Norman Borlaug: The Man Who Saved More Human Lives Than Any Other Has Died

Norman Borlaug, the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history, has died at age 95. Borlaug was the Father of the Green Revolution, the dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity that swept the globe in the 1960s. For spearheading this achievement, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. One of the great privileges of my life was meeting and talking with Borlaug many times over the past few years. In remembrance, I cite the introduction to Reason's 2000 interview with Borlaug below:

Borlaug grew up on a small farm in Iowa and graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he studied forestry and plant pathology, in the 1930s. In 1944, the Rockefeller Foundation invited him to work on a project to boost wheat production in Mexico. At the time Mexico was importing a good share of its grain. Borlaug and his staff in Mexico spent nearly 20 years breeding the high-yield dwarf wheat that sparked the Green Revolution, the transformation that forestalled the mass starvation predicted by neo-Malthusians.

In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish. "The battle to feed all of humanity is over," biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. "In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971." He insisted that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980."

But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn't work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. In 1965, they had begun a massive campaign to ship the miracle wheat to Pakistan and India and teach local farmers how to cultivate it properly. By 1968, when Ehrlich's book appeared, the U.S. Agency for International Development had already hailed Borlaug's achievement as a "Green Revolution."

In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million. And the yields continue to increase. Last year, India harvested a record 73.5 million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich's dire predictions in 1968, India's population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. Soon after Borlaug's success with wheat, his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developed high-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolution through most of Asia.

Contrary to Ehrlich's bold pronouncements, hundreds of millions didn't die in massive famines. India fed far more than 200 million more people, and it was close enough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971 that Ehrlich discreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of The Population Bomb. The last four decades have seen a "progress explosion" that has handily outmatched any "population explosion."

Borlaug, who unfortunately is far less well-known than doom-sayer Ehrlich, is responsible for much of the progress humanity has made against hunger. Despite occasional local famines caused by armed conflicts or political mischief, food is more abundant and cheaper today than ever before in history, due in large part to the work of Borlaug and his colleagues.

More than 30 years ago, Borlaug wrote, "One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the world may be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy." As REASON's interview with him shows, he still believes that environmental activists and their allies in international agencies are a threat to progress on global food security. Barring such interference, he is confident that agricultural research, including biotechnology, will be able to boost crop production to meet the demand for food in a world of 8 billion or so, the projected population in 2025.

Meanwhile, media darlings like Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown keep up their drumbeat of doom. In 1981 Brown declared, "The period of global food security is over." In 1994, he wrote, "The world's farmers can no longer be counted on to feed the projected additions to our numbers." And as recently as 1997 he warned, "Food scarcity will be the defining issue of the new era now unfolding, much as ideological conflict was the defining issue of the historical era that recently ended."

Borlaug, by contrast, does not just wring his hands. He still works to get modern agricultural technology into the hands of hungry farmers in the developing world. Today, he is a consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico and president of the Sasakawa Africa Association, a private Japanese foundation working to spread the Green Revolution to sub-Saharan Africa.

Borlaug's achievements were not confined to the laboratory and fields:

He insisted that governments pay poor farmers world prices for their grain. At the time, many developing nations--eager to supply cheap food to their urban citizens, who might otherwise rebel--required their farmers to sell into a government concession that paid them less than half of the world market price for their agricultural products. The result, predictably, was hoarding and underproduction. Using his hard-won prestige as a kind of platform, Mr. Borlaug persuaded the governments of Pakistan and India to drop such self-defeating policies.

Fair prices and high doses of fertilizer, combined with new grains, changed everything. By 1968 Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat, and by 1974 India was self-sufficient in all cereals. And the revolution didn't stop there. Researchers at a research institute in the Philippines used Mr. Borlaug's insights to develop high-yield rice and spread the Green Revolution to most of Asia. As with wheat, so with rice: Short-stalked varieties proved more productive. They devoted relatively more energy to making grain and less to making leaves and stalks. And they were sturdier, remaining harvestable when traditional varieties--with heavy grain heads and long, slender stalks--had collapsed to the ground and begun to rot.

Let us mourn the death of this truly great man.

Click here to read the complete interview.

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  • jester||

    He saved the very people green lefties like Erlich wanted dead. You expect praise for this guy?

  • jester||

    Sorry Ron,

    Norm deserves way more than idiot snark from a blogger, but I suspect our idiot remarks will not figure into his legacy anyway. Sadly, he'll hardly be eulogized at all. But when Erlich dies expect fireworks and a whitewashing of his ignorant stands.

    I'll have a moment of loudness on his behalf.

  • ||

    Do Ehrlich and Brown remind anyone of Gore and his followers in their insistence of "we must do as I say, we are doomed if we don't"?

  • gyt||

    What a valuable life!

  • ||

    What a valuable life! And I'd be saying that even if weren't an Iowan.
    It's sad that a lot of people think that he was a villain rather than a hero. Feeding all those wogs, you know. Just encourages them.
    It's scary that some of them (does the name John Holdren ring a bell?)seem to be working in the Obama administration.

  • ||

    He'll get less press than some useless rocker who OD's on heroin. Truly a great man.

  • Stretchy||

    Sadly, the headlines on all the news sites involve Tennis players' throwing tantrums rather than the death of one of the most important people of the 20th century.

  • LTC John||

    AKD, I agree. TO be able to look back at your life's work and think "I helped save a billion or more lives". And still remain active and not get a big head about it! An example for all to follow.

  • ||

    He was a man of great humility and selflessness. He taught and mentored students at Texas A&M well into his 90s.

    A few years ago, he tried to park in a lot close to Kyle Field to watch a football game. He was mistakenly sent to a lot several miles away instead. He did as he was asked without protest.

  • jester||

    I'll counter that and say that in addition to saving lives he could have taken out Ehrlich, Gore and other pseudohumans in an easily winnable debate.

    C'mon, no one was asking him to be president.

  • Doug Stevens||

    Alexander Cockburn over at CounterPunch made a comment in this post in 2007 about Borlaug that was less than flattering. He claimed that:

    Aside from Kissinger, probably the biggest killer of all to have got the peace prize was Norman Borlaug, whose "green revolution" wheat strains led to the death of peasants by the million.



    Does anyone know what he's talking about?

  • iowahawk||

    Arguably the greatest living American.
    I am proud to be a small town Iowa farm boy, in no small measure because of Norman Borlaug.

    I have many times driven Iowa Highway 9 through Cresco IA, where a modest sign welcomes you to the hometown of Norman Borlaug (oddly enough the sign also cites the 4 Navy admirals who were born there, as well as "the first airline stewardess"). The sign is in keeping with the modesty of the man himself, who grew up on a small farm outside Cresco. People joke about the flat, boring expanse of cornfield that is Iowa, and Cresco is among its flattest and corniest precincts. People joke that Iowa farmers only talk about the weather and corn. It was this weather and plant-obsessed farmer from the most boring, flat, corn-carpeted part of Iowa who is responsible for saving the lives of a billion, perhaps several billion people.

  • Mike Laursen||

    In 1981 Brown declared, "The period of global food security is over." In 1994, he wrote, "The world's farmers can no longer be counted on to feed the projected additions to our numbers."

    Just watched reason.tv's interview with the "Flaw of Averages" author, where he talked about the human tendency to base predictions by looking at the trends in one averaged variable in a non-linear system. Brown is clearly doing this, if he is doing any math at al. Meanwhile, guys like Borlaug are hard at work being non-linear.

  • iowahawk||

    And yes, I meant to write "He was arguably the greatest living American."

  • jester||

    brown people, ignorant brown people. That was the sin. ignorant, brown people that died every day and were counted on to die everyday.

  • ||

    Call me when someone finds a way to feed humans actual food, instead of slow-acting poison.

  • jester||

    people not individuals. people devoid of individuality because they were poor, ignorant, and incidently brown.

    OK I poured the color on a little strong, but that's what the Left's been doing.

  • jester||

    damaged justice,

    you're not serious? So it wasn't the Columbian Exchange afterall?

  • Jesse Walker||

    When he came to a Reason Foundation event some years ago, I wondered how he'd react to some of the libertarian ideological views that would be on display. To my surprise, he turned out to be a strong opponent of the war on drugs.

  • iowahawk||

    "Alexander Cockburn... Does anyone know what he's talking about?"

    In the core lunatic organs of the left (e.g. Counterpunch) Borlaug is reviled as the father of "Frankenfoods." See, because he supported genetic engineering and the use of insecticides, herbicides, inorganic fertilizers, etc. In the dystopian fantasies of the hard left, secret untold millions are dying from undiagnosed cancers caused by evil Dr Borlaug mad science wheat.

  • jester||

    Now I understand why I was taught Mythology in the 4th Grade! People really believe that shit.

  • ||

    "Does anyone know what he's talking about?"


    Line up some of the more notorious Nobel Peace Prize recipients, such as Kissinger, and if you had to identify the biggest killer of all it was probably Norman Borlaug, one of the architects of the Green Revolution, which unleashed displacement, malnutrition and death across the Third World.
    [...]

