Norman E. Borlaug is an American environmental activist. He is known as the father of the "green," or agricultural, revolution.
Borlaug was born near Cresco, Iowa, in 1914. He attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor's degree in forestry, a master's degree, and a
Ph.D. in plant pathology.
Norman E. Borlaug. Photo Credit: OSU.
In 1943, Borlaug went to Mexico to work for the Rockefeller Foundation and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. He hoped to help with increasing crop production. He realized, however, that in a counttry with little space available for agricultural expansion, the only method remaining to increase production was to enhance crop yield on the same amount of land.
Borlaug's approach caused an amazing increase in production. Mexico, followed by countries in a similar position such as India and Pakistan, went from importing to exporting grain in little more than a decade. This was the result of numerous techniques that Borlaug propagated: high genetic-yield potential crops, better means of disease resistance, use of fertilizers and pesticides, mechanized threshing, and new crop varieties that could be grown
with varied amounts of daylight. Through his work, Borlaug demonstrated that there were means to cope with vast famine.
Some commentators, however, are still quick to criticize Borlaug and "his" revolution. The green revolution has been criticized on several grounds: for providing only temporary relief for persistent problems of famine and population growth; for limiting biodiversity, making crops vulnerable due to
genetic uniformity; and causing the disappearance of hardier crop varieties, for reliance on expensive mechanized methods; and for the environmental effects of the chemicals introduced. However, most observers agree that the lives saved by Borlaug's approach have outweighed the possible negative outcomes.
Norman Borlaug has received a number of honors, including a Doctorate of Science from the University of Minnesota and other academic establishments.
In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, recognizing him for providing bread for a hungry world.
The Nobel Prize archive on Bourlag
The Norman Borlaug Institute