UN food agency pays tribute to ‘father’ of Green Revolution

14 September 2009
Norman Borlaug at the 2002 World Food Summit in Rome

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today paid tribute to Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist who the agency credits with having helped to avert mass famine during the population explosion in recent decades.

As the father of the Green Revolution which produced enough food to feed the global population – which doubled between 1960 and 2000 – Mr. Borlaug, who died over the weekend, “was a towering scientist whose work rivals that of the 20th century's other great scientific benefactors of humankind,” FAO said in a statement.

The scientist, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, “will be doubly missed today, as we face the new challenge of feeding a world population set to increase from six billion in 2000 to more than nine billion in 2050, a task made that much harder by climate change and competition from the bioenergy sector.”

His work with FAO dates back decades, and most recently, the agency worked with the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, which he founded in 2005 to fight a highly virulent strain of wheat stem rust in East Africa which has the potential to devastate wheat production.

Today’s statement highlighted Mr. Borlaug’s preference to field work over office work, having received the news about his Nobel honour while toiling in the wheat fields of Toluca, Mexico.

“He trained thousands of scientists from all over the world in wheat breeding and production, always emphasizing the use of sound science to solve problems of hunger and malnutrition,” it added.

In a separate statement issued yesterday, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) mourned Mr. Borlaug’s passing, thanking him for being the agency's “great champion in the battle against hunger.”

Mr. Borlaug, who died yesterday, “saved more lives than any man in human history,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

“His total devotion to ending famine and hunger revolutionized food security for millions of people and for many nations,” she noted.

“His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world.”

"FAO will work tirelessly to ensure that that dream of Dr Norman Borlaug becomes a reality."


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