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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Norman Ernest Borlaug, the scientist of International Agriculture & a great Hunger -fighter passes away

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Professor N.E.Borlaug

(March 25, 1914 - September 12, 2009)

The whole world in general and the developing nations in particular can never forget Norman Ernest Borlaug, the distinguished, eclectic, pragmatic and visionary scientist of International Agriculture who dedicated his whole life to the service of the hungry and the poor through his innovative and goal oriented researches, and who left the world for his eternal journey in the night of 12th September 2009 at the age of 95. Professor Borlaug died of cancer complications in Dallas.

Professor N.E.Borlaug has been the champion of High Yielding crop varieties and other innovations in science and agriculture that helped the developing nations in their fight against hunger. He remained a life long researcher not just because he was a great scientist, but he was a great human being who oriented his researches towards finding ways of eliminating hunger from the world. A distinguished professor of A & M University Texas, Professor Borlaug was a citizen of the whole world, not of a particular country he directly belonged to. Thus the sad demise of professor Borlaug is a global loss in general, and the loss of developing nations in particular. A friend of humanity, he associated with him scientists of many countries and helped all of them in helping their countries in raising food production to feed the starving masses and improving the economies of their countries.

Professor N. E. Borlaug was the real architect of the Green Revolution that was most essential to be started as the scarcity of food had created very tragic conditions in many parts of the world at that time. Though we have searched out a number of side effects of the Green Revolution today, the effect that was produced by innovative efforts and researches of Professor Borlaug was the main effect of Green Revolution that was essential to be produced in order to check hunger claiming lives across the developing nations on a much larger scale.

Norman Ernest Borlaug was borne on a farm near Creso, Iowa. Henry and Clara were his parents. After completing his education up to the secondary level in Creso he was enrolled to study forestry in the University of Minnesota. He received B.Sc. degree in forestry in 1937 after which he was appointed by the United States’ Forestry Service at stations located in Massachusetts and Idaho. He left the service and rejoined the University of Minnesota and received his M.Sc. degree in Plant Pathology in 1939. From the same University Borlaug did his unique researches to receive a doctoral degree in 1942. After this, he was appointed as a microbiologist on the staff of du pont de Nemours Foundation as a research-in-charge on industrial and agricultural bactericides, fungicides and preservatives where he worked from 1942 to 1944.In 1944, he was appointed as organizer and director of the Co-operative Wheat Research and Production Programme in Mexico. This was a joint programme of the Mexican Government and the Rockefeller Foundation involving scientific researches in genetics, plant breeding, plant pathology, entomology, agronomy, soil science and cereal technology. He got spectacular success in finding out a high yielding dwarf variety of disease resistant wheat within a short period of only two years. After this success he joined the “man’s war against hunger and deprivation”. As a result he became successful in increasing cultivation of his new wheat variety in Mexico, India, and Pakistan with the association of scientists of these countries. From India, Professor M. S. Swaminathan and his scientist-friends associated him in cultivation of new wheat variety in this country. Later these scientists developed a number of varieties of other crops too through their own innovative works, and released these varieties for large scale cultivation. These efforts of Professor M.S. Swaminathan and his scientist friends raised food production manifold and brought the Green Revolution. Green Revolution brought self sufficiency in food production and strengthened the economy of the country, particularly in India.

Later, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation established International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in cooperation with the Government of Mexico. It was an autonomous institute related to research and training. It had a board of trustees and staff belonging to different countries of the world. Professor N.E.Borlaug was made the director ot its International Wheat Improvement Programme. In the capacity of Director, Borlaug started training young scientists of the developing world in research and methods of production. Thus it was through this programme that Borlaug reached to the international heights. He became successful in offering training to about 1940 young scientists from about 16 countries. Till the end of his life, Professor Borlaug remained busy participating in the extensive experimentation on a man made species of grain derived from a cross between wheat –rye named as triticale.

For his out standing work in the field of agricultural production etc. and for his contribution to humanity, Dr. Borlaug received Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. In addition he received President Medal in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2006. Professor N.E.Borlaug has created the World Food Prize for outstanding contribution in the field of food production and for the works of scientists who have helped fight the world hunger through advanced agriculture. Professor M.S.Swaminathan has been the First recipient of the World Food Prize instituted by N.E.Borlaug. He was followed by Dr. Verghese Kurien who also recieved the World Food Prize the next year for his outstanding contribution to White Revolution in India.

According to Professor M.S.Swaminathan -"He (N.E.Borlaug) was a bright, affirming flame in the midst of a sea of despair then prevailing. ... He was a man of extraordinary humanism, commitment to a hunger-free world and knew no nationality. He is the only person to have so far won a Nobel for agriculture. ...Unless there is peace and security there could be no increase in production. During his lectures in India in Agriculture Colleges he told students to go to the fields and not sit in the laboratory."

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