"Dr. Borlaug's scientific achievements saved hundreds of millions of lives and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and the distinction of one of the 100 most influential individuals of the 20th Century."
Jimmy Carter
"Dr. Borlaug is an American hero and a world icon."
George H. W. Bush
"This biography of one of the greatest men of our time is written in the same fast-paced, common sense style that has characterized the amazingly creative life of Norman Borlaug... No one can tell this story of Dr. Borlaug better than his fellow agriculturist and development authority, Dr. Leon Hesser."
George McGovern
 
TV & Radio Interviews and Media Reviews

New York Post
August 20, 2006


MR. SMITH FEEDS THE WORLD
By HENRY I. MILLER

THE MAN WHO FED THE WORLD: NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE NORMAN BORLAUG AND HIS BATTLE TO END WORLD HUNGER BY LEON HESSER DURBAN HOUSE, 297 PAGES, $24.95

LEON Hesser's straightforward yet gripping biography of Norman Borlaug, the plant breeder known as the Father of the Green Revolution, offers the kind of nobility and idealism shown by Jimmy Stewart in the classic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
Borlaug's life has been one of extraordinary paradoxes. A child of the Iowa prairie during the Great Depression, he attended a one-room school and aspired to become a high-school science teacher but flunked the university entrance exam. He went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for averting malnutrition, famine and the death of millions.
Borlaug, now 92, struggled against prodigious professional obstacles, including what he calls the "constant pessimism and scaremongering" of critics who predicted that, in spite of his efforts, mass starvation was inevitable and hundreds of millions would perish in Africa and Asia. His work resulted in high-yielding varieties of wheat that transformed the ability of Mexico, India, Pakistan, China and parts of South America to feed their populations.
How successful was he? From 1950 to 1992, the world's grain output rose from 692 million tons produced on 1.70 billion acres of cropland to 1.9 billion tons on 1.73 billion acres of cropland - an extraordinary increase in yield of more than 150 percent.
Without high-yield agriculture, either millions would have starved or increases in food output could have been realized only through drastic expansion of land under cultivation. But that would've meant losses of pristine wilderness far greater than all the losses to urban, suburban and commercial expansion.
Borlaug recalls without rancor the maddening obstacles to the development and introduction of high-yield plant varieties: the "bureaucratic chaos, resistance from local seed breeders and centuries of farmers' customs, habits and superstitions."
Both the need for additional agricultural production and obstacles to innovation remain, and in recent years, Borlaug has applied himself to ensuring the success of the application of gene splicing, or "genetic modification," to agriculture. This second wave promises to be as important as the first, offering the possibility of even higher yields, fewer inputs of agricultural chemicals and water, enhanced nutrition and even plant-derived, orally active vaccines.
Environmental extremists, though, are doing everything they can to stop scientific progress, and their allies in the United Nations and other regulatory agencies are eager to help. "If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years," says Borlaug,
The essence of Norman Borlaug? I'm reminded of a line by Matthew Arnold about Sophocles: a man "who saw life steadily, and saw it whole."
Henry I. Miller, a physician, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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