Tag Archive for 'Green Revolution'

Freedom From Famine — The Norman Borlaug Story

Norman Ernest Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009)was an American agronomist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution” and “The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives”. See Wiki

In Times of India: By cranking up a wheat strain containing an unusual gene, Borlaug created the so-called ”semi-dwarf” plant variety — a shorter, stubbier, compact stalk that supported an enormous head of grain without falling over from the weight. This curious principle of shrinking the plant to increase the output on the plant from the same acreage resulted in Indian farmers eventually quadrupling their wheat — and later, rice — production.

It heralded the Green Revolution.

Below, Freedom From Famine – The Norman Borlaug Story:


The battle for brinjal

Top points to Samar Halarnkar who has the case for and against BT Brinjal clearly cut out in the Hindustan Times. Cogent, balanced and everything you need to know and understand about why Bt Brinjal has everyone — Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, environmentalists, NGOs, farmers and scientists — so worked up.

In 1997, in a field outside Delhi, government regulators forced scientists at the State-run Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to destroy India’s first field of locally designed killer brinjals (aubergines or eggplants to the rest of the world).

India is littered with State institutions that fail their purpose or flatly refuse to crack down on erring colleagues, so the 1997 move against the government-grown brinjals was extraordinary. These were no ordinary brinjals. In the invisible reaches of their DNA, scientists had spliced in a gene that let the brinjals kill a caterpillar, which bores holes into it and forces farmers to use costly and poisonous pesticides. But the IARI scientists lost their field of dreams because they had not followed some of the safety procedures required. more

And from the Indian Express:

Bt brinjal is on indefinite hold because the Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, has said there are many questions still to be answered. But the fact is there are many questions the minister needs to answer. We look at the Bt brinjal story from the day Ramesh took charge as Environment Minister, we assess the procedural changes he put in place, and we examine his argument that research in food science is best left to the public sector. As much as the decision he took, it’s also how he came to that decision that has raised troubling issues. More:

The Economist obit: Norman Borlaug


Wherever he went, Mr Borlaug showed the same impatience. Paperwork was spurned in favour of action; planting, advising, training thousands. In India, where he set up hundreds of one-acre plots to show suspicious farmers how much they could grow, he was so frustrated by bureaucracy that when at last his seed came, shipped from Los Angeles, he planted it at once despite the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan, sometimes by flashes of artillery fire. And when in 1984 he was drawn out of semi-retirement to take his seed and techniques to Africa, he forgot in a moment, once he saw the place, his plan to do years of research first. “Let’s just start growing,” he said.

As a boy, he hadn’t known what hunger was. He came from a small Norwegian farm in Iowa, the land of butter-sculptures and the breaded tenderloin sandwich. But on his first trip to “the big city”, Minneapolis, in 1933, grown men had begged him for a nickel for a cup of coffee and a small, dry hamburger, and a riot had started round him when a milk-cart dumped its load in the street. He saw then how close to breakdown America was, because of hunger. It was impossible “to build a peaceful world on empty stomachs”. More:

Also see in AW:  Norman Borlaug, who led Green Revolution

Obituary: Norman Borlaug, who led Green Revolution

Largely because of his work, countries that had been food deficient, like Mexico and India, became self-sufficient in producing cereal grains. From the New York Times:

“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,” the Nobel committee said in presenting him with the Peace Prize. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”

The day the award was announced, Dr. Borlaug, vigorous and slender at 56, was working in a wheat field outside Mexico City when his wife, Margaret, drove up to tell him the news. “Someone’s pulling your leg,” he replied, according to one of his biographers, Leon Hesser. Assured that it was true, he kept on working, saying he would celebrate later.

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.

Traveling to Norway, the land of his ancestors, to receive the award, he warned the Nobel audience that the struggle against hunger had not been won. “We may be at high tide now, but ebb tide could soon set in if we become complacent and relax our efforts,” he said. Twice more in his lifetime, in the 1970s and again in 2008, those words would prove prescient as food shortages and high prices caused global unrest. More:

A real green revolution

Once they were the pioneers, and beneficaries of the ‘green revolution’, now a group of farmers in Punjab want to reclaim their land through natural farming methods. In Slate, Mira Kamdar files her despatch.

JAITU, FARIDKOT DISTRICT, India—Jitinder’s motorcycle pulled up in front of a concrete arch that had been draped with cloth banners printed with messages about pesticide poisoning and cancer.

“Welcome, welcome to our workshop,” a beaming Umendra Dutt called out in English as I alighted. The tangled locks of his long hair gave him a bit of a wild-man look. A cell phone was clutched in the hand he waved. Umendra started to read the Hindi messages on the banners and was delighted when I chimed in. It helped that English words such as cancer were simply rendered phonetically in Devanagari script.

Under a white tent, a buffet table had been laid, a stage erected, and rows of chairs set out. Boys hurried to and fro at Umendra’s orders, their rubber thongs slapping against the grimy marble floor. On the table, grease and curry stains randomly bloomed on a fabric that must once have been an elegant cream color. Flies swarmed everywhere, exploring the stains and the platters of food that began to appear.