    The Real Al Gore

  • ||

    I knew there was a reason I had such righteous and endless hate for Nation readers when I lived in Berkeley.

  • Chad||

    Things are never as simple as they seem.

    Do we produce enough food to feed everyone today? Yes. Indeed, we actually produce enough food to feed more than the ten billion people the UN estimates will be alive towards century's end, when our population will likely peak.

    However:


    1: Much of our current food production goes to livestock. To feed ten billion, we will need either more food, or a shift towards a low-meat diet.

    2: Yields continue to improve, but there are some serious caveats. "Champion yields" have not been improving significantly for some time. Yield improvements have instead come largely through the defeat of things that reduce yield, such as pests and drought. You can only defeat these things once. To improve yields by 50%, such that we could feed ten billion as we feed 6.5 bilion now, we would need to improve the very ability of our crops to produce more under ideal conditions. This is not something we have really done in the modern era.

    3: Our current system is utterly unsustainable. In most places, we are "mining" either topsoil or groundwater or both. We are already losing what was once prime agricultural land to both. Additionally, the system is completely dependant on fossil fuels, which will likely become much more dear in the future.

    4: While if climate change stays cooler end of the predictions, it will likely improve yields, if it is towards the hotter end of the predicted range, crop yields will be reduced due to additional water and heat stress.

    Erhlich was wrong because he extrapolated current trends far into the future. I find it odd that libertarians, in critizing his predictions, allow the same kind of extrapolations to enter theirs.

    Libertarians have some odd sort of blind faith that technology and markets will solve all problems. They refuse to acknowledge that there can be downward pressures as well, such as diminishing resources. It is not clear which will win out in the long run, but they are cancelling one another out.

  • iowahawk||

    Right on cue, here come the "slow acting poison" brigade. From the linked article in the commenter's post:

    "Taken as a whole, these indicators fairly clearly suggest an overall decline in the quality-- and probably in the length-- of human life associated with the adoption of agriculture."

    Got that? Human quality of life, and lifespan, has decreased since the PALEOLITHIC AGE. Because of AGRICULTURE.

    Nicely summing up the weltanschauung of the hard left's anti-science idiots.

  • @||

    damaged justice | September 13, 2009, 10:05am | #

    Call me when someone finds a way to feed humans actual food, instead of slow-acting poison.


    Why would anybody want to call you?

  • Jesse Walker||

    In the dystopian fantasies of the hard left, secret untold millions are dying from undiagnosed cancers caused by evil Dr Borlaug mad science wheat.

    No, that isn't it. The article referred to the deaths of peasants, not consumers. I believe he's referring to the argument that the Green Revolution as it was carried out concentrated land ownership and dispossessed many peasants.

    I don't want to get into the debate about how true that charge is. I will say that, even if it is true, I don't see why the guy who created the technology should get the blame. It's a bit like looking at one of those dumb highway projects that destroyed a vibrant urban neighborhood and blaming the people who invented the car.

  • Joe M||

    Two things to cheer us on this sad occasion:

    1) Articles about his life and death are on the front page of google news.

    2) He lived to be 95! What is it with the biggest champions of liberty reaching such ridiculously high ages? Ludwig von Mises, 92; F.A. Hayek, 92; Milton Friedman, 94; and now this guy. Honestly, I can't complain too much.

  • ||

    So don't call me. Nobody's putting a gun to your head.

    And anyone who calls me a leftist is a fucking idiot.

  • iowahawk||

    I stand corrected; I had Cockburn confused with the "organic" fetishists. Apparently he hates Borlaug because Borlaug's work somehow led to insufficiently collectivist agriculture economies in the Third World.

    Jebus Cripes. I am as appalled as anyone by the anti-science, creationist nuts on the religious Right, and agree they should be kept as far away from teaching podia as possible. But at the end of the day, the Jesus Lizard folks are an aesthetic irritation. The anti-science religious fucks on the Left, by contrast, actually want to kill people.

  • ||

    [...]
    Was there ever a moment, in the long tradition of such overblown rhetoric, that "new approaches" weren't needed? Scour through all the old speeches across the past century about starving billions around the planet or starving millions right here in the USA, and it's always the same professions of noble purpose. "We can end hunger now," declared the sales folk for the Green Revolution that peaked in expectation in 1971 when Dr. Norman Borlaug got the Nobel Peace Prize for his invention of Mexican miracle wheat, heavily backed by the Rockefeller Foundation.

    And indeed, miracle wheat paid off handsomely for rich farmers on expensively irrigated land in Sonora but, as always, intensive monoculture drove marginal subsistence farmers off the land, and the Mexican poor people hated Dr. Borlaug's low gluten wheat, the same way the peasants and poor urban dwellers of South and Southeast Asia hated the first "miracle" rice, IR-8, because it cooked up mushy and tasted bad.

    "History may well record that the Green Revolution was a greater disaster than our Vietnam intervention." So wrote John and Karen Hess in their funny, fiery book "The Taste of America," published back in 1977.

    They were probably right, if you add up all the Greater Than Expected Deaths (as the statisticians put it) in Third World countries savaged by techno-fixers from the First World trying to make world agricultural production safe for capitalism.
    [...]

    Ending world hunger in Sacramento

  • ||

    OK, I wont call you a leftist, you fucking idiot.

  • jester||

    damaged justice,

    you're not a leftist, you're a top food conspiracy theorist, a superstar really. Ha(ra)nguing Chad, that guy is a leftist. Easy to distinguish. Piece of cake (made from dangerous deritives of wheat flour).

  • jester||

    People on death row always want a tasty repast before they go. The Hesss were correct. Why die on flavorless rice. Mario Battali is rich today because even he saw that the poor wouldn't settle on anything less that Coach Farms Goat Cheese.

  • ||

    "you're not a leftist, you're a top food conspiracy theorist"

    How about you respond to the science and evidence in the linked article instead of engaging in ad hominem, you fucking tool?

  • ||

    It sounds trite but we really are poorer for his passing.

  • jester||

    OK I will respond to your science. Paleos were better off than us today. I agree their cave paintings were superior to anything by Picasso that could hang on my walls. Their intellect was far superior to ours and we have most likely digressed technologically since the time the pyramids were built with the amazing strength of two or three humans on a proper paleo diet. You're right. The amazing website you linked to has been surpressed by all so as to surpress our true potential.

    And now I ask, if it is science where are the peer reviewed papers to insure that scientific rigor was followed. Why should I leave the safety of my adopted Tasaday family and forgo eating frog larvae for dinner?

  • jester||

    "Due to the unavoidable spottiness of the archaeological record"

    From your web link.

    Your link is pointless to the non-debate. You brought up the word POISON. Poison kills people so I was inclined to believe...So just tell me that I am hallucinating when I travel the world and see few people starving.

  • ||

    dj: Whatever the evidence is regarding the ancient ag revolution, the fact is that farmers out competed the hunters (interestingly recent population gene scans show that farmers were highly successful in reproducing compared to ancient indigenous populations). Conclusion - at least in Darwininan terms the agriculturalists were doing something right.

    In any case, the crop science pioneered by Borlaug will enable researchers to improve the nutritional value of our foods - think iron and vitamin A biofortification of cereal grains.

  • ||

    The anti-science religious fucks on the Left, by contrast, actually want to kill people.

    They don't just want to, they actually have. Lysenko, for example.

    -jcr

  • jester||

    ad freakonems are sometimes appropriate.

  • ||

    When you get right down to it, the hostility of the left towards Norman Borlaug is not at all hard to understand: Borlaug saved billions of lives, and did so without authoritarian measures, so naturally he's despised by the squalid power-seeking misanthropes of the left.

    -jcr

  • ||

    What is it with the biggest champions of liberty reaching such ridiculously high ages?

    Perhaps long life is promoted by a clear conscience and genuine philanthropy?

    -jcr

  • Joe||

    You can see the real danger in thinking like Cockburn's by looking at Zimbabwe under Mugabe. As president he confiscated land owned by foreign white farmers, who were using modern agricultural techniques such as the Borlaug's and handed it over to native farmers, who went back to using traditional agricultural methods.

    Predictably, productivity plummeted and the country went from being a food exporter to depending on the UN to avoid starvation.

  • ||

    A girlfriend drug me to hear Ehrlich in 1968. His gloom failed to get any purchase on me.

    When Borlaug says to watch out for an explosively pervasive bureaucracy though, he's got my attention.

  • Joe M||

    It makes sense that long-term health would decline from a carb/starch heavy diet, but it clearly allowed the total number of people to be fed to increase massively. Just like anything, we have to work our way through different levels and angles of progress to improve all aspects of something, where initial changes improve some factors while worsening others. A great example of that is cars, which improved the quality of life greatly, but had a number of negatives which have been slowly but surely getting dealt with over time.

