Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Real Thing"
by John Alexander Madison
October 12, 2009

Do you remember the circa 1970’s era of great songs which included Mama Cass Elliot’s “(There’s a) New World Coming;” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water;” Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough;” The Beatles’ “Let It Be;” Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World;” and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)” by… hmm, whose song was that?

It was The New Seekers who performed the original recording as an advertising jingle for The Cola-Cola Company…because we all knew (or learned) that Cola-Cola WAS the “real thing.” Together, with the Hilltop Singers, they gained international fame by re-recording the song as a full-length pop hit in 1971.

The “real thing” came to mind for many once again on September 12, 2009 when the winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize passed away at the age of 95 in Dallas, Texas.

Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug was an American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate who has been deemed the father of the Green Revolution. Borlaug was one of only six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's highest civilian honor for a foreign citizen.

Norman Borlaug was born on a farm near Cresco, Iowa on March 25, 1914. After completing his early education in his hometown, he went on to study forestry and plant pathology at the University of Minnesota, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees and completed his doctorate in 1942. After two years as a microbiologist with the DuPont de Nemours Foundation, he took on the challenge of leading the wheat improvement efforts of the Cooperative Mexican Agricultural Program, sponsored by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation.

In 1964, he was appointed director of the Wheat Research and Production Program at the then newly established International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) near Mexico City. This position allowed him to expand his teaching mission. His scientific knowledge found expression in a humanitarian mission: developing improved grain varieties to feed the hungry people of the world.

During his time in Mexico, he developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties. He shared his immense knowledge of research and production methods with thousands of young scientists from all over the world, "seeding" agricultural production in their home countries with new ideas and new productivity.

A practical, energetic, hands-on researcher, he worked in the fields alongside farm workers, students, and interns, sharing his knowledge as well as the labor of producing food crops. During the mid-20th century, Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues perfected a dwarf wheat variety that could produce large amounts of grain, resist diseases, and resist lodging - the bending and breaking of the stalk that often occurs in high-yielding grains. Under Dr. Borlaug's guidance, this new wheat was planted with great success, using modern agricultural production techniques, not only in Mexico, but also in India and Pakistan. In subsequent years, the wheat was planted in nations in Central and South America, the Near and Middle East, and Africa.

As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations. These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

Despite having received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 - and, over the years, honors and recognitions from universities, governments, and organizations worldwide - he remained a deeply humble and practical man who has been as productive after winning this major honor as he was before. Hailed as having saved more lives than anyone else in the history of mankind, Dr. Borlaug cites as one of his most prized tributes the naming of a street in his honor in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico - the site of some of his earliest research projects.

He became a Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University in 1984, at the age of 70. Norman E. Borlaug will long be remembered as the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself and whose work was credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives and, by some estimates, over one billion. Yes, one billion lives saved by Dr. Norman Borlaug, who can easily be referred to as THE REAL THING!

Better than teaching the world to sing, he taught the world to eat.


It might be somewhat embarrassing for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner to be acknowledged in the same article as Dr. Norman Borlaug. But I won’t hesitate to do it anyway.

On October 9, 2009 United States President Barack Hussein Obama was declared the winner of this formerly prestigious award accompanied by a $1.4 million check. It has been reported that nominations for the award were due within a fortnight of President Obama’s inauguration in January so one can only conclude that the once prestigious Nobel Peace Prize has officially been renamed the Nobel Rhetoric Prize. Before and since his inauguration President Obama is best known for his flowery speeches and creating trillions of dollars in U.S. debt.

As one Ivy League scholar immediately observed the Nobel Peace Prize “has been diminished forever.” Of course, that may have already happened when Jimmy Carter (2002) and Al Gore (2007) were named previous winners.

(Biographical background of Dr. Norman Borlaug from the Norman Borlaug Foundation).

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