HE is known as the "father of the Green Revolution" for his work with biotechnology, specifically research to increase wheat yields in Mexico, which is said to have saved billions of lives by helping alleviate hunger.
Dr. Norman Borlaug would have turned 100 on March 25 of this year. In his honor, the state of Iowa unveiled a 7 ft. bronze statue of Borlaug during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building on that day. The statue will be displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
Known as one of the greatest agricultural scientists, Borlaug's research to improve wheat and develop disease-resistant and high-yielding wheat varieties has had a profound impact on wheat production and helped nearly triple yields in regions around the world.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, noted that Borlaug's "work moved farm production from subsistence to the fullest abundance and, most importantly, gave nations the tools to feed their people."
Stallman added, "Borlaug and his successors showed the way to the productivity we enjoy today. America's food and fiber producers honor his legacy through sustainable, ethical and scientifically proven production systems and sound business practices that assure land, livestock and natural resources will be here for future generations."
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said, "Norman's scientific ingenuity and compassion for his fellow human beings has saved more lives than any other person, truly making him the man who fed the world."
Along with his scientific research, Borlaug also worked closely with farmers and lawmakers on effective, lasting solutions to global hunger and malnutrition, changing the course of global food production. His efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for developing broadly adapted, high-yielding, rust-resistant wheat varieties — including a dwarf wheat — as well as a highly efficient "shuttle breeding" process to help feed the world's growing population.
"Norman said, 'If you desire peace, (then) cultivate justice, but at the same time, cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise, there will be no peace,'" Beckmann noted. "Nothing could pay greater homage to the life's work of Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution than to eradicate hunger around the world."
At a time when biotechnology repeatedly comes under attack, the statue of Borlaug will carry on his message about the need to look to new technologies to feed the world.
House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) said when visitors see Borlaug's statue in the U.S. Capitol, he hopes that they will "be reminded of how far we have come in agricultural production and how important it is that we continue agricultural research and innovation for the security of our food supply."
Beckmann said he hopes that Borlaug's statue in the U.S. Capitol will encourage lawmakers to continue enacting effective agricultural solutions to global development and nutrition challenges.
Borlaug advocated for biotechnology and saw the crucial role it would play in feeding and enhancing the nutrition of those still in tenuous food security situations. He argued that the world must rely on science and research to answer the questions about biotech foods.
Former United Soybean Board chairman Chuck Myers said farmers' acceptance of biotechnology is helping carry out Borlaug's legacy. Myers said Borlaug saw biotechnology as a tool to help improve crop yields and become a possible solution to problems around the world, such as insects, disease, droughts and anything else that can limit yields.
"Biotechnology can help solve those problems or at least alleviate them, to a certain extent," Myers said.
President Barack Obama, in a recent letter to Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of the late Dr. Borlaug, showed his strong support for continuing Borlaug's legacy of using of scientific innovation, especially biotechnology, in the fight against global hunger.
The President's letter cited Borlaug's advances in agriculture as a "model of the American spirit of innovation and ingenuity" and stated that Borlaug's "support of investment in education and continued research in the biotechnology field are inspirational.
"I am pleased to join in celebrating the life of your grandfather, Dr. Norman Borlaug," Obama wrote. "With unwavering commitment to feeding the hungry, leaders like your grandfather profoundly changed the way we develop food products that are accessible to the world's increasing population."
The letter recounted a time when Borlaug wrote to Obama, then an Illinois senator campaigning for the presidency, about the importance of agricultural development. It also noted the President's shared belief that "investment in enhanced biotechnology is an essential component of the solution to some of our planet's most pressing agricultural problems."
Obama added, "Through our new regional climate change hubs, we will use the sorts of technologies pioneered by your grandfather to help farmers and ranchers face the climate challenges ahead."
Julie Borlaug, external relations director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, said the letter serves as motivation for continuing the fight against global hunger.
"The President's support of research, innovation and biotechnology is a strong endorsement that these tools must be utilized as part of a comprehensive solution in the fight against hunger and poverty not only for the Borlaug Institute but for all engaged in finding solutions to end global hunger," she said.
Obama closed his letter by pointing out that the agriculture community is indebted to Borlaug and stated, "Our nation will continue to engage in research and development in support of his life's mission to feed the world."
Borlaug 100 launched
Julie Borlaug introduced a new program, Borlaug 100, that has begun at her grandfather's namesake institute in College Station, Texas, to ensure that generations of future leaders realize their full potential with financially unimpeded access to the best training and education possible.
Borlaug 100 will have two components, she noted, including:
* The International Scholars Program, which will build partnerships with students and scientists from developing countries to help them address issues concerning agriculture and food security. The fund will ensure financial support for graduate degree training as well as short-term experiential training.
Students will be selected to attend programs at Texas A&M University and partner land-grant universities throughout the U.S. The program is administered by the Texas A&M College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.
* International field internships will provide hands-on, in-depth experience for undergraduate students by deploying them for a semester to agriculture-related projects being conducted around the world. These opportunities may include internships with private, public and non-government organizations.
Students will be challenged to apply their academic expertise and immerse themselves in different cultures and new environments.