14 Sep 2009

NZ tributes to agri-science pioneer Norman Borlaug

9:47 pm on 14 September 2009

A leading New Zealand agricultural scientist has paid tribute to Norman Borlaug, the American scientist known as the father of the Green Revolution, who has died at the age of 95.

Professor Borlaug developed high-yield, disease-resistant crops, including wheat, in the 1960s. His work quickly boosted harvests around the world and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

The professor of pastoral agriculture at Massey University, Jacqueline Rowarth, says he was the reason she and many scientists of her generation went into agriculture, aiming to find ways to feed the world.

She says people in New Zealand take for granted the cheapness and availability of food created by the Green Revolution, which helped world food production to more than double between 1960 and 1990, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Organics Aotearoa chief executive Jon Tanner says Professor Borlaug's work also had a revolutionary effect on the food sector in developed countries like New Zealand, proving the importance of agricultural research for economic development.

Agricultural economists describe Professor Borlaug as the "towering figure" of the food production sector who changed the world forever.

Some even say his work was instrumental in preventing a worldwide famine towards the end of the 20th century.