Norman Borlaug, Nobel Prize Winner, Food Scientist, Dies At 95

norman borlaugh wheat

By MATT CURRY and BETSY BLANEY (AP)

DALLAS — Agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug, the father of the “green revolution” who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in combating world hunger and saving hundreds of millions of lives, died Saturday in Texas, a Texas A&M University spokeswoman said. He was 95.

Borlaug died just before 11 p.m. Saturday at his home in Dallas from complications of cancer, said school spokeswoman Kathleen Phillips. Phillips said Borlaug’s granddaughter told her about his death. Borlaug was a distinguished professor at the university in College Station.

The Nobel committee honored Borlaug in 1970 for his contributions to high-yield crop varieties and bringing other agricultural innovations to the developing world. Many experts credit the green revolution with averting global famine during the second half of the 20th century and saving perhaps 1 billion lives.

Thanks to the green revolution, world food production more than doubled between 1960 and 1990. In Pakistan and India, two of the nations that benefited most from the new crop varieties, grain yields more than quadrupled over the period.

“We would like his life to be a model for making a difference in the lives of others and to bring about efforts to end human misery for all mankind,” his children said in a statement. “One of his favourite quotes was, ‘Reach for the stars. Although you will never touch them, if you reach hard enough, you will find that you get a little ‘star dust’ on you in the process.'”

Equal parts scientist and humanitarian, the Iowa-born Borlaug realised improved crop varieties were just part of the answer, and pressed governments for farmer-friendly economic policies and improved infrastructure to make markets accessible. A 2006 book about Borlaug is titled “The Man Who Fed the World.”

“He has probably done more and is known by fewer people than anybody that has done that much,” said Dr. Ed Runge, retired head of Texas A&M University’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and a close friend who persuaded Borlaug teach at the school. “He made the world a better place — a much better place. He had people helping him, but he was the driving force.”

Borlaug began the work that led to his Nobel in Mexico at the end of World War II. There he used innovative breeding techniques to produce disease-resistant varieties of wheat that produced much more grain than traditional strains.

He and others later took those varieties and similarly improved strains of rice and corn to Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa.

“More than any other single person of his age, he has helped to provide bread for a hungry world,” Nobel Peace Prize committee chairman Aase Lionaes said in presenting the award to Borlaug. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”

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