By Joachim von Braun, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute
Tomorrow, Norman Borlaug will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, recognizing his efforts to alleviate hunger and poverty in the world. He was a seminal figure in the Green Revolution, which led to dramatic increases in the productivity of small-scale farmers, saving millions from hunger, especially in Asia and Latin America. His early work focused on developing varieties of wheat that were high yielding, disease resistant, and adaptable to a variety of growing conditions.
During the 1960s, there was widespread doubt about the ability of farmers to grow enough food, especially in places like China and India. In the face of this pessimism, Dr. Borlaug championed the use of more productive varieties, improved agricultural extension, access to credit and affordable fertilizers, and other approaches to help farmers be much more successful. Although he was not the only one advocating these techniques, his passion, commitment and enthusiasm for the new agricultural technologies played a critical role in convincing so many people to support them.
As a result of the pioneering efforts of Dr. Borlaug—and many others who worked with him—impoverished farmers increased their incomes, staple food become more affordable for poor consumers, and food production outpaced population growth.
Since 1776, when George Washington was the first to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, this award has been conferred only 135 times. Tomorrow, Dr. Borlaug will join the company of distinguished recipients such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. On behalf of the International Food Policy Research Institute, I congratulate Norman Borlaug on this well-deserved honor.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an alliance of 64 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations.
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