Norman E. Borlaug 1914-2009
Posted on September 14, 2009 Comments (1)
“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,” the Nobel committee said in honoring him. “Dr. Borlaug has introduced a dynamic factor into our assessment of the future and its potential.”
In his lecture accepting the Nobel Prize, he said an adequate supply of food is “the first component of social justice. . . . Otherwise there will be no peace.”
In 1977, Dr. Borlaug received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the U.S. government.
Billions Served: Norman Borlaug interviewed by Ronald Bailey
Durum wheat was OK for making flat Arab bread, but it didn’t have elastic gluten. The thing that makes modern wheat different from all of the other cereals is that it has two proteins that give it the doughy quality when it’s mixed with water. Durum wheats don’t have gluten, and that’s why we use them to make spaghetti today. The second cross of durum wheat with the other wild wheat produced a wheat whose dough could be fermented with yeast to produce a big loaf. So modern bread wheat is the result of crossing three species barriers, a kind of natural genetic engineering.
I see no difference between the varieties carrying a BT gene or a herbicide resistance gene, or other genes that will come to be incorporated, and the varieties created by conventional plant breeding. I think the activists have blown the health risks of biotech all out of proportion.
the data that’s put out by the World Health Organization and [the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization], there are probably 800 million people who are undernourished in the world. So there’s still a lot of work to do.
I am a bit more cautious about supporting genetic engineering in our food supply but I agree with him that we need to remain focused on the lives of hundreds of millions of hungry people (which is far too often ignored). I am worried about the risks to the environment and human health. I am also worried about the concentration of food plants in a greatly reduced genetic varieties that are more productive in general but increase the risks of massive food failures (due to limited genetic varieties).
Related: 20 Scientists Who Have Helped Shape Our World – 2004 Medal of Science Winners – Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity – Five Scientists Who Made the Modern World – Wheat Rust Research – Norman Borlaug and Wheat Stem Rust