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One year ago: Norman Borlaug

September 12, 2010 |  6:00 am

Norman-grainIn the early 1940s, a specter of doom larger even than World War II threatened the world's people: Population was growing rapidly and food was running out.

That danger was stymied by the work of scientist Norman Borlaug, whose revolutionary grain-farming techniques brought agricultural self-sufficiency to developing countries around the world. Borlaug died one year ago.

Borlaug collected thousands of strains of wheat from around the globe and tediously crossbred them to produce varieties that were much higher yielding and resistant to the diseases that were destroying crops.

In 1960, before his techniques were widely adopted, the world produced 692 million tons of grain for 2.2 billion people. By 1992, largely as a result of Borlaug's pioneering approach, it was producing 1.9 billion tons for 5.6 billion people -- using only 1% more land.

For his work, he became one of only five people in history to score the trifecta of humanitarian achievement, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

On Borlaug's 90th birthday, former President Carter said that he "has been demonstrating practical ways to give people of the entire world a higher quality of life. . . . He is a true humanitarian."

For more on a grain expert who is credited with saving millions of lives, read Norman Borlaug's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Norman Borlaug. Credit: Texas A&M AgriLife