"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 93-year-old agricultural scientist and Nobel laureate regarded as the father of the 'Green Revolution' in farming received the Congressional Gold Medal on Tuesday for a life-long battle against world hunger.Norman Borlaug is a giant among agronomists, and it is good to see him honored yet again. His comments following his 1970 Nobel Peace Prize still resonate today: "When the Nobel Peace Prize Committee designated me the recipient of the 1970 award for my contribution to the 'green revolution', they were in effect, I believe, selecting an individual to symbolize the vital role of agriculture and food production in a world that is hungry, both for bread and for peace."
President George W. Bush was on hand at the U.S. Capitol for the presentation of the highest civilian honor to Norman Borlaug, whose advances helped nearly double the food supply in countries including Mexico, India and Pakistan.
Borlaug's efforts date back to the mid-20th century, when he developed disease-resistant, high-yield wheat varieties and worked with developing countries to grow these crops using modern farming techniques.
He has more recently focused on increasing food production in Africa and other parts of Asia.
'Without question, Dr. Borlaug, your life and your life's work ... saving more than 1 billion people from famine and starvation, are an inspiration,' said Steny Hoyer, Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.
'Hunger continues to cast its measurable shadow across much of the developing world,' Bush added. 'The most fitting tribute to this man is to continue his life's work.' ..."
Bread for the World, the ONE Campaign, and other organizations that seek to alleviate hunger through the public policy realm owe a great deal to Borlaug's pioneering work.
One of Borlaug's emphases is that by increasing food production, countries can avoid much deforestation (or at least the deforestation that occurs to increase acreage for farms). To be sure, deforestation occurs for a variety of reasons, and simply increasing agricultural productivity won't, for example, stop deforestation to build cities, malls, or housing subdivisions.
Norman Borlaug has not been without his critics, especially for his emphasis on fertilizer and large-scale mechanized agriculture. His answer is a real zinger: "some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things."
At 93, Borlaug might be excused if he took it easy, but he remains active in research and consulting.
-- Quotations are taken from Wikipedia, which links to their primary sources