Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug has died. It\’s said variously that 250 million people have been saved from death by his life\’s work or that 1 billion people have been saved from starvation.

By Mr. Toenniessen’s calculation, about half the world’s population goes to bed every night after consuming grain descended from one of the high-yield varieties developed by Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues of the Green Revolution.

I\’m not sure that anyone, ever, has had that effect on the world nor that anyone, ever, will again.

Certainly that\’s one bloody marvellous memorial to leave behind.


If there\’s something good that comes after this life other than eternal rest then there\’s one candidate for the front of the queue for it. One of the few who needs not our prayers but definitely deserves our thanks.

6 thoughts on “Norman Borlaug”

  1. Surely some person of greenitude should complain that that bastard is single-handedly responsible for half the overpopulation in the world?

  2. There’s an interview with him here. It really shows the complexity of environmental calculations. For example:

    “Roundup Ready crops could be used in zero-tillage cultivation in African countries. In zero tillage, you leave the straw, the rice, the wheat if it’s at high elevation, or most of the corn stock, remove only what’s needed for animal feed, and plant directly [without plowing], because this will cut down erosion. Central African farmers don’t have any animal power, because sleeping sickness kills all the animals–cattle, the horses, the burros and the mules. So draft animals don’t exist, and farming is all by hand and the hand tools are hoes and machetes. Such hand tools are not very effective against the aggressive tropical grasses that typically invade farm fields. Some of those grasses have sharp spines on them, and they’re not very edible. They invade the cornfields, and it gets so bad that farmers must abandon the fields for a while, move on, and clear some more forest. That’s the way it’s been going on for centuries, slash-and-burn farming. But with this kind of weed killer, Roundup, you can clear the fields of these invasive grasses and plant directly if you have the herbicide-tolerance gene in the crop plants.”

    And of environmentalists, Borlaug comments:

    “These extremists who are living in great affluence…are saying that poor people shouldn’t have roads. I would like to see them not just go out in the bush backpacking for a week but be forced to spend the rest of their lives out there and have their children raised out there. Let’s see whether they’d have the same point of view then.”

  3. dearieme: believe me, they do. And I want to hit them in the kidneys for it. Because, au fond, ‘overpopulation ‘ means ‘I’m a smug green cunt secure in my life in the West but none of you filthy niggers has a right to breed, or live to adulthood, or have potable water, or drive a car or have a widescreen TV, or just plain exist.’

    P. J. O’Rourke (PBUH) characterised the population controversy as the convenient way for progressives to be racists. He encapsulated this in an inimitable essay in All the Trouble in the World entitled Overpopulation: Just Enough of Me, Way Too Much of You.

    I recommend it to anyone who has a hard-on for stopping those pesky wogs and slopes and jungle bunnies from breeding: maybe they love their kids just as much as you do yours, so how about you fuck off and let them raise them without the odour of it being a planetary crime?

    Paul Ehrlich said: if we have six (or ten) billion people, most of them are going to die (he’s a dickhead).
    Norman Borlaug said: if we have six (or ten) billion people, here’s how we feed them (he’s a saint)

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