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World loses ag giant Norman Borlaug

Agriculture.com Staff 09/13/2009 @ 11:14am

His work saved millions of lives. His invention of high-yielding disease-resistant wheat varieties spawned the "Green Revolution," making famine a thing of the past in parts of the developing world.

Norman Borlaug passed away Saturday from cancer complications in Dallas. He was 95. Most recently, the Cresco, Iowa, native was Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University's department of soil and crop sciences.

In 2007, Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize and 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor of the United States. This capped a string of major awards and honors throughout his scientific and humanitarian career.

"We all eat at least three times a day in privileged nations, and yet we take food for granted," Borlaug said recently. "There has been great progress, and food is more equitably distributed. But hunger is commonplace, and famine appears all too often."

Until recently, Borlaug still traveled internationally, working tirelessly for improvements in agricultural science and food policy. He regularly could be found in his office on the Texas A&M campus in College Station, Texas, according to a university report.

In 1944, Borlaug became a scientist for the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program. This project became the institution known as CIMMYT, Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) near Mexico City. In this program, he introduced scientific techniques for preventing famine in Mexico and began bringing into the program promising young scientists, later named "Borlaug Interns."

He used the lessons learned in Mexico later to disprove 1960s doomsday predictions of mass famine throughout South and East Asia.

In 1986, he created the World Food Prize to give recognition to the work of scientists and humanitarians who have contributed to advancing international agriculture and fighting world hunger. Borlaug's most recent international work was cooperative efforts with CIMMYT, in Mexico and the Sasakawa Africa Association program. One of his favorite parts of the World Food Prize celebration each October was the success of the Youth Institute. In 1984, Borlaug came to Texas A&M as Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture, dividing his time between College Station each fall to teach and at CIMMYT in Mexico each spring where he continued research and participation in global efforts to reduce world hunger.

Borlaug was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. He is survived by daughter Jeanie Borlaug Laube and her husband Rex, and son William Gibson Borlaug and his wife Barbie. He also is survived by a sister, Charlotte Culbert of Iowa, grandson William Richard Rhoda and wife Stephanie, and four granddaughters: Tiffany Borlaug Rubi and husband John, Julie Borlaug Larson and husband Dave, Jennifer Rhoda Marsh and husband Dan, and Natalie Howe Borlaug; and great-grandchildren Kyle Rhoda, Matthew Rhoda, Nicholas Rhoda, Anne Borlaug Rubi and Peter Dierks Rubi, and Luke Borlaug Larson.

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