  • Joe M||

    Perhaps long life is promoted by a clear conscience and genuine philanthropy?

    I like it!

  • ||

    It sure is amusing -- it should I say, depressing -- to see supposed individualists woo-wooing over "agriculture growing the human race", when the products of agriculture are clearly detrimental to the health of the individual.

  • ||

    Borlaug is also one of only five triple crown winners in the world of humanitarian achievements. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, the Presidential medal of Freedom in '77, and the 2006 Congressional Gold Medal in 2006.

    They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. Borlaug's included Dr. Martin Luther King, Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi.

  • iowahawk||

    "products of agriculture are clearly detrimental to the health of the individual."

    So stop bitching and give them up. Maybe you can find a 12-step agriholic program or a patch at Walgreens.

  • ||

    iowahawk: It's nice that you're projecting your own weaknesses and fears onto me, but I'm already carnivorous.

    "Man the omnivore suffers the diseases of civilization including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Man the carnivore doesn't."

  • ||

    Erhlich was wrong because he extrapolated current trends far into the future. I find it odd that libertarians, in critizing his predictions, allow the same kind of extrapolations to enter theirs.



    Pretty ridiculous paragraph for a post that's nothing but extrapolating current trends into the future.

    Libertarians have some odd sort of blind faith that technology and markets will solve all problems.



    No, but they have a better track record than other solutions, and a better track record with predictions. Progressives have some odd sort of blind faith that government can solve any problem, and like to compare idealized government to real markets.

    In any case Chad, how's that extrapolation of sea ice in 2009 working out for you? I told you that 2009 was most likely going to have a somewhat greater sea ice maximum than 2008 (or 2007's low). I am sympathetic to the inevitable positive feedback loop theory of young ice, but 2008 had greater extent than 2007 and 2009 is greater still, so that's clearly not the entire story.

  • ||

    Where are all the healthy whole grains? They don't exist.

    "Wouldn't it be fun if the food pyramid were making us fat, sick, deformed and crazy all at once?

  • jester||

    the thread isn't so much woo wooing as it is naysaying. The pop bomb didn't happen. And I wasn't the one who forced vegetarianism on the Gujarat state or talked Fijians out of meat-crazy cannibalism.

  • jester||

    lonewacko has an awesome aztec food pyramid.

  • ||

    "Man the omnivore suffers the diseases of civilization including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Man the carnivore doesn't."



    Yeah, gout, scurvy, and goiters are hardly diseases of civilization.

  • kyle||

    From the "slow poison" article...

    Upper Paleolithic times nutritional health was excellent. The evidence consists of extremely tall stature from plentiful calories and protein (and some microevolutionary selection?); maximum skull base height from plentiful protein, vitamin D, and sunlight in early childhood; and very good teeth and large pelvic depth from adequate protein and vitamins in later childhood and adolescence...
    [[[Adult longevity, at 35 years for males and 30 years for females]]], implies fair to good general health...
    There is no clear evidence for any endemic disease.

    Searched the article trying to find out what the magical Paleolith-oids lived to. Smack in the middle is the killer sentence that negates the whole steamy pile. Skull height and pelvic depth do you no good when you die at 35 or so.

    Is there something about the eco-lefty-loonie-fringe that makes them incapable of spotting kryptonite giveaways in their own writing?

  • jester||

    ehrlich erred in extrapolating lemming and rabbit and quelea behavior onto humans. every species behaves differently. initially the left hated o wilson. but now they love him. determinism. hate. love.hate.love.

  • ||

    Kyle, you dumbass, if we ate like they did we would live far longer thanks to the other technological advances since that time.

    John: Gout appears to be caused by excessive fructose and was not an issue until sugar consumption rose to unprecedented levels. Scurvy is claimed to be cured by consuming vitamin C, but if that's the case, why is scurvy cured by eating undercooked meat which has next to no vitamin C?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    1: Much of our current food production goes to livestock. To feed ten billion, we will need either more food, or a shift towards a low-meat diet.


    Ultimately it would boil down to the price of beef.

    People will eat less beef if beef becomes more expensive.


    Libertarians have some odd sort of blind faith that technology and markets will solve all problems.


    That is because markets work best when it comes to the use of scarce, fungible goods that have alternative uses.

    It sure is amusing -- it should I say, depressing -- to see supposed individualists woo-wooing over "agriculture growing the human race", when the products of agriculture are clearly detrimental to the health of the individual.


    So we are less healthy than hunter-gatherer societies?

  • SocraticGadfly||

    Libertarians, let's not forget that, per your own interview, "He insisted that ***governments*** pay poor farmers world prices for their grain. At the time, many developing nations."

    That's his call for government to intervene in the "market," not exactly a libertarian message.

    Per Kyle, just above me, that's a "kryptonite giveaway" in your own writing.

    Otherwise, Chad, near the top of comments, nails it. Growth in food output has been flattening for years, and no, Mr. Borlaug didn't have a lot to say about this.

  • ||

    Michael: Hunter-gatherer societies had problems other than diet to contend with. We do not face those same problems, yet we are far less healthy. The evidence is clear that we would live longer and healthier lives if we ate a more paleolithic diet and avoided the neolithic agents of disease like grains.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Starvation's bad for you. So's a sedentary lifestyle.

    Anyway, thanks for the article on a truly inspirational human being.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Borlaug saved billions of lives, and did so without authoritarian measures

    Depends on how you define "authoritarian measures." The Green Revolution was, in large part, a set of government programs.

  • ||

    Wow, what a great man. May he RIP!

    RT
    www.privacy-resources.tk

  • Mark Buehner||

    "Kyle, you dumbass, if we ate like they did we would live far longer thanks to the other technological advances since that time."

    We're the wealthiest nation on earth and by and large can eat anything we want... but we DONT eat like them.

    So are you blaming Borlaug et al for offering products we choose, and us choosing them?

    That smacks of freedom. If only Damaged Justice could enforce the diet he wants on all of us so we could supposedly live a scant few extra years. Anybody want that trade?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    See, even anonymity guy's impressed, and it's hard to impress a 'bot.

  • ||

    "In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish."

    Is it not hilarious that these so-called "experts" who predict doom and gloom never really change the predictions, only the mechanism. In the sixties it was this mass famine, now it is global warming, er, cooling, er, oh whatever...

  • ||

    It sure is amusing -- it should I say, depressing -- to see supposed individualists woo-wooing over "agriculture growing the human race", when the products of agriculture are clearly detrimental to the health of the individual.



    Since global life expectancy has been phenomenonally increasing with the advent and widespred practice of modern agricultural methods, only a blithering idiot would speak of the health detrimnwent of same.

    No, I don't bother to do links for blithering idiots anymore. Your delusional rantings are not worth the effort.

  • Tricky Prickears||

    No doubt the work of Mr. Borlaug was instrumental in feeding many people. However, hybridization can be disastrous. Whenever, a new species is introduced into an ecosystem there's the risk of affecting the entire system. One could unknowingly create an invasive species. The hybrid could be detrimental to other indigenous species. There's even more concern now with genetic engineering. There are serious questions as to what effects drought resistant corn, or insect resistant species will have on the entire ecosystem.

    I must admit, I am biased about hybridization, being a lifelong resident of an East Coast farming community. Much of the hybridization that occurs on the Left Coast is purely for marketing. Produce that "looks better", sells better, even if it has less flavor. While recent hybridization in Florida produced Super Sweet variety of corn and Grape variety of tomatoes. Bred purely for flavor.

  • AD||

    SocraticGadfly:

    Libertarians, let's not forget that, per your own interview, "He insisted that ***governments*** pay poor farmers world prices for their grain. At the time, many developing nations."

    That's his call for government to intervene in the "market," not exactly a libertarian message.

    Per Kyle, just above me, that's a "kryptonite giveaway" in your own writing


    No, that's his call for government to intervene less. You cut off a very significant part of the quote:

    At the time, many developing nations--eager to supply cheap food to their urban citizens, who might otherwise rebel--required their farmers to sell into a government concession that paid them less than half of the world market price for their agricultural products. The result, predictably, was hoarding and underproduction.

    Farmers were being forced to provide their goods to the government at a government-set price. The state increasing that price to what the farmers would receive in a free market is a step away from statism and towards liberty. Is it a step all the way? Of course not. But, you know, one small step and all...

  • ||

    Maybe he's the man who most helped cause environmental collapse and extinction of the human race and many other species by eliminating starvation, an important check on population growth, causing a sort of Malthusian bubble.

  • ||

    Would you like to save the human race and the environment by voluntarily starving yourself and your family to death, which is adhering to a natural check on population growth? If so, good for you, with you dead there will be more food for hungry people in Africa

  • @||

    The evidence is clear that we would live longer and healthier lives if we ate a more paleolithic diet

    I, too, pine for those golden paleolithic days and their 25-year lifespans. For some strange reason, Americans are living about 27 years longer than they did in 1900. Yet "nutritionists" (a profession overrun with charlatans) claim that we've never had it so bad. A friend of mine buys the magic Himalayan salt and puts it on eveything. All his food is "organic." His religion is every bit as faith-based as the traditional ones.

  • @||

    gao xia en | September 13, 2009, 12:53pm | #

    Maybe he's the man who most helped cause environmental collapse...by eliminating starvation


    Starvation worldwide is far from being eliminated.
    Mysticism (both spiritual and pseudoscientific) has seen to that.

  • Kyle||

    Lets see now, the argument is that paleo man was much healthier than we are now. Not that we would be healthier if we ate like he did, Not that he had problems we don't face. Yet there it is in print "35 years" and our expectancy is about what again?
    By your "dumbass" shall ye be known.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Can we stop feeding the idiot trolls and realize that human genetic engineering in food has been taking place for many thousands of years?

    It's depressing me to read through post after post with people debating miniature Paul Erlichs instead of just praising one of the world's greatest heroes. In the real world, Norman Borlaug saved hundreds of millions of lives from starvation. And even if many government programs were created to support the green revolution, we should actually find that nearly miraculous. So much of government's energy is bent on destroying productivity and in this one instance at least a few of them actually managed to support programs to increase the agricultural output by orders of magnitude - and as it always does, this abundance of supply led to low cost and wide access for populations of starving people around the world.

    This is something to be lauded and held in our absolutely highest esteem.

    And frankly, anyone who thinks there's a correlation between "paleolithic" foods and human health has quite a number of screws loose. As someone who everyone here knows spends a lot of time debating with so-called trolls, I wouldn't touch those crazies with gloves on. Even on the scale of correlation vs. causation, their ideas make no sense. I'd be stronger & "healthier" too if I walked or ran everywhere, built my house with my bare hands, climbed mountains and trees and was in constant struggle with nature every day just to stay alive. I probably wouldn't get a pain in my side when I ran and I probably would look starving-chic good. But first off - that has everything to do with exercise, and little to nothing to do with GE agricultural products. And secondly does that one variable (and blatantly ignoring that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death at our current population size) mean that my life would have been better 4,000 years ago?

    NO! Of course not.

    And as far as slow-poison goes, we can safely assume that Borlaug himself ate mostly his own modified crops, no? And he lived to 95... Slow acting indeed.

    At any rate... the message of the day is: Norman Borlaug - HERO of the WORLD died.

    It's sad news, but a fine opportunity to educate all of our friends about one of the greatest humans who's ever lived.

  • ||

    I would rather eat slow poison which will kill me in 80 years then die of starvation tomorrow.

  • ||

    damaged justice wrote:

    Scurvy is claimed to be cured by consuming vitamin C, but if that's the case, why is scurvy cured by eating undercooked meat which has next to no vitamin C?

    LOL! Is your cave wired with Cat-5 or do you steal wi-fi from the cave next door?

    I highly recommend you eat raw pork from now on. It's really healthy - you don't have all that nasty gluten and crazy carbohydrate stuff to worry about, and IT CURES SCURVY AAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!

  • ||

    Sean W. Malone wrote:
    Can we... realize that human genetic engineering in food has been taking place for many thousands of years?

    Exactly. This is the very case laid out by Darwin in his Origin of Species for natural selection. He used our crude genetic engineering via eugenics as an example of how a species could change.

  • ||

    I will note that all the "Agriphobes" posting probably don't practice subsistence farming and hunting.......

    Easy to spout off when Whole Foods or Kroger is a few miles away. Lot harder when you just finished the umpteenth day breaking your back toiling in the fields, or days stalking a herd of bison, only to come back empty handed.

  • ||

    What is so hard to understand about "take what you can use, and let the rest go by"? You fools raise as many straw men as any gibbering commie.

  • juris imprudent||

    jester sez Now I understand why I was taught Mythology in the 4th Grade! People really believe that shit.

    Be careful about that mythology is only for primitives line of thought. There are loads of myths we live with today, just most people don't recognize it.

  • JB||

    A True Hero.

  • economist||

    There's a cruel juxtaposition between Norman Borlaug's largely unnoticed death and Ted Kennedy's overly-eulogized, glorified kicking off. I really hope there is an afterlife, because there is no justice in this world.

  • juris imprudent||

    dumbass justice sez Gout appears to be caused by excessive fructose and was not an issue until sugar consumption rose to unprecedented levels.

    Wrong. I happen to suffer from gout and it has not a thing to do with sugar consumption - it is residue from protein.

    I don't suppose you consider Darwin to be scientific, because the agriculturalists sure out-competed the HGs for survival.

  • ||

    Or maybe you'd like to tell all the people losing weight and improving their health on a carnivorous diet that they're clearly deluded and are going to drop dead from scurvy any day now?

  • ||

    As an Indian, it is a sad day for many of us - atleast for those of us who are not such idealogical dogmatists as the mainstream green movement followers are.

    He made the Green Revolution in India possible.

    India's Agriculture Minister has a statement paying tributes to him

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6832878.ece

    India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a huge admirer of Dr.Borlaug

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/india/Norman-Borlaug-Indias-annadaata-dies-at-95/articleshow/5006489.cms

    M.S. Swaminathan who is considered the father of India's Green Revolution called him the living embodiment of the human quest for a hunger free world on his 90th birthday

    I strongly believe that a posthumous Bharat Ratna (India's highest civilian honour) is a distinct possibility - he was a simple man who refused such recognition in his lifetime.

    I think the Governments of Pakistan and Mexico may also have something planned in his honor.

    Hundreds of millions of people in India, Pakistan, Mexico and all across the developed world have this one Iowan to thank for a peaceful revolution.

    Iowahawk, you must really be proud of having a true human saviour like Dr.Borlaug come from your native land.

    RIP, Dr.Borlaug.

  • ||

    Gary Taubes on gout and fructose:

    "he evidence arguing for sugar or fructose as the primary cause of gout is two-fold. First, the distribution of gout in western populations has paralleled the availability of sugar for centuries, and not all refined carbohydrates in this case. It was in the mid-17th century, that gout went from being exclusively a disease of the rich and the nobility to spread downward and outward through British society, reaching near epidemic proportions by the 18th century...

    "The second piece of evidence is much less circumstantial: simply put, fructose increases serum levels of uric acid. The "striking increase" in uric acid levels with an infusion of fructose was first reported in the Lancet in the late 1960s by clinicians from Helsinki, Finland, who referred to it as fructose-induced hyperuricemia."

  • economist||

    Well, at least he lived longer. Maybe there's some justice in the world.

  • juris imprudent||

    Is there something about the eco-lefty-loonie-fringe that makes them incapable of spotting kryptonite giveaways in their own writing?

    Just to be fair, you get the same reaction from right-wing Xians when you point out their giveaways.

  • ||

    As Gary Taubes points out, this is the kind of bullshit accepted as conventional wisdom:

    ...the medical journals would occasionally run articles on the clinical management of the gout, but these would concentrate almost exclusively on drug therapy. Discussions of diet would be short, perhaps a few sentences, and confused about the science. On those occasions when the authors would suggest that gouty individuals might benefit from low-purine diets, they would invariably include "sugars" and "sweets" as among the recommended foods with low-purine contents. In a few cases - a 1996 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, for instance -- the articles would also note that fructose consumption would raise uric acid levels, suggesting only that the authors had been unaware of the role of fructose in "sugars" and "sweets." Even when the New England Journal published a report from Walter Willett and his Harvard colleagues in March 2004, this same kind of nutritional illiteracy manifested itself. Willett's article had reported that men with gout seemed to eat more meat than healthy men. But Willett, who by this time was arguably the nation's most influential nutritional epidemiologist, later explained that they had never considered sugar consumption in their analysis because neither he nor his collaborators had been aware of the hyperuricemic effect of fructose. Willett's co-author, Gary Curhan, a nephrologist and gout specialist with a doctorate in epidemiology, said he might have once known that fructose raised uric acid levels, but it had slipped his mind. "My memory is not what it used to be," he said. He also acknowledged, in any case, that he never knew sucrose was half fructose.

    Epic...fucking...facepalm.

  • juris imprudent||

    dumbass justice gives one blog, which only goes to prove that if you read it on the Intertubez it must be true. So, just for fun, let's play dueling websites.

  • Joseph Hertzlinger||

    Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together---Jonathan Swift

  • ||

    Hey, just come out and admit, "I'm addicted to carbs and don't want to give them up." That kind of honesty I can at least respect.

  • Xeones||

    1. Shut the fuck up forever, Thomas Malthus.

    2. damaged justice, admit it: you're actually Ted Nugent, right?

  • Neu Mejican||

    The man deserves praise.
    I am glad Jesse Walker showed up, however, to point out that the "green revolution" and Borlaug's work was initiated in large part by, iirc, the PRI in Mexico as part of the "Mexican Miracle."

    As much as libertarians would like to claim Borlaug, he was a moderate and a pragmatist. Moderates pragmatists support libertarian ideas when they work, and are willing to utilize government programs when they work.

