THE DEATH of modern agriculture's biggest champion, Norman Borlaug, is a great loss. Who better to be frank about the use of biotechnology to feed a starving world than the well-decorated humanitarian Borlaug? The online encyclopedia Wikipedia reports that Borlaug saved more than a billion people from starvation through his work in plant pathology and genetics. Much of his work was in wheat where he helped double yields. These genetic strides spawned the term “Green Revolution.”
So when Borlaug stated in an interview with Reason in 2000 that using organics to feed the world is “ridiculous; this shouldn't even be a debate,” people listened.
In that famous interview, Borlaug went on to say that producing enough manure to fertilize crops to feed the world would require another 5 or 6 billion head of cattle. “How much wild land would you have to sacrifice just to produce the forage for these cows? There's a lot of nonsense going on here,” he said.
With Borlaug's death, the media have brought his comments to light once again. Ironically, the comments are very timely, especially after the recent Time magazine cover article, “The Real Cost of Cheap Food.” This article pretty much indicts the entire U.S. food production system, except for organics.
But here's another irony: Remember the liberal magazine Mother Jones? Still going strong, the magazine recently published a thoughtful article that sides more with Borlaug than Time. The article “Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008” is well worth reading. It gives hope that the world is listening to common sense like Borlaug's.
Here are links to the three articles: