*This webpage was produced as an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College*


Norman Borlaug


Norman Borlaug with his bust in the University of Minnesota’s Borlaug Hall (COAFES, 2004)

Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota






The Life of Norman Borlaug

(B. 25 March 1914)


            Norman Borlaug grew up on a farm near Cresco, Iowa.  He received his B.S. in forestry from the University of Minnesota in 1937, his master’s degree in plant pathology in 1939, and his doctorate in 1942 (Nobel, 2004).

            In 1944 Borlaug moved to Mexico to direct the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program.  At the time, Mexico was importing much of its grain; the program sought to boost local wheat production.  Borlaug spent years crossing wheat varieties and eventually produced high-yield, disease-resistant, widely adaptible dwarf wheat.  By 1963 Borlaug’s wheat, growing in 95% of Mexico’s wheat lands, produced a harvest “six times the 1944 level” (COAFES, 2004).  Once Mexico’s grain production was self-sufficient, Borlaug began a campaign to ship his wheat to Pakistan and India.  Thanks to his efforts, wheat yields in Pakistan had doubled; yields in India rose from 12.3 million tons in 1965 to 20 million in 1970 (Bailey, 2000).  By 1968 the U.S. Agency for International Development was praising Borlaug’s “green revolution.”

            In 1970 Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize for starting the green revolution.  He wanted to expand his high-yield project to Africa, but in the 1970s environmentalists began to criticize his fertilizer-intensive agriculture, and Borlaug’s sponsors backed off.  In 1984 Borlaug was approached by Ryoichi Sasakawa and Jimmy Carter, who wanted to “get African agriculture moving” (Easterbrook, 1997).  They started the Sasakawa-Global 2000 foundation, working with high-yield crops in sub-Saharan nations.  Today Borlaug directs the Sasakawa-Global 2000 programs in Africa, teaches international agriculture at Texas A&M, and acts as a consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico.


Norman Borlaug at work in Mexico (COAFES, 2004)

Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Borlaug with young scientists in Africa (Dil, 2004)

Photo courtesy of Anwar Dil


back to top


Norman Borlaug and GMOs:

The Green Revolution


Norman Borlaug is renowned as the father of the green revolution.  The creator of a genetically modified, high-yield wheat variety, he argues for the use of genetically modified crops in the global food supply:


Borlaug does have some doubts, however:


back to top










back to top


Questions or comments?  Email saparker@davidson.edu


GMO Seminar Homepage


Biology Department Homepage




Page maintained by Sarah Parker, Davidson College class ‘05

Last modified 30 January 2004