    RIP to a great man.

  • ||

    I was lucky enough to meet him once. In an elevator in the heep building at texas A&M.

    I didn't recognize him at the time...its weird that I talked to this guy who saved countless millions about...I think it was just "long day, nice weather" BS.

  • Neu Mejican||

    And of course, it is important to note that no one man or one solution is always correct. Devil is always in the details. Future innovators will need to build on Borlaug's work if the green revolution is to continue.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102944731

  • ||

    admit it: you're actually Ted Nugent, right?

    Eh, it's not *horribly* thrilling, but there are worse people I could be.

  • juris imprudent||

    Hey, just come out and admit, "I'm addicted to carbs and don't want to give them up." That kind of honesty I can at least respect.

    That's what is so funny to me dumbass, I've been eating a fairly low carb diet for years. What I really have to watch, according to both my primary physician and my own research is my intake of fowl (since I was never much of an organ eater in the first place). My biggest carb intake is probably beer.

    Now, tell me I've got to give up bacon and you better be ready for a fight.

  • Jordan||

    I was lucky enough to meet him once. In an elevator in the heep building at texas A&M.



    Was he on the faculty at A&M? Also, what timeframe was this? I'll be pissed at myself if I missed an opportunity like that.

  • SxCx||

    What if eating poison makes you really happy?

  • ||

    "..required their farmers to sell into a government concession that paid them less than half of the world market price for their agricultural products"

    Isn't this identical to the US Government practice of paying health care providers at lower than the market price for their services and goods? Wouldn't one expect the same outcome; i.e., reduced availability of health care goods and services?

  • ||

    In the dystopian fantasies of the hard left, secret untold millions are dying from undiagnosed cancers caused by evil Dr Borlaug mad science wheat.

    Technically they are right...but they neglect to mention that the only reason they live long enough and to an age to which they are suseptible to illnessess such as cancer is becouse of the work burlong did that prevented them from starving before hand.

    Damn you Burlong for making it possible for poeple who would have otherwise starved to live long and fruitful lives!!!

  • Suki||

    Ultimately it would boil down to the price of beef.

    Boiled beef, the apex of Irish gourmet cuisine.

  • ||

    I really hope there is an afterlife, because there is no justice in this world.

    Kennedy and Burlong are both dead....one is rememebred and one isn't but i doubt either of thier corpses care much about it.

    There may be no justice but i think it is that way in a different manner then you are thinking....the end is the end regardless if you are good or bad.

  • Mark J. Nelson||

    It's worth noting another way in which Borlaug differed from current practice: he didn't patent his seeds, nor prohibit farmers from saving seeds from one generation to plant in the next one. Indeed, his goal was the opposite-- enabling farmers to become self-sufficient and not beholden to a food or seed provider.

    A tricky issue is that one reason he was able to give everything away for free like that is because he was a government-funded researcher: unlike Monsanto, he didn't need to make a profit, or even break even. So I'm not sure he's a very unambiguous libertarian success story, even if many of his sentiments are libertarian.

  • ||

    I love the way Retarded Justice links to reputable health sites like the Univesity of Michigan Medical School, Mayo Clinic, JAMA etc. to buttress his delusional claims.

    'Cept he dosn't.

  • Suki||

    I don't know what all this stuff about what I eat not being "organic". Organic is a pretty basic quality of anything edible.

  • Suki||

    Well, not of everything edible (like table salt), just most of the stuff you need for survival.

  • von Laue||

    What delusional claims are those, JD?

    I think that whether Norman Borloug did great things or not can be separated, with only a little bit of consideration, from the question of what the optimal diet for humans is.

  • Suki||

    So, where would you rather live? On a hydroponic farm in Gaza before it was turned over to the Palestinians or after?

    They are the perfect example of turning back the clock from modern farming to paleolithic times.

  • nebby||

    "Borlaug saved billions of lives, and did so without authoritarian measures

    Depends on how you define "authoritarian measures." The Green Revolution was, in large part, a set of government programs."

    But that's unpossible!

    I was wondering how long it was going to take for someone to mention that. That is why he is the writer and not a commenter here I guess.

    By praising Borlaug you are praising massive government programs designed by pointy headed academics to directly intervene in the free market. The greatest success story of the twentieth century completely contradicts your dogmatic assumptions.

  • ||

    How disappointing. I show up here expecting to find a bunch of organic foodies bitching about Borlaug's invention of chemical agriculture, and instead I find one paleolithic wacko bitching about the invention of agriculture itself.

  • Suki||

    Hazel,

    one lone paleolithic wacko

    Fixed ;)

  • ||

    praising massive government programs

    Pretty sure the grants Burlaug got cost less then the federal governments expenditures that went into Kennedy's Funural/memorial.

    Fruthermore the solutuion's that the programs and grants that went into his research were are the far side of limited in regards to curtailing individual Freedom.


    The effect may have been massive but to call it a "massive government program" is a stretch beyond reason.

  • von Laue||

    I would not have guessed that libertarians, among which I suppose I would count myself, would get so pissed off at someone suggesting that humans are evolved for, and are healther on, a diet predominately of meat rather than grain. I kinda figured 'round heah for "people eating tasty animals"-type jokers.

    Let's stipulate that Borlaug did amazing things increasing cereal crop yields, which saved billions of lives by giving them something to eat. I don't think damaged justice (or I) think Borlaug's job was to determine an optimal diet for people. He was trying to grow more of what civilization grows, and he evidently did a spectacular job.

  • ||

    Damn you Burlong for making it possible for poeple who would have otherwise starved to live long and fruitful lives!!!

    Damn you Burlong for making it possible for poeple who would have otherwise starved to live long and fruitful lives, only to die of cancer at the end of that long fruitful life*!!!

    * does not constitute endorsement of the theory that wheat or trace pesticides or whatever actually give anyone cancer.

    Depends on how you define "authoritarian measures." The Green Revolution was, in large part, a set of government programs."

    So, because these crops and technologies were introduced by government measures, we should hate the crops and the technologies?

    It is possible to praise the teachnological advance itself, as opposed to the mechanism used to get people to adopt it. There were, actually, a lot of problems caused by agencies forcing this stuff on people before they realized what all the potential problems were. Diseases causing crop failures, for instance. If it had been adopted more slowly through market-based mechanisms, some of those problems may have been mitigated.

  • nebby||

    Joshua,

    Not just the fact that his research was government supported, but the implementation of his results were accomplished by massive government programs as well.

    The market was not delivering, governments stepped in, benefits accrue to all.

    Large government programs are not always the solution, but discounting such efforts on dogmatic grounds is just stupid.

  • MNG||

    "Let us mourn the death of this truly great man."

    Tru dat. It's a shame he's not more well recognized for his amazing contributions to humanity.

  • ||

    "The market was not delivering, governments stepped in, benefits accrue to all."

    Well, when governments own or control the market, you have to work with what you've got. The green revolution took place in a lot of places that were not exactly known for their free market economics.

  • Brian Lockwood||

    damaged justice,
    You remind me of that one pot-head that everyone knows that insists that pot is a cure for absolutely anything, from hang nails to AIDS. Perhaps that makes you a meat-head?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Maybe I'm nitpicking, but misspelling Norman Borlaug's name as "Burlong" or "Borlong" seems like an accomplished feat of illiteracy given that the correct spelling makes an appearance at the top of everyone's browser windows...

  • Jesse Walker||

    So, because these crops and technologies were introduced by government measures, we should hate the crops and the technologies?

    No.

  • Enyap||

    STFU Damaged Justice, and I say that as a bodybuilder eating over a pound of meat, poultry, or fish everyday.

  • ||

    Now, tell me I've got to give up bacon and you better be ready for a fight.

    Only if the salt and sugar cause you problems. I enjoy it as a side dish on a regular basis. Beer I don't indulge in anymore, but I reserve the option for a shot of single malt scotch on my birthday (the only form of grain I consider fit for human consumption).

    Brian: Eating meat is not a cure for everything. Not eating things other than meat can do a great deal to maintain and restore health. I see no reason to believe it could cure AIDS, but thanks for yet another straw man. Meat head? If anything, us low, very low and zero carbers are Fat Heads, since eating more protein than fat leads to "rabbit starvation". Fat is what fueled us throughout the millions of years paleolithic period, and what made our brains develop to unprecedented levels until we became the smartest predators on the planet.

    Just as an "alternative" viewpoint, Dr. Kurt Harris takes a more nuanced approach in that he believes there's no difference between zero carb (under 5 grams a day, all from animal sources) and "very low" carb, unless a person already suffers from insulin resistance. The greater the resistance built up, the more damage has been done. It's up to everyone to find their personal carbohydrate tolerance and decide how to balance their own health and happiness. Dr. Harris has a well-thought out twelve-rung ladder; the farther you go, the more you'll benefit.

    Enyap: You first.

  • ||

    retarded justice -

    Since droughts and severe winters both existed in paleolithic times, human starvation and malnutrition did as well, no matter the preferred diet* of the savages.

