Leader of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, Still Wages War on World Hunger

In the middle of the 20th century, world population was expanding faster than food production and some economists said famine was inevitable in many developing countries.

But Norman Borlaug, an agricultural researcher at a Rockefeller Foundation project in Mexico developed methods of raising wheat that tripled yields.

He later repeated his success in India, Pakistan and Africa.

At 94-years-old, Borlaug remains feisty when recalling the fight to get bureaucrats and academics to accept his ideas. “Everybody was challenging and saying that this guy Borlaug was nuts and dangerous,” he said.

But Borlaug’s scientific approach to farming allowed millions of people to live who would have otherwise starved.

Julie Borlaug
Although cancer has slowed him some, Borlaug often engages in lively conversations with his granddaughter, Julie Borlaug. She works at the institute named for him at Texas A & M University.

“We talk a lot about agriculture issues,” Julie said. “We will talk politics. We will have a different conversation about ethanol or fertilizer prices and that is just a daily conversation with my grandfather.”

Norman Borlaug is one of the few people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Mike McWhorter supervises the Institute’s training projects and works closely with Borlaug.

Mike McWhorter
“Even at 94 years of age, he is always challenging us to think about the needs of people around the world,” McWhorter said.

Norman Borlaug’s latest concern is a new disease in wheat, called UG-99.

“This is a new strain of stem rust organism that has the power to destroy most of the wheat varieties being grown around the world,” Borlaug said.

He argues that cutbacks in agricultural programs have made it harder to respond to such threats.

Julie says her grandfather’s worry over such problems rises from a heartfelt conviction that hunger is unacceptable. “He still believes it is our responsibility as humans to feed one another,” she said.