Norman Borlaug looks at wheat stocks at the Rockefeller Agricultural Institute in Atizapan, Mexico. (AP)

Norman Borlaug looks at wheat stocks at the Rockefeller Agricultural Institute in Atizapan, Mexico. (AP)

Norman Borlaug’s ideas helped farmers produce more food around the world.

Norman Borlaug’s ideas helped farmers produce more food around the world.

This chart shows that over decades since the 1950s, more wheat was grown on the same amount of land. (RB)

This chart shows that over decades since the 1950s, more wheat was grown on the same amount of land. (RB)

Norman Borlaug was largely responsible for improvements in irrigation, wiser use of fertilizer and pesticides, and development of high-yield grains.

Norman Borlaug was largely responsible for improvements in irrigation, wiser use of fertilizer and pesticides, and development of high-yield grains.

Mr. Borlaug’s Miracle Seeds

Posted: September 3, 2019

Is Norman Borlaug one of the greatest people who ever lived? Some say “yes!” Why do people so admire this man?

In the 1940s, hard times were brought to the United States by poverty and war. Even then, Americans were looking for ways to help feed other people around the world. Norman Borlaug had grown up as a farm boy in Iowa. As a man, Mr. Borlaug wanted to help poor farmers. Their crops caught diseases. They produced little. So Mr. Borlaug experimented with new kinds of wheat. He bred varieties that could resist disease. They could stand up to harsh weather too. More wheat could grow from Mr. Borlaug’s “miracle seeds” than from regular wheat seeds.

Mr. Borlaug had started something big. More scientists began doing work like his. They sent more new seeds—especially wheat and rice seeds—to other countries where farmers were poor and people did not have enough food. When Mr. Borlaug started, farmers in India produced only 12 million tons of wheat each year. From 2017 to 2018, Indian farmers produced almost 100 million tons! Crop yields have also gone up across Asia and Africa. The United States produces more food than it once did too. American farmers send extra food to countries that need it.

Not everyone agrees that Mr. Borlaug is a hero. Some say that because his new wheat needed more water and expensive fertilizers, he actually created more poverty. Today there are many hungry people in the world. But there are far fewer hungry than there used to be. Mr. Borlaug died in 2009. He was 95 years old. When he died, many believed he had done more than any man in history to feed the hungry.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. — Matthew 25:35-36