    * Preferred diet of paleolithic man was whatever they could get. Rotting carrion certainly was part of it.

  • Suki||

    Preferred diet of paleolithic man was whatever they could get.

    Don't forget the insects they picked off of each other.

  • ||

    JD: If I cared, I'd quibble over details like Don Matesz versus Drs. Cynthia and David about whether tubers are properly part of the human diet.

  • von Laue||

    Say there was an antelope shortage in Africa, maybe due to weather or disease: so the lions are going hungry.

    Therefore, lions should just eat grass, and there can't be any adverse consequences for the lions' health, because hey, there's always plenty of grass on the savannah.

    It can't be that lions, doing lion shit all the live long day, are best adapated to meat. The reason is because antelopes can get scarce.

  • Suki||

    vL,

    If the lions would just develop commerce they could trade their babysitting skills for reindeer from Norway.

  • ||

    lions should just eat grass

    My parents' cats eat grass.

  • SxCx||

    How could I benefit from a diet that depresses me?

  • ||

    "My parents' cats eat grass..." Only when they need to vomit.

  • SocraticGadfly||

    Meanwhile, in the NYT's obit, Borlaug directly answers the Reason folks who would use him to debunk Paul Ehrlich, with him saying we still need to address population growth.

    Borlaug also partially accepted critics' comments about the possible overuse of fertilizers.

    Finally, the story notes Borlaug spent his last years battling a new variety of wheat rust, the disease apparently "beaten" with his work in Mexico.

    The "salvific technologism" of Reason types may just be trumped again, and not for the first time.

  • ||

    How could I benefit from a diet that depresses me?

    No one lives forever, and everybody gets to go to hell in their own handbasket.

  • GILMORE||

    comments on the NYT site regarding borlaug's obit seem evenly split between people who are overwhelmed with admiration for the guy, and green-types who seem to think he made the whole 'sustainability' issue worse by popularizing genetic technologies which allowed poor populations to grow and thus increase their depredations of the ecosystem.

    I think they represent the "there's just Too Goddamn Many People" school of enviro-panic. I still dont understand them. Then again, I've never been to calcutta.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "No one lives forever, and everybody gets to go to hell in their own handbasket."

    Good point, so why not stop telling people what they should or should not eat, and leave your anti-historical & pseudo-scientific beliefs for another time, huh?

  • ||

    Good point, so why not stop telling people what they should or should not eat, and leave your anti-historical & pseudo-scientific beliefs for another time, huh?

    Fuck off, you ignorant cunt.

  • ||

    Finally, the story notes Borlaug spent his last years battling a new variety of wheat rust, the disease apparently "beaten" with his work in Mexico.

    The "salvific technologism" of Reason types may just be trumped again, and not for the first time.


    Yeah, what's the point of beating one disease if another, similar one is going to show up? Take that, salvific technologism!

  • SxCx||

    I just don't know how I could take your advice and enjoy my life. I keep reading that list and it's saddening.

    Yeah, my organs might feel great. All of them but my brain.

    Sorry man. You seem really into it. I hope you're joyful, sincerely, and not haunted by anxieties over ideal health. I hope you enjoy your meals.

  • von Laue||

    Sean

    And frankly, anyone who thinks there's a correlation between "paleolithic" foods and human health has quite a number of screws loose. As someone who everyone here knows spends a lot of time debating with so-called trolls, I wouldn't touch those crazies with gloves on. Even on the scale of correlation vs. causation, their ideas make no sense. I'd be stronger & "healthier" too if I walked or ran everywhere, built my house with my bare hands, climbed mountains and trees and was in constant struggle with nature every day just to stay alive. I probably wouldn't get a pain in my side when I ran and I probably would look starving-chic good.

    Nowhere in your rebuttal to the ca-aarazy paleos did you address diet. Paleolithic foods, and their proponents do not include building things with bare hands, running or climbing. Why? Well, because those things aren't included in a diet.

    Maybe you should think a little harder about what is ahistorical and pseudo-scientific.

    But you did catch me typing the wrong vowel in Borlaug's name that one time. They can't take that away from you! They can't take that away from you!!

  • Brian C.||

    I strongly suggest we hereafter completely ignore the troll calling itself "Damaged justice." It is not worth talking to.

    Norman Borlaug has saved more lives than any other person who ever lived.

  • ||

    Sorry man. You seem really into it. I hope you're joyful, sincerely, and not haunted by anxieties over ideal health. I hope you enjoy your meals.

    Thanks for the kind words, and rest assured that I do indeed enjoy my meals. I'm also enjoying the rest of my life more than ever before.

  • ||

    Brian: Far be it from me to point out that nowhere in this thread did I say one word, positive or negative, about Normal Borlaug.

  • Warty||

    dj, I've been tremendously enjoying Gary Taubes' book. You'll notice that I'm not being an unpleasant fucktard about it. Go fuck yourself.

  • ||

    Brian: Far be it from me to point out that nowhere in this thread did I say one word, positive or negative, about Normal Borlaug.

    So, in a thread on the obit of Norman Borlaug you never mention him once, and you are proud of that?

    What? Were you just taking your inner asshole out for a stroll?

  • ||

    Just so you can hate me more, if I believed in voting, I would have voted Ron Paul.

  • Amakudari||

    Meanwhile, in the NYT's obit, Borlaug directly answers the Reason folks who would use him to debunk Paul Ehrlich, with him saying we still need to address population growth.

    Please. Ehrlich was debunked when the overwhelming majority of his predictions never came true in the 70s, 80s, 90s or 2000s. He said famine was inevitable and near. He was extremely wrong. The fact that overpopulation and fertilizer's second-order effects are real issues doesn't in any way validate that level of hysteria.

    Finally, the story notes Borlaug spent his last years battling a new variety of wheat rust, the disease apparently "beaten" with his work in Mexico.

    The "salvific technologism" of Reason types may just be trumped again, and not for the first time.


    Yeah, science defeated smallpox, polio, measles, etc. but now we have more cancer. Salvific technologism, foiled again!

    Why do people here think we need Borlaug to be some libertarian firebreather to be worthy of admiration? Didn't "Reason types" do obits on Michael Jackson and pretty much every other cultural icon? Borlaug's at least more relevant than the lot of them, as allowing progress in biotechnology is a libertarian issue.

    Borlaug's work fed many who would have otherwise starved. That gets respect.

  • ||

    Libertarians have some odd sort of blind faith that technology and markets will solve all problems.

    Not all problems. We're still plagued by misantrhopic leftists who disparage freedom and technology, for example.

    -jcr

  • Mark Buehner||

    "Meanwhile, in the NYT's obit, Borlaug directly answers the Reason folks who would use him to debunk Paul Ehrlich, with him saying we still need to address population growth."

    After all, someday the sun will go supergiant and devour the Earth. Ehrlich will be there to say 'told you so'.

  • ||

    I'm just bemused by people who have the unmitigated gall (or utter stupidity) to make the statement, "Well sure he was responsible for saving a billion people, BUT......."

    Completely, totally, utterly vapid.

  • robc||

    After all, someday the sun will go supergiant and devour the Earth. Ehrlich will be there to say 'told you so'.

    Bah. If our Dyson sphere is large enough, we might not even notice.

  • ||

    Bred purely for flavor.

    You fucking puritans just can't stand ANY form of pleasure, can you?

    -jcr

  • hmm||

    Sad to see a good mind go. But glad to see one not wasted. His was truly a life worth living. For a great many people.

  • ||

    Plant and agricultural engineering have been happening since well before Gregor Mendel's time (and if you don't know who he is, look him up on Wikipedia).

    Over the years, we just got a bit more knowledge about plant genetics, and added a few more tools to our toolbox.

    I'm tired of leftists who justify Marx despite the fact that his philosophies have killed millions. Now they belittle a man who has saved millions.

    Technology, research, and science have defeated many problems... just look at Borlaug.

    Sadly, they can't fix stupid.

  • Suki||

    I believe I shall cook up some nice Kobe steaks for me and beloved while the anti-yummy folks stew in their own vomit.

    Yes, I said COOKED not raw ;) Medium rare, of course.

  • ||

    Well, Damaged Justice, I just want to say that I also read Gary Taubes's magnum opus, and was much impressed by his arguments [e.g., that the diseases of civilization are attributable to overuse of sucrose and refined starches].

    Now ... why is it that don't you believe in voting?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    It sounds trite but we really are poorer for his passing


    but richer for his having lived. Which is the measure of a life well spent.

  • ||

    As is always the case, one of the world's greatest heroes passes quietly away. Most of the hundreds of millions of people he fed will probably never know his name. As they said over at Cato, farewell and rest in peace, Borlaug the Great!

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "Far be it from me to point out that nowhere in this thread did I say one word, positive or negative, about Normal Borlaug."

