Borlaug won many prizes for his groundbreaking work on agricultural productivity that became known as the Green Revolution. Through the use of breeding technology on wheat, he is credited with saving a billion people from hunger and premature death. Today we face similar challenges that prompted his initial research in the 1970s. He was a futurist who knew that we could not be satisfied with advances made in the past. He continued his research and advocacy for science and technology as pathways out of poverty.
I had the privilege of working with Dr. Borlaug as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and later as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In the midst of a global food price spike in 2009, we co-authored an op-ed on hunger in America and around the world. Today about 842 million people, or one in every eight people across the globe, go to bed hungry. One third of all deaths in children younger than five at least partly results from chronic undernourishment. We expect that a growing population coupled with changes in diet associated with more affluent populations, and pressures on resources produced by climate change will make sustainably raising food production increasingly difficult. These challenges informed legislation, the Global Food Security Act, to help launch a new green revolution. In a book chapter we wrote for the Global Harvest Initiative, Dr. Borlaug and I argued that we were ignoring agriculture at our own risk, noting that global peace, prosperity, and stability depended on the supply of nutritious food keeping up with global demand.
In his later years, Borlaug founded the World Food Prize as a way to recognize groundbreaking work in productivity and to encourage students to care about eradicating hunger. The vast challenges facing our current hunger situation, coupled with the growing world population, continue to make Dr. Borlaug’s life work and its impacts relevant today. The global food security work we are doing at The Lugar Center has been inspired by his dedication, and I am pleased that his work is also being recognized with the dedication of his statue in the United States Capitol.