Posted by: amamasblog | July 25, 2007

Feeding the World

Norman Borlaug- have you heard of him?  Do you know what he has in common with Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Elie Wiesel? 

If you don’t know, you aren’t alone.  I didn’t know either.  Of course we know every detail about Lindsay Lohen’s current drug bust and arrest, and the speculation is never ending if Nicole Richie is pregnant, but when a person achieves what only four other people in history have ever done which is winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, our media organizations, obviously can’t be bothered with news like this. 

Borlaug received the Congressional Gold Medal last week.  Newsweek magazine has an article about him entitled, He Only Saved A Billion PeopleSome of the sentences and paragraphs in this post are from this article. 

“Norman Borlaug is an agronomist who is credited with saving the lives of 1 billion human beings worldwide, more than one in seven people on the planet.  Borlaug is a great success story showing how one person can make a difference.  In the 40’s, and 50’s, he developed a hybrid called “dwarf wheat” that tripled grain production there. Then, with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, he brought agronomists from around the world to northwest Mexico to learn his planting and soil conservation techniques.” 

He also has some interesting thoughts on the organic food supply- From the Newsweek article:

“Borlaug scoffs at the mania for organic food, which he proves with calm logic is unsuited to fight global hunger. (Dung, for instance, is an inefficient source of nitrogen.) And while he encourages energy-conscious people to “use all the organic you can, especially on high-end crops like vegetables,” he’s convinced that paying more for organic is “a lot of nonsense.” There’s ‘no evidence the food is any different than that produced by chemical fertilizer.'”

His thoughts on organic food got me thinking- we do hear all the time about how much better organic food is then conventional, how many less pesticides and chemicals are in it, but who really funds those studies?  Which groups are putting out this information?  When someone of Norman Borlaug’s experience and knowledge says something like this, it catches my attention.  Hopefully there will be more information that will come from this- maybe more unbiased studies and information, so we really can make informed decisions based on impartial studies.

This article is very interesting and if you have a moment check it out.  It isn’t very long and it gives me a new appreciation for this man, and what he has accomplished for the world- especially the starving.  One person CAN make a difference!



  1. Isn’t it crazy that such a huge accomplishment can pass largely unnoticed in our overly media saturated country? What I found really fascinating was his observations on the futility of organic foods. I have never been one to eat organic but only because of the cost associated with it and now I feel just a little better about it.

  2. That is interesting. I try to buy the “dirty dozen” organic, but even then price and place of origin weigh in on my decision so I don’t buy 100% organic even on the dirty dozen. If it’s on sale I’ll absolutely pick up organic. I personally don’t look for organic processed foods because in my mind a processed food is a processed food and organic is irrelevant then. I have a cousin (in-law) who worked for an organic farm in England and she feels the whole organic thing is complete BS and that we’re kidding ourselves if we believe it’s *that* much safer and better for the world. Really, if you think about it organic corn in CO still takes too much water….Interesting food for thought!

    And I too find it amazing that we hang on every word Paris Hilton says and I’ve never even heard of this guy!

  3. While I would never argue that saving 1 billion people is a commendable achievement, Borlaug’s comments about organics reflect an indifference to the environment that is fairly typical in those who produce our food.

    Pesticide residue in our food is only one reason why organics are so important. A much bigger problem with conventional farming practices is the amount of chemicals that end up in our water supply from both chemical fertilizers and animal manure. Soil erosion that occurs from the high-input, high-output farming methods conventional farmers use leads to less arable land in places like Africa (and, frankly, drought-stressed areas like Colorado), necessitating things like high-yield crops to make up for the decrease in land.

    While he is correct that the nitrogen in organic fertilizers like manure is less readily available to plants than that in chemical fertilizers, it is, in fact, available and can sustain crops if you get the soil to the 4-5% organic matter that is optimum for vegetable farming (If you’re interested in more about the nitrogen availability issue, CSU Cooperative Extension has a good info sheet on it: Manure as fertilizer has the added advantage of not being made from environmentally damaging petroleum products, and is a sustainable/renewable resource, which oil is not.

    Having said all of this, I completely agree with your point that we’re so star obsessed that we miss out on the real news! I just get frustrated when the issue of organics is obscured, as it almost always is, in the media.

  4. Interestingly, today in the Denver Post’s Sunday paper, there was an article written by a woman totally knocking organic food esp. dairy and also knocking the people who want the rGBH hormone not in our food. She says the hormone is stored in the meat, not the milk so non-organic dairy is safe and says she buys all non-organic meat, veg, etc and so she is basically saying she feeds her family pesticides and rGBH all the time. Many of her points about the practices of organic farms esp. those of animal farms were wrong, actually and it incensed my husband so much he was going to write her a letter! That’s big for a person who says he has no time / has so much to do.

    Pesticides do build up in the body, especially the liver and are doubly toxic to the liver in small children. The liver performs over 500 functions in the body and in our modern diets we don’t eat enough foods or take enough herbs or supplements to help clean it out from buildup. Pesticide build up in the liver starts circulating thru the body and guess what – we get diseases starting to happen. So, be especially aware that small kids need all the help they can get in our very toxic world of polluted water, air and food and very depleted soil that it grows (commercially) in.

  5. Organic farming tends to take up more than twice times as much land as conventional farming (and probably the same increase in water usage). With nearly 1/2 of the world’s flat land covered in agriculture, can you image how unsustainable it would be to convert all that land to organic farming? In my opinion, there are so many faulty claims by organic supporters that aren’t being address. I don’t know if it’s better for climate change, but it’s very much a “pick and choose” situation in regards to whether it is more sustainable than conventional farming.

  6. There is way too much inbreeding in America. Norman Borlaug has it right! Organic is a great idea if you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth. It has become a religion in America. Unfortunately for most of the worlds population, who have no idea where the next meal is coming from, organic’s as a religion means nothing to them. They will knock down every tree, pollute all their waterway and make the air unbreathable for a job and a little food; this while America’s elites see the environment geting better. But don’t worry America… the alternative energy religion is about to bring a reality check to food prices and supplies. You won’t be talking with your mouth full much longer.

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