While the media might be focusing on the death of Patrick Swayze, we’d like to draw your attention to the death of a man who was a truly influential and positive force in the world. Norman Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution” and winner of the 190 nobel peace prize, died Saturday at the age of 95.
Borlaug’s accomplishments involved the tremendous work he did in revolutionizing agriculture. By recognizing that organic farming could not exclusively feed the world’s population, Borlaug developed genetically modified foods. These foods, among other things, could resist disease, had a higher yield with fixed inputs, and utilized “dwarfing”.
The results were higher yields and food being grown in places where it wasn’t before – more people were eating because there was more food. As the Wall Street Journal points out:
Today, famines—whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur or North Korea—are politically induced events, not true natural disasters.
Borlaug’s only obstacle to universally renowned heroism comes from environmentalists. Some environmentalists claimed that growing more food would mean roads would be built over wilderness. I don’t think I need to address the elitism of that argument. But also, because of the unknown consequences of using chemicals like non-organic pesticides and genetically modifying foods, environmentalists saw Borlaug as a figure who introduced dangerous food into every agricultural industry in the world.
It’s true that we don’t know all the consequences of Borlaug’s work – just like we don’t yet know the consequences of society staring at computer screens for 7 hours a day. But we need to weigh the possible risks with the enormous benefits. Borlaug was credited with saving the lives of 1 billion people. Not a typo – billion. Those are 1 billion people that would have starved to death. As Borlaug said, it’s easy for people to criticize his work for being possibly dangerous because they all have “full bellies”.