    EXACTLY my point you douchebag!! The thread is ABOUT Dr. Borlaug. Not you. So STFU & go away... Or talk about the topic at hand.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    PS. To whoever... I didn't address the pseudo-scientific bullshit around this thread because again, it has nothing what-so-ever to do with mourning the loss of a great American hero. More to the point, it's not only distracting & denigrating from the whole thread, it's ultimately denigrating of the legacy that Dr. Borlaug is leaving behind. So either show some respect, talk about the work of Dr. Borlaug himself, or STFU.

    Done.

    I tried to suggest ignoring the trolls with my very first post but no one listened... Shameful.

  • ||

    Ugh - I hate to even participate in this conversation, but did mr. artar the paleolithic carnivore up there consider the fact that it takes about 30 pounds of grain to produce a pound of beef - therefore more grain production is a good thing even if you want to clog your intestines with nothing but corpse?

  • jtuf||

    The World is a bit darker, because if his passing.

  • Suki||

    It is confirmed. Grains taste better converted to Kobe beef.

    Nite nite all.

  • highnumber||

    damaged justice = Owlsey Stanley?

  • highnumber||

    RIP, condolences, of course.
    A long life well lived.
    We are richer for having had him.

  • ||

    "We are richer for having had him."

    In more ways than just food. The improved production freed millions of people from agriculture to do other useful things.

  • ||

    Like what, post comments on message boards?

  • ABC||

    RIP

  • Suki||

    The improved production freed millions of people from agriculture to do other useful things.

    I think the current phrase is "agriculture jobs were exported buy the previous administration."

  • ||

    Borlaug's research was funded by private foundations like Ford and Rockefeller. Imagine that, capitalist pigs doing something nice and charitable for others. So I guess that would fit into the libertarian schema?

    That was a nice compliment you paid, damaged justice, calling your opponent an enchanting and mesmerizing part of the female anatomy. Lovely respect shown for women there. Keep up the good work, you dick.

  • Suki||

    Borlaug's research was funded by private foundations like Ford and Rockefeller.

    Back when those foundations liked the free market even!

  • ||

    Borlaug: "He kept us out of war."

    Borlaug: "A chicken in every pot" (fed on more productive grain).

    Borlaug: "He'd rather be right than president."

    God bless Norman Borlaug. And may flights of angels sing him to his rest.

  • Hacha Cha||

    its hilarious and disgusting that fucking retards who have food tell people who don't have food that the technology that could save their life is poison.
    Norman Borlaug was one of the greatest people of our time. while Damaged Justice is a worthless pile of shit who has helped no one.

  • ||

    Norman Borlaug's work resulted in increasing the carrying capacity of Planet Earth far beyond the crude estimate used by Malthusian doomsayers, as did the invention of agriculture itself. When people roll their eyes at the allegedly "blind faith" of libertarians and others that technology operating in the context of a free market can save us from Malthusian doom, they are scoffing at the ability of BILLIONS of properly motivated minds to come up with solutions to hard problems, conveniently ignoring that some of our greatest problems of past centuries were solved within communities of only millions of minds, or hundreds of thousands of minds, or even only thousands of minds.

    Having more humans amplifies our practical problems of survival, yes. But it also exponentially increases our intellectual resources for solving them, while also augmenting the sheer manual labor and number of man-hours that might be needed to implement our solutions. The human race has grown to billions because, to date, we have always managed to think of something that helps us transcend previously perceived limits. Right now, I think the biggest limits we face are on our ability to voluntarily co-operate and trade. As has been implied above, we have plenty of food, for example. The challenge lies in finding a way to get it to everyone who needs it.

    We increase our odds of survival by having as many people as possible doing productive work as their means of livelihood. History has demonstrated that central-planning, especially via authoritarian government, is very poor as a way of determining which work is "productive" and valuable. Free markets do a better, more reliable job, and so are the better survival tool for us to keep in our metaphorical survival pack.

    RIP, Norman Borlaug. I knew he couldn't last forever, but I was hoping one of his fellow humans might achieve the long-awaited breakthrough in life-extension that would match and honor his earlier life-saving achievement. In that, I am disappointed, but I still smile to celebrate his life and work.

  • Hacha Cha||

    also if the cavemen diet was so great why is it that even people who eat way too much "poisonous" food still live way longer lives than the average human during the stone age (and later)?
    if it is so poisonous just don't eat it. but until you are the one starving, to quote Penn, "you need to SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

  • ||

  • McReason||

    Did he save more lives than Fleming did with Penicillin? Maybe... It's kind of like the reverse of asking who's worse between Stalin and Hitler.

    As per diet, everybody's different. I feel a lot better on what's you might call a "caveman" diet than I did when I ate whatever. But I got there by trial and error to see what's best for me. If you feel awesome on your diet (or lack thereof) then run with it man.

  • Dr David Hill||

    Norman Borlaug was debatably the greatest person in the 'green' revolution, but where even Norman would have said that this is only just one of the pieces in the jigsaw of human survival. For the realisation of a world without starvation, great wars et al, we have to look eleswhere and fast, as time is simply running out.

    In this respect the way that our politicians are working and addressing mounting global problems is like Nero fiddling whilst Rome burns. They are oblivious to the strains on humankind's constant growth and are impotent in preventing global Agamemnon coming in this present century. Whilst they try and fix the financial system through the people's wealth, they impoverish tens of millions yearly. The system is a destructive force and where they are the conductors, forever adding fuel to the burning mass that goes on underneath. Over the next 20 years the world will start to witness a far more destabilised world, where wars become a common event. By then there will be over 8 billion humans on planet Earth, a significant number unable to sustain themselves. Indeed, the vast dwindling resources problem will create the base and start-line for global conflict, the size and ferocity never seen before. Therefore as Rome did indeed burn, so will humankind eventually. This is not pie-in-the-sky scare mongering, but sheer fact and is conditioned only by common sense and what will eventually come to pass. That is why armaments throughout the world are increasing every year and where by 2030 through this vast expenditure by governments worldwide, could well be the largest industry in the world turning over in excess of $5 trillion annually. Indeed in the case of the USA alone, the Friends Committee on National Legislation calculates for Fiscal Year 2009 that the majority of US tax payer's money goes towards war - some 44.4% of all taxes. Therefore whilst our politicians continue to place their faith in that the strongest will prevail, they lose sight of any possibility of a peaceful future world. Indeed again, they fuel the whole process of human destruction and where their combined interests of relying upon weapons of mass destruction to protect themselves and the preservation of the capitalist system that supports such an unholy mechanism, is absolutely flawed. In time and when things are too late, politicians will realise the folly of their mismanagement of the world order, for by then all that they once held so dear will have disappeared completely - and the rest of humankind with it.

    All the above dictated by a vastly overpopulated world, unimaginable depletion of natural resources that will not be able to support all human life (it only takes 15% of the global population to be affected to cause an irreversible situation) , lack of energy and food, the destruction of arable land by continual erosion (both the hot climate effect and rise in sea levels) and the decimation of the oceans through industrial pollution and energy resources extraction on a momentous scale.

    Dr. David Hill, DSc(Hon)
    World Innovation Foundation Charity
    Bern, Switzerland

  • von Laue||

    Sean

    you are perhaps the dumbest fucker in all of Christendom. Good luck to you, sir.

    kisses,
    Max von Laue

    p.s. RIP Borlaug, you did good.

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  • Neu Mejican||

    Jim Carroll also died.

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  • ||

    No man probably saved lives of as many of his fellow beings as Norman Borlaug. The green revolution that he ushered in the 1960s was as close to a miracle that we will ever witness. For instance, his work enabled India to move from periodic droughts and famines to making famines history, in just about a decade.
    Yet, Norman Borlaug cited growing human population at the root of problems facing mankind. He was mistaken in reversing the cause and effect. I may not be too far off the mark, if I said that but for the pressures of a rapidly growing population, the green revolution may not have made its mark. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention!
    Today, the second green revolution is already beckoning us with the advent of agriculture biotechnology.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Wait... I'm dumb because I advocated avoiding the stupid trolls and just talking about the topic of the thread? Oh. Ok.

  • ||

    Norman Borlaug, the greatest living American has died. May he rest in peace.

    Reading all the comments above, I keep thinking about comparing this to the healthcare debate. It seems that environmentalists (a term used interchangably with liberals above, so I'll run with conflating the two) would say, "Yes, I understand that Borlaug's wheat could help solve the immediate health crisis of famine in Africa, but we can't allow it because those methods are unsustainable for our planet over the long run." Why does that same logic not apply to a huge expansion in public healthcare? Sure, it will help solve the immediate health crisis problem, but it's unsustainable over the long run for our economy.

    The hypocrisy is just as deep on the libertarian side. Libertarians say about Borlaug, "You wouldn't be so concerned with long-term predictions of unsustainability if YOU were hungry." Same argument -- you wouldn't be so concerned about the long-term impact of healthcare if YOU had a pre-existing condition and couldn't get health insurance.

