99 years ago on this day, Norman Borlaug was born near the town of Cresco, Iowa. He is one of only six individuals to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is also referred to as the Father of the Green Revolution and “The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives.”
Having grown up in Iowa, I was very familiar with the name Norman Borlaug. He was a reoccurring topic of discussion in science classes in middle school and high school. As such, I think I kind of took for granted how incredibly important this man was to the world. As an agriculture research scientist, Borlaug developed a high-yeilding variety of wheat in Mexico and later India.
What I find incredibly interesting about Dr. Borlaug is his motivations for his work. Most of the information that can be found about this incredible man does a great job covering the Who, What, Where, When and How facts about his life, but in order to understand Whys about his work, require a little cultivating.
From 1975 to 1980, Dr. Borlaug served as an early trustee for the organization know as Bread For The World, which is described as “a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.” After Dr. Borlaug’s death in 2009 Bread For The World distributed a press release, “Bread for the World Mourns Passing of Norman Borlaug.”
‘Dr. Borlaug, a man of faith and compassion, was an advocate as well as a scientist. He convinced many political leaders to do their part in reducing hunger,” said (Bread for the World President) Rev. Beckmann, who will officiate during Borlaug’s memorial service in Dallas.
We can find more about this “man of faith” from his 1970 Nobel Prize lecture, in which Borlaug quotes the Bible 5 times and speaks of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden as literal, historical realities. He also spoke about hunger as an issue of social justice:
Almost certainly, however, the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind. Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world. Yet today fifty percent of the world’s population goes hungry. Without food, man can live at most but a few weeks; without it, all other components of social justice are meaningless. Therefore I feel that the aforementioned guiding principle must be modified to read: If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace.
He expounds on this at the end of his lecture:
The recognition that hunger and social strife are linked is not new, for it is evidenced by the Old Testament passage, “…and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their King and their God. …”
Then, by developing and applying the scientific and technological skills of the twentieth century for “the well-being of mankind throughout the world”, we may still see Isaiah’s prophesies come true: “… And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose… And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water….”
And may these words come true!
Wikipedia tells us that:
Borlaug was the great-grandchild of Norwegian immigrants to the United States. Ole Olson Dybevig and Solveig Thomasdotter Rinde, from Feios, a small village in Vik kommune, Norway, emigrated to Dane, Wisconsin, in 1854. The family eventually moved to the small Norwegian-American community of Saude, near Cresco, Iowa. There they were members of the Saude Lutheran Church, where Norman was both baptized and confirmed.
Dr. Norman Borlaug is the epitome of Isaiah 28:23-29:
Give ear and hear my voice,
Listen and hear my speech.
Does the plowman keep plowing all day to sow?
Does he keep turning his soil and breaking the clods?
When he has leveled its surface,
Does he not sow the black cummin
And scatter the cummin,
Plant the wheat in rows,
The barley in the appointed place,
And the spelt in its place?
For He instructs him in right judgment,
His God teaches him.
For the black cummin is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
Nor is a cartwheel rolled over the cummin;
But the black cummin is beaten out with a stick,
And the cummin with a rod.
Bread flour must be ground;
Therefore he does not thresh it forever,
Break it with his cartwheel,
Or crush it with his horsemen.
This also comes from the Lord of hosts,
Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.
There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Borlaug was instructed by God in right judgment as God taught him. The saving of a billion people was not done by bread along, but by the Word of God.
Thank God for Dr. Norman Borlaug, who, when faced with the problem of overpopulation and world hunger in a malthusian world, rose to the challenge by creating more food rather than advocating for the creation of fewer mouths.