Dr. Norman E. Borlaug
“My 60 Years of Fighting Hunger” Artwork by Anna Kosterina
Dr. Norman E. Borlaug: A Unique Place in History In all of history, only five people have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Iowa native and World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman E. Borlaug is one. The other four are Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, and Nelson Mandela. Rare company, indeed. It is widely acknowledged that Dr. Borlaug has “saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.” This brochure provides a summary of his life’s work and his achievements, in his own words, taken from some of his most historic addresses, including “My 60 Years of Fighting Hunger” at the 2004 World Food Prize International Symposium and his remarks upon receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. Additional information is included to put Dr. Borlaug’s accomplishments in historical context.
Dr. Borlaug in his Dallas, Texas, home in 2008 with his distinguished honors.
It is the hope of our organization that this document will better inform the world about one of its greatest heroes and, at the same time, serve as a resource for teachers to help their students learn more about this great man.
Dr. Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 as the “Father of the Green Revolution.”
With the receipt of the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, Dr. Borlaug became one of the most honored individuals in history.
It is estimated that Norman Borlaug’s approach to agriculture has saved one billion people from famine and starvation and preserved more than one billion hectares of natural habitat
The Life of Norman Iowa Origins - March 25, 1914 “I was born on a small farm in northeast Iowa and I studied my first eight years in a one-room schoolhouse.” • Norman Borlaug excelled as a high school and college wrestler. • He earned a PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota. • His family farm and one-room schoolhouse are preserved outside Cresco, Iowa.
Developing “Miracle Wheat” in Mexico: 1944 - 1960 “My work to combat hunger started in Mexico with the Rockefeller Foundation. ... Inspired by Henry Wallace, it was the first ever attempt to help food deficit nations by a foreign organization.” “I joined that program in 1944 and have spent 60 years since working in international agriculture.” • Dr. Borlaug and his team of researchers worked directly with poor farmers. • They used “shuttle breeding” to develop a new disease resistant variety of wheat that could triple its output of grain.
“And Mexico became self-sufficient in wheat (by 1956). … This had a major impact around the world.”
Confronting Famine in Asia A New Approach • By the early 1960s, the specter of huge grain deficits spread over South Asia and the Near East, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk of hunger and starvation.
“We used the Mexican model to train young scientists from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.” “We established an international nursery of the best spring wheat varieties from Canada, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, India, Pakistan, and Egypt.” “We trained these young scientists to work directly with farmers and not just to introduce new seeds, but also with emphasis on agronomy, soil, weed control, insect and disease prevention, and the use of fertilizer and irrigation.”
n E. Borlaug - “My 60 Years of The Green Revolution: 1960 - 2000 “If you are dealing with hunger and starvation, you better use the information you have and use it courageously to get the political leaders to see the benefit.” • By the mid-1960s, there were huge food deficits in South Asia with 10 million tons of grain being imported. Famine and mass starvation appeared imminent. • The United Nations asked Dr. Borlaug to travel to Pakistan and India, which were then at war. • Working with courageous Pakistani and Indian scientists, Dr. Borlaug convinced the leaders of both governments to adopt his revolutionary new approach. • Grain production increased dramatically, hundreds of millions were saved from famine, and India and Pakistan became self-sufficient in wheat in just a few years. • Dr. Borlaug’s approach to agriculture was adapted to rice production throughout the Middle East and Asia. It tripled grain production on the same amount of land.
“In the ’60s, many of the world’s top intellects said the case in India and Pakistan was hopeless, but look what happened. If there is the (new) seed... the fertilizer... the credit, the irrigation, it is surprising how rapidly change can come about.”
Norman Borlaug’s Impact in Asia, 1960 - 2000:
Land Planted in “Miracle Wheat” 0%
Land Planted in “Miracle Rice” 0%
Hectares of Irrigated Land 87 Million
Tons of Fertilizer Used 2 Million
Total Grain Production 309 Million Tons
463 Million Tons
962 Million Tons
“From 1965 to 1985, the heyday of the Green Revolution, world production of cereal grains — wheat, rice, corn, barley and sorghum — nearly doubled, from 1 billion to 1.8 billion metric tons, and cereal prices dropped by 40 percent. Today, wheat provides about 20 percent of the food calories for the world’s people. The world wheat harvest now stands at about 600 million metric tons.”
Fighting Hunger” Feeding a World of 10 Billion People: Our 21st Century Challenge • In 1986, Dr. Borlaug teamed with former President Jimmy Carter to start the Sasakawa Global 2000 Program, which aims to improve crop varieties and raise productivity among small-scale farmers in Africa.
“Africa is the greatest worry with [nearly 220] million hungry and malnourished people, declining soil fertility, poor education, and lack of roads.” • Dr. Borlaug was the first scientist to identify the danger posed by Ug99, a severe strain of the rust fungus that decimates wheat crops. At his urging, the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative was established in 2007 to reduce the world’s vulnerability to wheat disease. • According to Dr. Borlaug, we must go “from the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution” and use biotechnology to feed an additional four billion people in the 21st century. Agricultural progress can also achieve peace in a world beset with violence.
“We need better and more technology, for hunger and poverty and misery are very fertile soils into which to plant all kinds of -isms, including terrorism.” “You can’t build peace on empty stomachs."
Dr. Borlaug’s Legacy for the Next Generation: The World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute • To inspire the Nobel-like breakthrough achievements needed to feed the world in the 21st century, Dr. Borlaug created the $250,000 World Food Prize, which is presented each October in Des Moines.
“The task of feeding a growing population has been made more complex, since agriculture is now being asked not only to produce food, feed, and fiber, but also raw materials for biofuels. Thus, there is no room for complacency for those of us working on the food front.” • The World Food Prize hosts an annual symposium gathering the top minds in agriculture to discuss cutting-edge topics in global food security. The symposium was renamed the “Borlaug Dialogue” in 2006. • To inspire youth to pursue careers in food and agriculture, Dr. Borlaug and World Food Prize sponsor John Ruan created the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute.
“My dream is that [my life] will serve as an inspiration to young people to devote thought, energy, and focused effort toward scientific and allied pursuits aimed at alleviating hunger and poverty throughout the world.”
Preserving Dr. Borlaug’s Legacy The Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates Situated on the banks of the Des Moines river in the historic century-old former public library building, the Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates will serve as the permanent home for The World Food Prize and an enduring foundation for the programs created by Dr. Borlaug. The Hall will honor Dr. Borlaug, along with the World Food Prize Laureates and Iowa’s agricultural and humanitarian pioneers, for their significant contributions to the global fight against hunger. Open to the public, it will serve as a museum to recognize great achievements in agriculture and as an educational facility featuring interactive displays on hunger and global food security. The Hall will host the annual Borlaug Dialogue international symposium, an expanded Global Youth Institute program, and conference and community events for other local groups and organizations.
The World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue Dr. Norman E. Borlaug created the World Food Prize in 1986. It has since become the world’s foremost international award in the fight against global hunger. In addition to the presentation of the $250,000 “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture,” the World Food Prize Foundation also organizes an annual symposium — the “Borlaug Dialogue” — that regularly attracts over 700 people from more than 60 countries to discuss global food security issues.
The World Food Prize Global Youth Institute and Borlaug-Ruan Internship Program Each October, the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute provides a three-day educational opportunity and forum for high school students and teachers, in which they are exposed to an array of experts, institutions and organizations relating to food security. As an extension of the Global Youth Institute, the all-expenses-paid Borlaug-Ruan International Internship Program sends selected high school students on eight‑week research assignments at world renowned research centers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
For more information on Dr. Borlaug, please visit www.worldfoodprize.org