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Nobel laureate, Iowa native Borlaug dies
- Justin Gillis, The New York Times12.sep.09
Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts to feed the world's hungry, died Saturday night at his home in Dallas, Texas. He was 95. Borlaug died just before 11 p.m. from complications of cancer, Kathleen Phillips, a Texas A&m University spokeswoman, told the Assoc iated Press. Phillips said Borlaug's granddaughter told her about his death. Borlaug was a distinguished professor at the university in College Station.

A self-described "corn-fed, country-bred Iowa boy," Borlaug was called "the Father of the Green Revolution" for his work developing high-yielding strains of wheat that were credited with staving off the starvation of millions of people in Pakistan and India in the 1960s.
It has been said that Borlaug saved more lives than any other person in history, said Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, which Borlaug founded in 1986.Borlaug, hailed by U.S. and world leaders over the past four decades, was one of five people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The others: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel and Nelson Mandela.
"Thanks to Dr. Borlaug's pioneering work to develop varieties of high-yielding wheat, countless millions of men, women and children, who will never know his name, will never go to bed hungry," former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in 2007 when Borlaug received the Congressional Gold Medal.
"Dr. Borlaug's scientific breakthroughs have eased needless suffering and saved countless lives (and) have been an inspiration to new generations across the globe who have taken up the fight against hunger.
Borlaug had suffered from lymphoma and other ailments that had caused him to be in and out of the hospital in recent years, Quinn said. Yet Borlaug maintained an ambitious travel schedule into his 90s, continuing to teach at Texas A&m and work for the International Center for the Improvement of Wheat and Maize, where he did his breeding work that led to the Nobel Peace Prize.
He also spoke out for an equitable distribution of the world's food and the threat of unchecked population growth. He supported using agricultural biotechnology to combat gl obal hunger and malnutrition and frequently criticized environmentalists he derisively called "greenies."
"I feel obligated as a scientist to speak out," he told The Des Moines Register in 1997. "They can't hurt me now. They can't fire me; I'm too old. But if some young scientist said what I've just said, they'd fire him."
Norman Ernest Borlaug was born in 1914 on his grandparents' farm 11 miles southwest of Cresco.  The son of Henry O. and Clara Borlaug, he had two sisters, Palma and Charlotte. When he was 8, the Borlaugs moved to their own 56-acre farm near the Norwegian community of Saude in northeast Chickasaw County - a town that no longer exists .
Borlaug attended a one-room school near his farm home, with one teacher instructing him through the eighth grade. Borlaug attended Cresco High School, graduating in 1932. He went to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor's degree in forestry in 1937. At Minnesota, he met his future wife, Margaret Gibson, a native of Oklahoma.  After working in Idaho and Massachusetts on forestry projects, he returned to the university and earned his doctorate in 1941 in plant pathology.
From 1941 to 1944, Borlaug was a plant pathologist for DuPont in Wilmington, Del. But in October 1944, he went to Mexico to work at the Rockefeller Foundation's International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center.
There, Borlaug worked on developing wheat with a sturdy, short stalk that could hold the high-yielding grain on top. He also built resistance to a fungal disease called "wheat stem rust" into the "miracle wheat."

After Borlaug developed his miracle wheat, Mexico became a wheat exporter and, in the 1960s, the wheat was sent to India and Pakistan, which used the grain to feed their starving populations
Other nations in Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East also adopted miracle wheat to feed their people.

Borlaug's success earned him a new nic kname: "the apostle of wheat."

When it was announced in 1970 that Borlaug had won the Nobel Peace Prize, he was working in experimental fields 50 miles from Mexico City.
At first, Borlaug thought the report that he had won the Nobel was a joke, and he had to be persuaded to return to the city for a news conference. When he arrived, he was wearing his work clothes, with dust on his shoes and dirt on his hands.
"I wanted to show the TV men what makes an agricultural scientist - dirty hands," he said. "I washed them later." Joking aside, Borlaug explained what excited him most about winning the Nobel Prize. "Seventy percent of the people of the world make their living from agriculture," he said, "and this is the first time agricultural science and the application of it have been given recognition.
The Green Revolution eventually came under attack from environmental and social critics who said it had created more difficulties than it had solved. Dr. Borlaug responded that the real problem was not his agricultural techniques, but the runaway population growth that had made them necessary.
"If the world population continues to increase at the same rate, we will destroy the species," he declared.

Dr. Borlaug's later years were partly occupied by arguments over the social and environmental consequences of the Green Revolution. Many critics on the left attacked it, saying it displaced smaller farmers, encouraged overreliance on chemicals and paved the way for greater corporate control of agriculture.
In a characteristic complaint, Vandana Shiva, an Indian critic, wrote in 1991 that "in perceiving nature's limits as constraints on productivity that had to be removed, American experts spread ecologically destructive and unsustainable practices worldwide."
Dr. Borlaug declared that such arguments often came from "elitists" who were rich enough not to worry about where their next meal was coming from. But over time, he acknowledged the validity of some environmental concerns, and embraced more judicious use of fertilizers and pesticides. He was frustrated throughout his life that governments did not do more to tackle what he called "the population monster" by lowering birth rates.