On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, his granddaughter vowed to continue his legacy by preparing a new generation of leaders to feed the world from the university he served for the last 25 years of his life.
Julie Borlaug, who is external relations director for Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, spoke March 25 in the Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, D.C.
The event was one of several commemorating the life of Norman Borlaug, who was called the “Father of the Green Revolution” and is credited with saving the lives of millions worldwide with his research that yielded higher producing grains for developing countries. Earlier in the day, his statue was dedicated in the U.S. Capitol by the state of Iowa.
“More than ever before, humanity must find solutions to meet the grand challenges of global hunger and poverty,” Julie Borlaug said. “My grandfather recognized the need to use a multidisciplinary approach in training new leaders, from policy and economics, to engineering and agricultural sciences.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, echoed her remarks in recalling the man who also inspired generations while living and teaching in the Lone Star State.
“Dr. Borlaug touched millions of lives through his research, knowledge and teachings in advancing agriculture to help end hunger worldwide,” Flores said. “Texas A&M University was fortunate to have him as part of their faculty where his work continues to live through the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. His legacy will also now continue to live on through the newest statue in the U.S. Capitol.”
Julie Borlaug introduced a new program, Borlaug 100, which has begun at his namesake institute in College Station, Texas, to ensure that generations of future leaders realize their full potential with financially unimpeded access to the best training and education possible.
Borlaug 100 will have several components, she noted, including:
- The International Scholars Program, which will build partnerships with students and scientists from developing countries to help them address issues concerning agriculture and food security. The fund will ensure financial support for graduate degree training as well as short-term experiential training. Students will be selected to attend programs at Texas A&M and partner land-grant universities throughout the United States. The program is administered by Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
- International Field Internships will provide hands-on, in-depth experiences for undergraduate students by deploying them for a semester to agriculture projects being conducted around the world. These opportunities may include internships with private, public and non-government organizations. Students will be challenged to apply their academic expertise and immerse themselves in different cultures and new environments.
Borlaug’s remarks culminated numerous activities in the nation’s capital aimed at remembering her grandfather, who was born on a farm near Cresco, Iowa, on March 25, 1914. He earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Minnesota, then worked as a microbiologist for the DuPont de Nemours Foundation.
But it was his job of leading the wheat improvement efforts of the Cooperative Mexican Agricultural Program — sponsored by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation — that launched his passion and success at finding ways to help feed the poor and hungry in the world.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and joined the faculty at Texas A&M in 1984 as Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture and remained active there until his death on Sept. 12, 2009.
Dr. Mark Hussey, interim president of Texas A&M, also addressed the audience, saying that the National Science Foundation event was an appropriate location for remembering the man who became a member of the prestigious academy in 1968 and who was given its highest honor – the Public Welfare Medal – in 2002.
“Dr. Borlaug often said that we can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery,” Hussey recalled. “And through his development of high-yield, disease-resistant wheat crops over many decades, Dr. Borlaug accomplished more than any other human being to build a peaceful world.”
Hussey said Borlaug’s focus was “always on a much smaller scale . . . on the individual, local farmers and the techniques and technologies that would be most helpful to them.
“He did not want to get lost on questions of policy and economics, important as they are,” Hussey added. “His gift was to reduce issues and policies down to what best served farmers at the village level in Mexico, India, Pakistan, Asia and Africa.”
Hussey noted that Borlaug also sought the involvement of the widest assortment – and most talented — of people possible.
“As a result, his influence continues to reap enormous benefits not only in the area of plant breeding and agronomy, but also across the broad spectrum of foreign assistance, agricultural development and food aid,” Hussey said.
Because of Borlaug’s work in agriculture worldwide, Hussey said, AgriLife Research organized its extensive international agriculture programs at Texas A&M under the umbrella of the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture in 2006. The institute leads long-term agricultural efforts in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.