Monday, September 14, 2009

Feeding the World

One of the pioneers who understood that human technology could improve on the ability of nature to feed human beings, has died.

An excerpt from an eulogy in New Scientist.

“They don't make 'em like Norm Borlaug anymore. The father of the green revolution finally lost his long battle with cancer over the weekend at the age of 95. I wasn't surprised: he was looking frail when I saw him last year in Ciudad Obreg√≥n, Mexico, where he had launched the revolution.

“That afternoon he managed a spirited speech, in fluent Mexican Spanish, to local farmers. But later, when I was allowed to ask him questions, he was flagging. He complained that using crops for biofuel was pushing up world food prices and hurting the poor. "We had other kinds of alternative energy but we stopped developing it," he fumed. "But now I don't have enough energy to keep talking."

“He was a giant of the scientific and technological revolution of the 20th century. He probably saved more lives than the more famous names behind polio vaccines or DNA: Norm Borlaug ended famine in much of the world.

“What an epitaph. "I personally cannot live comfortably in the midst of abject hunger and poverty and human misery," Borlaug famously said. Some people go into science thinking they might help save the world. Norm's your proof that it's possible.”