    You can try to argue that the two situations aren't equivalent: the farming methods aren't really unsustainable for the environment, the food isn't really worse for you, etc. Or, increasing healthcare spending is sustainable and won't bankrupt us, etc. But most of you will be arguing largely out of ignorance, and should therefore approach the discussion with humility and a willingness to learn, something I see in short supply in the comments above.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "Libertarians say about Borlaug, "You wouldn't be so concerned with long-term predictions of unsustainability."

    1. I've never heard anyone say that.
    2. The whole point of Borlaug's agricultural revolution is that it's more sustainable - in the sense that it clearly provides a higher quantity of available food for the human beings living on this planet, consistently and over the long-haul - than anything else. Sustainability IS a concern... But that has to be measured against a legitimate metric, which in this case (i think) should be total humans provided with food. The all-organic types don't really consider that.

  • ||

    Sean,

    Unsustainable environmentally speaking, not from the perspective of feeding populations. From Gregg Easterbrook's terrific article at The Atlantic, "Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity" on the impact of Borlaug:

    "CIMMYT's selectively bred wheat, no longer a wholly natural plant, would not prosper without fertilizer and irrigation, however. High-yield crops sprout with great enthusiasm, but the better plants grow, the more moisture they demand and the faster they deplete soil nutrients. Like most agronomists, Borlaug has always advocated using organic fertilizers-usually manure-to restore soil nutrients. But the way to attain large quantities of manure is to have large herds of livestock, busily consuming the grain that would otherwise feed people. Inorganic fertilizers based on petroleum and other minerals can renew soil on a global scale-at least as long as the petroleum holds out. "

    Full article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/199701/norman-borlaug

    So, Borlaug's plants relied on massive irrigation and chemical fertilizers made from petroleum. Worth the tradeoff to keep a billion people from starving to death if you ask me, but let's not pretend like there wasn't a cost. And let's approach the discussion of how to pay for that cost with humility and a presumption of good faith about the motivations of the other side of the debate.

    And then let's apply similar logic and that same approach to our healthcare debate.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Fair enough, Troy. Of course there is a cost - and that's often my point with these things. Environmentalism is one of the most interesting to me on that front because, while I am an outdoors-man (backpacker, camper, kayak/canoe afficianado, nature photographer occasionally), and I'm a big fan of "real" environmentalism - the metric we need to be measuring these things against is always humanity. And I never see the public environmentalists do that.

    It's always "save the earth!", but to what end?

    Of course we need long-term sustainable methods of providing resources, but private property typically solves that issue. Logging is a fine example of course: when no one owns a 1000 forest people can amble in and cut down as much as they want. But if you own 100 acres, and other people own the rest, you can only cut down 100 acres worth of trees... and if you want to make a business out of that, you'd better figure out how to reuse that land.

    But I digress... Say we assume global warming is all true and perfectly understood: If the cost of feeding 7 billion people is a 1-2 degree rise in global temperature over 100 years, I think I'd rather (and most individuals would) pay that price than no temperature increase at all ("Saving the planet"?) and watching 3 billion people starve unnecessarily. Likewise, is 100 million people suffering & dying from Malaria an appropriate price to pay to keep some bird's eggshells thicker in Africa? (Silent Spring isn't true anyway... but assuming it was...) I think not.

    Anyway, Borlaug is a huge hero of mine precisely because he brought down the cost of feeding billions of people through higher production. The gains outweigh the costs by orders of magnitude.

  • ||

    A Tribute to Norman E. Borlaug from Molecular Cytogenetics & Tissue Culture Lab, CSK HP Agricultural University,Palampur, India

    We, the members of Molecular Cytogenetics & Tissue Culture Lab, CSK HP Agricultural University, Palampur, India while paying tribute to Father of Green Revolution, Prof Norman E. Borlaug wish to the Great Almighty for showering immense blessings upon this philanthropist. His remarkable, indefatigable and untiring effort to secure food in the entire world has created an unforgettable history on the earth which will remain till the last day of life on the blue planet. We pay homage to the sacred soul with a promise to move steadfastly on the sacred path of service to mankind as shown by the Nobel Laureate.

    (Prof H K Chaudhary)
    Incharge
    Molecular Cytogenetics & Tissue Culture Lab
    CSK HP Agricultural University, Palampur, India

  • ||

    RIP, Norman Borlaug. Your great service to humanity will be remembered, despite the idiocy of some.

  • ||

    Sean, we definitely agree on Borlaug -- the greatest American of his generation and a personal hero of mine also. I have to say that I'm rarely disgusted with pop culture -- to be honest I usually revel in it -- but the difference between the coverage of Borlaug's death and Michael Jackson's has really gotten to me this time around. The guy fed a billion people, for pity's sake. He should be lying in state, and all the living presidents should be attending his funeral.

  • BB||

    For those who criticize Borlaug, just remember that no matter how boorish and cynical you are, God has the last word. Negative comments from the uncouth right-wing will not keep Borlaug from reaping the blessings of God that he deserves for eternity. We all "reap what we sow", so give credit where it is due. Borlaug did more for the world than most of us, and I'm sure Borlaug has been eternally blessed for his good work. We too have been blessed to have lived in his lifetime, and those he saved are most blessed of all because he cared.

    This isn't a debate on environmental warming. Science is still evolving, so stop borrowing trouble and throwing around negativism, instead, get to work improving Borlaug's wheat if you are concerned about sustainability, as are most of us liberals out here. We just happen to have faith that we can do better, that we can improve the world, warming or not. Borlaug believed that too in his day, with what he knew at the time. He tried and succeeded. If you don't like his wheat now, then improve it and stop complaining.

  • ||

    Borlaug was a great American, but he also took a lot of credit away from many individuals that helped him along the way. I personally know one of them that is still alive in Mexico and Borlaug always took credit for their work overseas. If you do research in other countries, the names of these inviduals is heralded as well. Only time will tell if the work "they" did will positively or negatively impact the Earth. Personally, life is always about natural selection. If you start screwing with nature, it will screw back. One of the results has been overpopulation and dwindling resources. I do not wish for people to die, but if you look at the current position the US has taken, we are trying to take care of our people by gathering natural resources that will benefit us later on. The current trend that no one is really paying attention to is pollination by bees. Bees are dwindling in numbers raising concerns in farmers. Will another Borlaug come in and teach us that something as basic needs to be taken care of or must many die before we look at the problem? Honestly, nobody cares, people are inherently greedy. Borlaug saught fame and got it thru his altruistic endevours. What are each and every one of you looking for?

  • ||

    Borlaug did agree with Ehrlich on population control at one time, but over at Wikipedia (DYODD), it claims that Borlaug later changed his mind.

    I view Borlaug similar to Pasteur - his science may not have been completely perfect, but it did much to aid mankind *in its time* and was a major stepping stone in scientific advancement.

    May he rest in God's eternal peace!

  • ||

    Do we have reliable figures as to whether the number of hungry people in the world is different in 2009 than it was in 1970?

  • ||

    Bourlag was obviously extraordinary and had a huge effect on humanity. And he did NOT save a billion lives.

    What he did do [here it is important to remove the moral righteousness of 'saving lives' from the argument] was help provide the conditions in which those lives could exist. Without the extra food, the population of the world would be smaller, because of less available energy for human consumption and therefore human reproduction.

    Imagine I have ten fish in a pond feeding on 10 KG of algae per year, and three of them are going hungry becuase there is not enough food.

    I then increase that algae to 10,000 KG. This helps massive growth in the fish population and it hits 3,000 fish.

    Have I saved 2,997 lives? (3,000 minus the initial 3) No I have not.

    Now my 3,000 fish are all feeding on algae, and still many are going hungry and will likely die, because some fish have better access to the food, the pond is becoming too small. All the fish would agree, however, that the increase in Algae had a great effect on their history, and that it was perfectly logical (and indeed right) for me to want to add the algae. But that doesn't mean they can't point out and try to fix the problems my algae-adding created.

    The world is changed by great work, but it is changed at all levels, always. The effects of one great change can be disasterous down the line. Bourlag was a man on a mission and we cannot criticise him for his work having carry-on effects outside his control. But to say his green revolution is beyond reproach completely denies the existance of the myriad of social and scientific problems it entails.

  • ||

    I agree that the population should be controlled, but not with hunger. People have rights to get fed, though they can still control the population via birth control method. These two methods are not mutually exclusive. For example, in China they increase the
    food production while implementing strict population control policy, the net effect is increase in food ration
    per capita. Borlaug is the greatest human being of our time and he is worth
    more than all the critics added together.

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  • Jerry Baker||

    This is a great read about Borlaug. ScienceHeroes.com has his profile also, though only puts him in the top 6 of top lifesavers in history.
    The top is Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch who created "synthetic fertilizer", because you can't grow that much wheat without fertilizer. Karl Landsteiner and Richard Lewisohn are next with the discovery of "blood groups", enabling safe blood transfusions. Edward Jenner, smallpox vaccination, rounds out the top 5.

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