plan that fed Europe after World War II. But if you go to a developing country, a poor country, they probably would add Norman Borlaug to the list.

Norman Borlaug, age 95, died last Saturday. “More than any single person of his age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world.” That’s what the Nobel Peace Price Committee said in honoring him in 1970. He was working in Mexico in the ’40s with the Rockefeller Foundation and crossed Mexican wheat with a dwarf Japanese wheat. The new strain with fertilizer produced 10 times as much grain.

In India, in the ’60s, he developed a high-yielding rice. The “Green Revolution” was growing. His effort was helping poor people all over the world. Without the “Green Revolution,” we would not have the food to feed today’s world population.

It is no accident that we have an abundance of food in the world today. It may not be evenly distributed, but we can produce it.

Norm Borlaug believed in using all available scientific technology to maximize production. He said it straight out – that environmentalists are hampering food production by attacking the use of fertilizer, chemicals, and biotechnology. He said it just 4 years ago as he spoke at the U.S. State Department program honoring him. I was there with him and so proud of his courage to be politically incorrect because he was right.

In a speech in 1993 in New Orleans, he said we’re not going back to the environmentalists’ vision of “low-yielding sustainable agriculture.” He said, “An adequate supply of food is the first component to social justice.”

Norm Borlaug, the son of a Norwegian immigrant, born in his grandfather’s farm house in Iowa – how many lives has he saved?

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.